So, you’re interested in reptiles, and thinking of getting a snake, lizard or frog as a pet? Wondering how to get started?

Everyone who has ever owned a reptile pet has been in your position. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available — the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, books, the internet, and the Chicago Herpetological Society.

Before going to the pet store and purchasing a python, let’s discuss first things first.

Snakes and lizards are not dogs and cats. If you’re looking for a companion that will come when you call, then a reptile is probably not the answer.

To start with, decide what you want. Do you want a pet that you can handle or one that you’ll mostly just watch? Do you want several, or just one? Do you want to breed them? You will also have to decide how much time you’re willing to devote to your new hobby.

Take a look at a reptile directory. You’ll find details about the different types of reptiles that are commonly sold as pets, including what to feed them, the type of habitat they need and the sizes they’ll grow to.

Also, consider the following if you are thinking of purchasing a reptile.

Vacations
If you family takes vacations together, you may have trouble finding someone to care for a pet reptile while you are away. While your neighbor may gladly feed you cats or fish while you are gone, they may not be so willing to feed your pet snake – especially if your eats live mice! Some pet stores or veterinarians will offer boarding service for reptiles, but the fees may be quite high. Consider your travel habits, and even ask some friends of relatives if they would be willing to care for your pet in your absence, before you buy one.

Growing
Animals do grow! Be sure that you are aware of the size your pet may grow to. Consider not just the average size, but the range of sizes they can get to. For some species of snakes and lizards, this may mean that they will need their own room to live in. This also applies when buying a “kit” that includes a terrarium. Often small terrariums are sold with the pets to keep the price low, and these may need replacing after a year as your animal grows. It’s usually less expensive to just start off with something that is the right size, or at least large enough for the next 2-3 years.

It’s worth it!
Although this may seem like an awful lot, the rewards of seeing your pet grow, healthy and happy are more than worth the effort. If you have questions, you can contact your veterinarian or the Chicago Herpetological Society. Here you’ll find information from those who can offer answers and advice.