Things to Consider Before Taking Home Reptiles as Pets


America’s newest pet craze leaves millions of animals misunderstood and mistreated-right from the gecko.

reptiles as pets Tulsa OK Exotic Pet VetReptiles! The very word conjures up a variety of responses, ranging from “Eeeeww, gross!” to “Way cool!” Fueled in part by changes in international wildlife importation laws, the resurgence of interest in dinosaurs and increasing numbers of two-paycheck families that have less time and live in smaller spaces, reptiles have been the fastest-growing segment of the pet market. But popularity has its price.

According to the World Wildlife Fund-US, imports of reptiles as pets into the United States exceeded 2.5 million in 1996. Add to this the tens of thousands of captive-bred reptiles sold at reptile expos around the country and at local herpetological society meetings, and you begin to understand why this fast-growing market is not likely to dry up anytime soon.

What does this mean to the person who wanders into the pet store for another bag of dog food and comes out with a snake and 10-gallon tank?


The biggest problem with reptiles is that most people think of them as disposable. Sadly, being cheap only tends to reinforce the “disposable” misconception.


When it comes to reptiles, cold-blooded is a way of life, not a character trait. Reptiles are capable of recognizing people by voice, sight and smell; many are capable of learning. Some species actually benefit from interaction with humans. When cared for properly, all live as long or longer than mammalian pets of similar size.

There is no generic reptile. Reptiles have adapted over time to an amazing range of habitats and lifestyles, from underground to the tops of trees, from below sea level – and in the sea – to high up in the mountains. They are endlessly fascinating.

As the guardian of a reptile, you get to learn about everything from adaptation, behavior and the environment, to nutrition, camouflage and reproductive strategies. Learning about the natural history and proper captive care of these animals just might change your world outlook and get you thinking more about the environment as a whole.


Most reptiles are inexpensive. Some are downright cheap. This is why many reptile owners are unwilling to spend the money necessary to properly house and feed their reptiles, or provide them with the veterinary care they require. Comments such as “I’m not spending $50 for a light and fixture!”; “Why spend any money at the vet? It’s just a $10 turtle – if it dies, it dies!”; “I’m just a teenager. I don’t have that kind of money”; and, “It’s my kid’s responsibility, not mine” are too often heard by those of us doing reptile rescue and education.

As with other pets, the cost of a reptile is usually the least expensive part of keeping one. The initial outlay includes an enclosure, special heating and lighting, substrate, essential furnishings, food and water supplies, nutritional supplements, housing and food for prey insects and veterinary visits with parasite testing and treatment. Ongoing monthly expenses include cleaning and disinfecting supplies, new substrate, food and electricity.

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