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Snakes as Pets for Children
You either like snakes - or you really really don't! Which can be unfortunate if just one person in the household wants one! Many people hate the thought of these interesting creatures being in the same room as them!
As with any kind of pet, parents come in very useful when a snake is chosen as a pet for a child. First there's the expense of buying a vivarium, and accessories (heaters, lights, rocks), but also when a car is needed to go and collect mice.
Frozen mice can be purchased to save time, money and sensitivity, but you have to be sure you don't mind having dead prey along with your frozen meals.
On the plus side, adult snakes can only need to feed once a week, and a frozen mouse costs around 85p. Smaller snakes eat 'pinkies' (baby mice) which are even cheaper.
If your snake becomes ill you will need to find a vet who knows this subject, and this may well not be your local surgery. Make sure you find out where you have to go for advice well in advance - ask at a store which sells snakes - they may be able to tell you where the experts are, or ask at your local vet.
Snakes are not cheap to purchase, and potentially live quite a long time (twenty plus years), so it is best to be prepared in case they become ill.
As with other reptiles find out about the best snake for you before parting with your money. There are many to choose from, but some of the tiny shoestring sized creatures you see in the pet shop can grow very large. The baby milk snake shown below is now four feet in length!
As well as growing to different sizes, some snakes have different temperaments. Some are easier to handle and are easier to keep, making them a better bet for beginners. You will need to make sure you properly understand how to set up and maintain their living environment. The vivarium will need a hot end and a cooler end so the snake can maintain its own temparature, being able to cool off when it gets too warm and vice versa. It will need a light source during daylight hours to help with digestion.
When buying a snake check that it is feeding well, and that it will take dead food. You really don't want to be feeding live mice unless you really want to! Make sure you handle them regularly from young so that they become tame, and do not get stressed when you pick them up.
The snakes below are enjoying a meal of (defrosted) mice.
Milk Snake on day of purchase - this grew to 4 foot in length.
As mentioned above, snakes grow considerably from the size they are when you purchase them as youngsters, so may quickly outgrow their original vivarium. They also live a considerable time, so what was a teenager's pet may be left at home if they go off to University, or move out of home. You do need to consider the longevity of these reptiles as there may be any number of lifestyle changes during their lifetime.
Due to the increase in the numbers of reptiles being kept as pets Rescue Centres are often now accepting reptiles that people can no longer look after, but like any other animal in rescue, it is really the responsiblity of the owner NOT to take on any pet which they cannot care for properly. So please remember taking on a snake requires a commitment over the long term.
Adopting a Snake
Rather than buying a snake from a pet shop, why not adopt a snake from a rescue? The RSPCA Reptile Rescue (based in Brighton) often has a number of different snakes available that you can choose from. They will be able to advise about the suitability of the snake for your home, and give you advice on care.