Caring for your reptileThe following is ONLY a general review on the way I care for my pets but remember, I am not an expert. I will say that again, I am not an expert so the following is only MY OPINION. I base it on years of working with snakes in shows, talking with other snake owners, reading book after book and my veterinarians. Even after two decades of working with exotic animals the most important thing I have learned is I still have a lot to learn! I still would like to encourage you to read others peoples experiences as well.
As far as I can remember, snakes have always fascinated me. I enjoy every minute with them and if you don't feel the same then maybe snakes and reptiles are not the pets for you. These animals can be an expensive 25-year commitment not a one-night-stand like the bimbo I met last night. Oops! Did I say that out loud ?
If I seem harsh in the pages that follow please understand that it is an attitude based on my experiences. You may be the greatest reptile caregiver in the universe but most are not. Take a moment and read my "Sad But True" page and you will get an understanding on why I am so jaded and sometimes overly aggressive in my desire to create safe and healthy homes for reptiles. I find that most snake owners are the result of the impulse purchase know very little about reptile husbandry. So BEFORE YOU BUY, I ask, are you really prepared to be a responsible snake owner? I hope you have a chance to read my thoughts PRIOR to your purchase to help you in making this important decision. If you are already a Snake Mom or Dad I hope to give you some helpful information in the needs of these incredible creatures.
Now, my critics often ask why do I have pet care info on a “Girlie” website? It’s a relative question. It was answered fairly well when I was featured on Ripley's Believe it or Not. They called me “The Sexy Seductress Who Strips Down To Save The Serpents”, that sums it up. I have a desire to help animals, reptiles in particular. It is not unusual for someone to choose a charity to support; they have bake sales or garage sales to help raise funds. I sell my pictures. I know that I have a unique customer base and I enjoy helping. So whether you are one of my reptile fans, a magic fan or just like looking for pics of naked women. Something pointed you to my site and chances are many of you reptile owners would never go to an animal care site. As good as they are most are very “Family Friendly” and a bit boring to adults. I can’t begin to list all the hundreds of e-mails I get from horny guys with pet snakes who came to see me naked and leave with a newfound knowledge of how to care for their pets. Comments like “I never knew my Iguana needed sunlight for bone development” or “ I didn’t know hot rocks could burn my snakes” are in my e-mails more often than “Hey SnakeBabe, nice Ass!” (Although to be honest, the older I get the more I appreciate the “Ass” comments) So, as long as you are here enjoying the pics, read on and lets all work together to give our pets the best care we can. interviews and you can get more info on how I go about doing this safely and without harm to my pets but I will just offer these thoughts now. In my stage show or public displays I never overwork my animals. With dozens of reptiles to choose from, each snake works about one day week. The same goes for my birds and other kids. I'm always adjusting to shed schedules and feed times. So do not go into show biz with animals of any kind unless you have a bunch of them and I think from my site you will learn that it can be grueling to own as many as I do. It breaks my heart when I see performers working on a regular basis with one snake.
In any public display I never scare any one. They can approach me at their own timing. I want people to enjoy reptiles, not get freaked out because some nut scared them with a snake in the past. One of my favorite things about my live animal displays is seeing some one touch a snake for the first time. For me it is an everyday thing but for many grown adults it is an exciting new experience and I love being part of that for them. It is amazing how many adults over 30 have never touched a snake.
As for my shows and displays I would like to share with you how I investigated whether or not to use snakes at all. I will use Fellatio as an example. My pet snake is named Fellatio. This is a common boa constrictor that I have used once a week for over a year at Studio 54. He gets throat cultures done, blood samples taken, fecal exams and I have even gone so far as to re-create a dance club atmosphere in my warehouse so that I may use a stethoscope to monitor his heart rate and to this day I have no ill health to report. Not in any snakes. No signs of aggression or increased heart rate due to stress and no change in their appetites. It seems that some (not all but some) snakes can be oblivious to this activity. I get the feeling that sometimes I am just a piece of furniture to them. As for petting I only allow this on the lower half of the snake during their time out, which is limited to 30 minutes or so at a time. No one pets the head or top third. This is not for fear of biting but I assume that if my body were one long muscle I would not mind being touched however, I do observe caution in the snake’s body language near the face and head, so I do not allow it. The 30-minute rule is important. I don’t want to over work my pets. To give you an idea of what it is like think about holding a 3-year-old child on your hip. At first they love your attention but after a while they start to kick and reach for things and just want to get down. Holding a large snake is a lot like that. They can tire of an activity, get uncomfortable or get curious about something else and want to go by it. They don’t know they are in a show. So to work within their boundaries, not mine, I alternate animals often. This is where I find a lot of ignorance in other snake performers. They work one snake non-stop for 3-4 hours. Then they ask me how many times I have been bit. They show me scars on their hands, arms and legs from bites and I show my nude photos with no scars, no bites anywhere on my body and they just don’t make the connection that I may have the right idea in not overworking an animal. They work them regardless of their feeding schedule where I do not handle my snakes for at least two days after they eat to allow for digestion. I see other girls with snakes at shows when the snake is into its shed cycle. I would never work a snake during that time. I have over 20 snakes to choose from but usually these performers have only one.
DO NOT attend public meetings with your reptiles where there are other reptiles. This is how your pet can pick up fatal diseases. If you don't know the source of these animals there is no way to be positive on a disease free experience. One careless or inexperienced pet owner can infect and kill your pet. Don't risk it.
Reptile ExposNow on to what I consider more reptile HELL. Reptile Expos are so bad. Snakes and lizards stuffed in small plastic deli cups for several days, picked up over and over for 6-8 hours non-stop, subjected to horrible stress as they are bounced around from kid-to-kid, buyer-to-buyer plus the thousands of lookers who just want to see them. Sold to anyone who says they are qualified but more honestly put, just has the money. But wait there is more torture, add the temperatures are terrible and you get animals so stressed out their immune system must be in total chaos. Yet most breeders choose to put the very animals they claim to love so much in this situation over and over again just for the $$$, it sickens me. One of the “Privileges” I get being a bit of a celebrity is I get to go behind the scenes and if you saw the hellish ways these animals are transported you would cry. They are often treated like tools, incapable of feeling pain. No one seems to care. If this were a dog or cat show the authorities would close it down.
I have seen thousands of reptiles…
-Kept in plastic deli cups for days at temps below 60 at night
-Living in over-crowded bins filled with each other’s poop for days
-Dozens of lizards transported in one Rubbermaid bin poking out eyes
-Dead reptiles every morning before the show opens to the public
-With mites, mouth rot, metabolic bone disease and more mites
-Escape and die at convention halls…
>I can go on and on. I just don’t understand why reptile people, who know better continue to be part of these awful expos.
Of course you would be justified in asking why I attend shows like this.
First, I never bring any of my animals to these shows, second what better place to preach then from “Inside The Belly Of The Beast” so to speak. I can’t begin to count all the times I asked a Mom with her kid to look around at the horrible conditions for these animals. I have seen kids run up to lizard breeders and yell at them for using Repti-Bark and selling hot rocks. I am able to make some difference being inside that I could not make from outside.
As for contributing to the shows, I do not pay to go, I am usually paid to be there. My presence will attract attention so expos hire me or I offer to be there when they pay airfare and give me a booth for free. This allows me to raise money for animal charities or to fund my own rescue efforts. I have learned to make the best of any situation because nothing on this earth is perfect…well, except Angelina Jolie…did I say that out loud??? Doh!!!
I hope this give you an understanding of all I go through to insure my snakes can do shows. Now you can see it is not as simple as it looks.
Collecting and Breeding ReptilesI have a serious concern about breeding.
There are just way too many animals being put to sleep every year due to lack of quality homes so I say please, please don’t go into the breeding reptiles.
I did it twice in my life and I know it is a thrilling and fun adventure but all the excitement for us is not worth the pain and suffering that will result for reptiles. For example, pythons can lay dozens of eggs and there are not enough qualified places for all the babies to go. We get offers every month for free snakes to a “good home”. There simply are not enough “good homes” to handle the snakes that are alive right now. These giant snakes end up living terrible lives in small, sub-standard conditions since most owners are not prepared for the size they grow to. A quality cage for an adult Burmese python is expensive and takes up space, lots and lots of space. Don’t even let me get started on the pitiful treatment of Iguanas, it is heartbreaking.
This is my opinion and you can do as you choose but please rethink what you are starting. Breeding only perpetuates the problem. I know you did not create the problem and it is not your responsibility. I agree in that it is terrible that the honest breeders are suffering because of the bad guys but unfortunately it is not just money at stake here, these are living, breathing animals that feel pain. Can any breeder reading this guarantee that all his babies are still in their original homes? Still alive and healthy? Properly cared for? I have e-mails from breeders who say they only let their pets go to good homes. How can anyone prove that? Be honest if you hatched 100 baby snakes what are the chances they are alive now? Sadly, every snake person knows the chances are poor but breeding continues and so does the suffering.
Then there are the “Collectors”. People who get the newest reptile on the market or something unusual, then trade it off like kids trade baseball cards or comic books. Some defend this as a hobby or a learning experience but I see it as lack of dedication and love to a pet. Should a pet be a hobby or a commitment? Since reptiles do not bond to their owners like a dog, cat or bird does they are easy to dump off on someone else. As the excitement of a new lizard or new snake wears off, the owner finds it easy to trade since there is little or no emotional attachment. This is could be wonderful if only every home the reptile went to was qualified. I have been to many homes as I perform at children’s birthday parties (yes, I do kids parties, not all my shows are naughty. When the Dads recognize me they shake… he he he) and in the hundreds of homes I have visited, I have not seen one single reptile in over a decade of performing that has a proper cage. Sadly, not one. A hot rock, piece of green carpet and a small water bowl (usually empty) are commonly what I see for everything from iguanas to boas. Once I inform the parents of sub-standard caging they have I get replies like, “the child is going to give it to a good home when it gets big or trade it for something easier.” This pain never stops. Do you see why I have this point of view? I just don’t know how anyone can justify trading or breeding. Is there no commitment anymore?
Lets give the animals in need of homes first before we create more.
Captive Born OnlyIf you must buy, never, never, never buy wild animals. They may carry all kinds of diseases you and I don't even know how to pronounce. There are more than enough captive bred to serve the nation with out taking something from the wild. Captive bred won't miss the wild because they never knew it. This tends for tamer pets for you.
Going a bit more in depth just search the Internet for how these reptiles are brought into this country. Hundreds die extremely painful deaths in shipping just to get a few live ones to the pet shops. How sad is that. They travel weeks with no food or water, exposed to excessive heat or cold only to arrive at the pet shops in such ill health they are very likely to die. This becomes your expensive veterinary bill. I find that most people don’t go to a veterinarian when basic office visits are $25- $50 bucks and the lizard was only $12.95.
Of course I always recommend looking on the Internet or in your local papers for people looking to get rid of their reptiles, many times they are free but even buying one from a previous owner is better. There is a disadvantage though. Most likely your snake from a previous owner may not be 100% healthy and cost you some vet care, but I am telling you, I get so much satisfaction from taking in sick snakes and seeing them turn around to be healthy gentle pets. I have over 60 animals in my compound now and at least 50 of them USED to be someone’s pet. Please help the situation and adopt a pet in need, which leads me to my next point…
The market to buy these has increased tremendously due to people like Steve Irwin and Britney Spears that perform with them on television. Add this kind of massive exposure and the unique look of these pythons they become pet shop gold $$$. This results in albino pythons being bred and even worse, inbred over and over to create income for unscrupulous snake breeders.
I too share that responsibility when I do my shows. In my educational shows I inform my audience that this beautiful albino snake will most likely not live it’s full lifespan. I too think they are beautiful but when I learned more about the albino defect I have never purchased one from a breeder since. I also know their uncommon appearance does draw attention and I use that unique look to share a message, that whether it is white tigers or snakes it is wrong to breed albinos. My two first albinos that I purchased from breeders 12 years ago have passed away and from now on any albinos I have will be rescues or purchased from someone who doesn’t want them anymore. Most times I get stuck with a dying snake and big veterinary bills but at least I know I did my best to help.
Just do a search of albinism on “Google” and see how negative albinism is. They tend to get sick easy, usually are half blind and so on. This does not happen as often to my normal Burmese pythons. I try to share how albinism is a bad thing and people are shocked. But now that you know it is your responsibility to make the right decision. Will you be part of the problem like an albino breeder such as Bob Clark or part of the solution?
VenomoidsNot a word that exists much outside the reptile insiders but there are people out there that are removing glands from venomous snakes so you can handle them without fear of being in-venomated if bitten. Handling of venomous snakes is getting more and more popular thanks to the irresponsible performances of Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, Austin Stevens and others handling venomous snakes on cable TV shows. I wouldn’t doubt that many of these snakes are venomoids. Do you really think they just happen to find one crawling in the grass? That could cost thousands of dollars in production (camera crews, film etc…) if they kept taping him searching for a snake. Again many times snakes are planted there before taping begins. I have even been called in the past to supply animals to one such show taping here in the Nevada desert. Are Steve and the rest of the idiots handling Venomoids? I don’t know but I think their shows have created a market for snake handler shows at fairs and such who have been busted with them. I know of an animal supplier here in town that even sewed the mouths shut on rattlesnakes for a movie shoot.
As for creating a venomoid, I see it as wrong. If you have to surgically alter an animal to make it a pet then it should not be a pet, how simple is that to understand.
Size Does Matter I like big ones! But the bigger it is the harder to handle. Sometimes I have to have my girlfriends come over and help me. What did you think I was talking about? Shame on you. I am referring to big snakes of course, not the little one-eyed snake in your pants. Give careful thought to what you are getting yourself into. Some reptiles grow huge making them incredibly difficult to clean up after. Not that you should but just try to handle a 100-pound python alone. You will find like many python owners you leave them alone because it is not possible to lift. Now you end up with a big snake that has not been handled and they get nippy when left alone a lot. Do yourself a favor and get a small breed like a royal python or better yet a corn snake. As for lizards forget the iguanas and get yourself a manageable bearded dragon.
Your Pets CagingReptiles don't like to run and play like dogs and cats. But they DO need lots of room to move around and climb. This allows for good muscle tone to develop. This is important. I went to this one guy's house and he had his snake in an aquarium long enough but no height. Trust me on this, if you give them tree limbs and room to climb they will. You will be depriving them if you don't. I have gone out to my snake barn in the middle of the night and seen them up, down and on all levels of their cages. Don't be cheap in this area. A costly cage is part of reptile ownership. If you don't have the money for quality cages then don't get the pet. If you just bought a hatchling Burmese Python that may get to be 20 feet long, I believe that snake should have at least a 15 foot long cage when it gets that big. I even have a hard time with that. I am about to take a 1/4 of my garage and convert it into a cage for my 14 foot burmese. The cage should grow with the snake or you are depriving it of a happy life. Now I know they don't have emotions but I can't help feeling sorry for all these little snakes out there in tiny cages. It would be like me or you being stuck in jail cell. A little cubicle for the rest of your life.
A major problem in making or buying cages is that for your pet's safety and your own, make double sure it is escape proof. Most cages in pet shops are not 100% secure. The screen lid with a rock on top is not secure. Also screen or mesh cages and tops are problematic since snakes rub their noses raw on the wire in their efforts to escape. Of course this will not likely happen when you give your snake a larger habitat otherwise the reptile has nothing better to do with his time than to search for a way out. There is food and things that move out there and he wants to check it out. Wouldn't you? So he will try to escape. It is your duty to protect them and your neighbor’s pets (if you like your neighbors). Some people believe you can stop a reptile from growing if you keep it in a small cage. This is cruelty and not true.
Now some kooks think it's cool to have their iguanas and snakes roam their house freely. Geez! Is there no common sense out there? They can hurt themselves badly by knocking over televisions on themselves, getting caught in air or heating ducts, having their tails stepped on and broken by house guests or having your house guest get bit on the ankle when he is sitting on your couch is no fun. Ok that is funny, but I don’t approve of it. Plus, where is the humidity? Regular heat and basking source? I don't know anyone that keeps his or her house at 90 degrees with 70% humidity. And these animals crap you know! Do you want your house to smell like a cage? Stinky yuck. I'm not coming to your house no matter how rich you are. These guys could have salmonella. Have I said enough? Lets look at a few factors of proper caging…
HousingNever house different species together. If possible keep all reptiles in cages alone. Reptiles are not social and do not like to snuggle like I do. They have a much better temperament when housed alone. They can sleep when they want without disruption, they do not worry about competing for food, and so on. It is best for the reptiles unless you are breeding. Which I wish you would not do since there are so many unwanted snakes out there anyway. Don't even get me on that subject again. Housing each reptile alone also prevents cross contamination between breeds and even tame snakes or lizards can bite each other for no apparent reason. Too often people come home to a bearded dragon with eye damage from a cage mates toenails or missing a chunk of flesh from a bite. Don’t risk it.
SheltersI believe all reptile cages should have one if not two. They need a place they can retreat to and feel safe. A dark, cave like spot, not too big, where the reptile can feel the walls while they sleep. Being able to touch all sides give them a feeling that nothing can sneak up on them while they rest. Be sure it is placed in a part of the cage that is within the temperature limits of the reptile. This helps keep them calm especially during the time they are digesting. For small reptiles there are small logs split in half available at very high prices at torture chambers….er…I mean pet shops. A place that has no business selling reptiles, so I would prefer you shop on the web but that's your choice. For my biggest snakes I use plastic doghouses or half of a kennel carrier. Easy to clean and disinfect. That's important.
SubstrateSubstrates are the stuff you use on the floor of your cages. For all my snakes I have found that Dri-dek (www.dri-dek.com} works great. Dri-dek is the rubber mats used in shower stalls at health clubs and such and I have even seen it recommended on some veterinary supply websites. It comes in many colors. They come in rolls or tile form. The rubber material is made of something they call oxy-B1 vinyl. This is a bacteria fighting material created to inhibits a microorganism's ability to absorb oxygen. This manufacturing process and will prevent mold, and bacteria. I love it.
The tiles are raised off the ground by hundreds of pegs so the pee runs under and your pets are not always slithering through it and it hoses off easily for disinfecting. I layer newspaper underneath the mats. I have used mine for over a decade now. Not a single one has torn or broken. When it is possible, this is my substrate of choice. It may cost a bit up front, but you will save in the long run not having to keep buying replacement substrate.
I avoid wood chips and products like “Repti-bark” from companies like Zoo-Med. This stuff kills countless reptiles every year yet they continue to make this garbage with a picture of an Iguana on the package. Let me paint a picture here for you. Your cage bottom is covered in beautiful “repti-bark” or some wood chip product. Your bearded dragon is ready for its dinner. You drop in a few crickets and he chases them down grabs a cricket along with a mouth full of this wood chip. It gets into his little tummy. It then lodges in his tiny intestines. It then slowly kills your pet. Same goes for your herbivores. Should a leaf or veggie fall out of his bowl he goes for it and get a mouthful. Some folks say they don’t feed their pets in the bark filled cage. This helps but many lizards just walk around all day tasting things and it sticks to their tongues. Got the picture? After soaking/freezing it for a month first to kill any mites I have used it for my Tarantulas but that’s about it.
Cedar Shavings are toxic to many reptiles and animals. People like it because it covers oders so well. It is those fumes from the oils in cedar that cause irritation in the nasal linings of rodents and reptiles. By the way, if it smells bad clean it! Don’t mask the stink. I only use pine shavings on “Tribble” my chinchilla and “Mr. Whiskers” my hedgehog, never on reptiles. Although I do not have experience with it, the only wood chips I have heard are OK for reptiles are Aspen shavings and Cypress mulch. It does allow snakes to burrow if that is a natural behavior for your snake of choice but even these have their downside in that the tiny shavings can get in between belly scales and cause irritation. Of course, never feed your snake in shavings.
If you are on a tight budget newspaper is still an affordable and safe substrate. Not too attractive but easy to replace when in a hurry and clean is important to your reptile. There are other products like butcher paper that come in rolls, some even have a waffle like texture for better absorbency. This is great too. Easy to replace, wipe down the floor with disinfectant and lay down new paper. I like this stuff. I used to use it but it does get expensive. If you only have a couple of snakes this may be the way to go for you.
Some people like to use fake grass or “Astro-Turf”. This is OK. There are two health or safety issues I have with it. The edges can fray and get ingested by your pet. Lizard claws tend to shred it and they end up eating it. This may lead to potential health problems and I find it very difficult to keep clean. If you only have a couple of small snakes it may be worth the extra effort in cleaning to have a cage with what looks like a grass floor but when you get into the big guys it gets to be a bit much.
Calci-Sand”, gravel and other sand like products are not as good as they may seem. Snakes get it lodged in their nostrils, heat pits and between belly scales. This leads to irritation, infection and even death. The packaging on “Calci-Sand”, states that reptiles can safely ingest it and it is supposed to break down in their systems but my vets and many posts on reptile message boards tell of dragons getting impacted from ingesting it. Just like wood chips it tends to clog up their digestive system especially on desert lizards that don’t require lots of liquid to drink. Now, I have heard that plain old silica free natural play sand and decomposed granite does not seem to cause as much damage. But if it’s not 100% safe I say skip it.
HeatingReptiles are Ectothermic or commonly called “Cold Blooded’. They don’t create body heat the way humans or warm-blooded creatures do. They need an outside heat source to stimulate the enzymes that digest their food and keep their organs from shutting down. If kept too cold their immune system drops and leaves them victim to respiratory infections and more. This is serious stuff here. Proper heat can mean life or death to your reptile so do your research.
In the wild they are from areas that naturally supply the heat or humidity they need to digest and live healthy lives. When you bring your reptile home you need to give it a similar warm/hot or possibly humid cage. If you don’t you will slowly kill your pet. So, before you purchase your reptile you will need to find a heater that will supply the proper heat for the species of reptile you buy or preferably adopt. Not all reptiles are the same and not all heaters are either.
Once your cage is set up and you have your heat source, place at least two thermometers on opposite sides of the cage. One a few inches off the ground level for your snake and top and bottom for climbing animals. Heat gradient is very important. This means a large cage that allows one side to start at for example, 80 degrees and go up to 95 in the basking spot on the other side. This will allow your little reptile to regulate his own temps. Very important.
My heat source of choice is Radiant heat panels. I get mine from www.pro-products.com I have used them for years and years and not a problem yet. You most likely will need a thermostat. It is like an on/off switch you plug your heater into that operates according to the temperatures you preset it to.
Example: You set the thermostat for 84 degrees. When the heater raises the temperature in your cage to 84 it automatically turns the heater off . When the temp drops down to 83 it automatically turns the heater on until the thermostat reaches 84 degrees again and then it goes off. When you order ask for Bob and tell him SnakeBabe sent ya and you want a deal! His heat panels make me “hot”…. I love that joke.
They cook your reptile, they torture your reptile, and they kill your reptile. They are good for nothing. I hope I have made myself clear on that. A hot rock is a fake rock that has hearting coils in it. You plug it in and it is supposed to create a place for your reptile to go to warm up. The idea is that in nature, a lizard or snake goes to a rock that has been heated up in the sun to warm them.
A hot rock is designed to copy that premise. This is terrible in that most people think this is efficient cage heater. Think of it like this; how warm would you be if you were naked in a snowstorm with a hot water bottle. You press it to your tummy and curl around it in a losing effort to keep warm. Although your tummy feels warm you’re freezing your butt off.
Reptiles benefit from ambient heat not belly warmth alone. Another problem is that they are usually so hot they harm the reptile. I have seen so many Iguanas with burns on their tummy’s from hot rocks. Iguanas or snakes hold on to these rocks for life since it is the only heat source in their cage causing thermal burns. You try keeping warm with just a heating pad in a house with the thermostat set at 40, then you will understand what it feels like to them.
If you have a hot rock please remove it from the cage bring it to the pet shop that said you needed it, swing it really hard and use it to knock some sense into them. Or if you do not want to do that cut the cord and you have a nice decorative rock.
Under Tank Heaters and Heat Tape
Just like they sound. A product that is placed or sticks to the outside bottom of your tank. It heats up when plugged in; the heat rises and heats your cage. I have heard good things about under tank heaters but I do not use them on my reptiles for the same reasons I don’t like hot rocks. Reptiles prefer the ambient heat created by overhead sources such as the sun does to keep warm. I have touched the glass that under tank heat pads or tapes were applied to and it was like touching a frying pan. Ouch! What if my snake crawls on it? It was worse than a hot rock to me. I would think you could attach a rheostat (rheostats are like dimmer switches for heat control) to it but how efficient is it if the heat is on the animals bottom only? They are inexpensive to use but still a bit of a waste. I have seen some totally closed cages in when only an air vent on each side is available and it heated the cages fairly well but the burn thing still would keep me from using them.
CHE (ceramic heating elements or emitters)
They look like light bulbs in the way the screw into the sockets.
It does not emit light as other heat bulbs do so it can remain on all night supplying heat for your pet and allowing a night cycle (darkness) for sleep.
Some are flat, the superior ones like from Pearlco are dome shaped but they scare me. It gets hotter then a frying pan and if your animal can come in contact with it, it will eventually get burned. Very badly burned. I don’t recommend these unless they are kept out side the cage. One common mistake is that people lay them on the cage top. It can heat a screen top to the point of burning your reptile. Even a short distance or with a cover it still gets freaking hot!!! Also, if it should fall it can become a fire hazard in your home. Not worth the risk when better, safer products are on the market.
HumidityHave you ever taken a hot shower and the steam fogs up the mirror in your bathroom so you can write your name on it? That’s humidity. Many of the reptiles available in the pet trade are from the jungle. These are the ones that need humidity. You will need to get a “Hygrometer”. A hygrometer looks a lot like a thermometer but it measures moisture in the air. Next, find out what you own? Iguana? They should be kept around 60-70 % Red tail boa? At 50-60%. But not all boas are the same. Keep Brazilian rainbow boas at 70-80%.
There are way to many to mention here but just keep in mind as you shop for a pet that this could be an important part of its care. Your pet’s health and comfort may require a misting system. One great source for humidity is giving your iguana, snake or whatever humidity-loving reptile you have a tub to soak in. this can allow the animal to hydrate itself. I like to spray the snakes once a day with water in a misting bottle. But you need to watch this if you decide to do it. The inside of my cages are not wood and I use the dri-dek as a substrate, which inhibits bacteria growth. A second or third water bowl is a way to increase humidity. The more surface of water you have the higher the humidity will be. Some people may make the mistake of placing the sole water source directly under or over the heat source. This does create more humidity but snakes don’t like to drink warm water. Your pet will dehydrate. If this is your method, be sure and have a second water source on the cool side of the cage. Also, be sure to change and clean all water sources daily. Bacteria will grow in stagnant water and you do not want your snakes to soak in that.
Another way that has worked out great for me is to get a plastic shoe or sweater box at K-mart or such. I buy the T-Rex Expandable Forest Bedding blocks. When water is added it expands and I fill the bottom of the shoebox with a few inches of this bedding. Then cut a hole in the lid big enough for your snake to climb through and he will hopefully go in there for his humidity. Check often and add water as needed. Also I change the bedding if they poop, pee, or shed in it or approximately every 3-4 weeks, whichever comes first. This system is not too good for big snakes but sufficient for the little guys like ball pythons and especially rainbow boas. It also acts as a great shelter for the smaller snakes too.
LightingJust like you have day and night so do your reptiles. Some are nocturnal in that they sleep all day and are active at night, kind of like me. Other reptiles can be diurnal in that they sleep at night like the average person. Regardless of what they are a day and night cycle are very helpful.
My reptiles seem to have a great temperament and part of it I feel is due to lots of rest. They get 12 hours a day of light via full spectrum lighting and the next 12 hours are dark for rest. Some people allow for a nighttime drop in temperatures, I do not. My cages are large enough for them to have any temp they like within their individual needs. Many snake experts say they do not need full spectrum lighting. All agree that it does not hurt them (unless they are Albinos) so I do it. It costs a LOT more but I see them get natural sunlight in the wild and God knows best. So I supply close to it in captivity. I do bring them in the real sunlight for short periods of time but be careful. They get a bit of there wild nature out in sunlight and many snake owners tell me of stories on how there snakes go crazy outside. Not fun. You do not want them to be in an outdoor cage where they cannot shade themselves if needed. You have to think for them.
So be 100 % sure if your pet needs this. Now, how to administer it is the concern. Well, the sun is free so no problem right? During the hot days of summer I can just sit outside with my Iguana, drink an Ice tea and stare at my shirtless muscle bound gardeners butt and let my lizard soak up the rays. Now I have the ice tea to cool down with but what about my little Godzilla? I supply a shaded area to let him cool down and regulate his temps too. I have several cages in my yard that are large enough for me to walk in. Half the cages are shaded the other has several spaces for the lizard to bask in the sun. On a day when it is 75-85 that’s a good thing but when temperature exceed 85 you can cook your iguana even in the shade! Watch over them! A similar problem comes wintertime when it is too cold outside for your tropical or desert reptile. So what to do? Indoors in front of your window? Nope, window glass will filter out much of the needed radiation. Is your pet in a glass tank? More problems since aquarium tanks can turn into an oven in sunlight even in the dead of winter! What you need is a light bulb that copies the sun called “FULL SPECTRUM LIGHTING” Read on…
Full Spectrum LightingFull spectrum light bulbs must be placed in close proximity (usually 8-10 inches) to the reptile, combined with proper heat and diet even supplemented with Vitamins. Together they will make for a strong healthy reptile. It is really not too complicated, generally speaking, full spectrum light bulbs imitate a little bit of sunlight. Some reptiles need sunlight for their bones to develop properly.
A reptile living outdoors has access to it from the perfect source, the Sun. A reptile kept indoors does not have access to direct sunlight so you must supply it through artificial sources.
There are expensive light bulbs available in the pet trade that supplies the needed Ultra Violet radiation (UVB) but not all sources are created equal. Some bulbs are better than others while most are total lies! I will offer my choices and suggest you do your own research as well.
Fluorescent TubesThese have been the standard light source to supply full spectrum light for many years now for birds and reptiles and even humans should they want it. They are the long tube light bulbs similar to what you would see in a garage or workshop. Sometimes referred to as “shop lights”. The best full spectrum fluorescent bulbs for reptile use in my opinion (and that’s what this site is about, my opinion…OK, my opinion and my boobs) I would recommend the Repti-sun 5.0 or 10.0 by ZooMed even though I hate ZooMed for its production of other reptile products that hurt reptiles.
These bulbs should be used in high quality light fixtures with good reflectors. Not the energy saver kind. Those do save on energy but it cuts out the energy you got the bulb for. A good reflector on the hood of the light fixture can increase your lights UV power. This is one of those you get what you pay for deals. Don’t be cheap. My fixtures from Home Depot cost over 40 bucks each, not the $7.99 shop light fixtures they have. Add to that the price of a ZooMed 5.0 Reptisun at around $35 dollars, two per fixture and your not done yet. The bulbs lose their UV potency after a while. I change mine every ten months if not more often. UV is expensive. Petco is around $35.00 a bulb, but I have found them for as low as $15-$20 when they are on sale at www.lllreptile.com
Fluorescent bulbs have been used for many years and proven to safely work. They have a history of success so that is why I still use them.
Mercury Vapor BulbsThese are screw in bulbs that emit heat and light and look like flood lights. From my research they have the highest amount of UV output and get great reviews from users.
I personally still don’t feel 100% comfortable about mercury vapor bulbs. These things kick fluorescent bulbs butt in UV production but is it more than needed? The labels warn of eye damage just like the sun can damage your eyes if you look directly into it. Do I want to subject my lizards to that? I know the animal can damage its eyes looking into the sun if outdoors so what’s the worry right? But I do worry, so I still lean toward not taking a chance when Repti-sun bulbs (when properly used) supply the UVB needed. Many people use Mercury vapor bulbs with no problems to report but it just scares me a bit so I will continue to use my Repti-sun bulbs during the cold months and come summer, allow my lizards 10-20 hours a week outside in natural sunlight. For more information on these bulbs visit www.reptileuv.com.
Feeding Your ReptileIt is amazing to me that so many people think snakes only need to eat once a month or once a year. This myth is totally wrong. Some snakes eat 3 or 4 times a month. Other reptiles can eat every day while others eat every other day and some once a week. Each animal has its own unique needs and if you are getting one it is your responsibility to learn them PRIOR to purchase. One last note, over feeding is a problem too. Please feed regularly but not more then needed to stay healthy. An obese animal is likely to bite or even die as a result of not having enough time to digest. Remember, they are digesting bones and teeth and stuff that takes a while. Don’t rush them. To much food can block them up and stick inside their intestines. I’ve lost several savannah monitors I tried rehabilitating due to the prior owners overfeeding them. Too little food is bad too. Some believe they can keep their reptile small by underfeeding; this is animal cruelty and will not stop their growth.
Pre-Killed Frozen/ Thawed FoodAnother myth is that snakes only eat live food and nothing is further from the truth. Smart people never feed live food to their snakes.
But wait! “Hold your G-String SnakeBabe, did you say never feed live?” Yes I did! Every snake I have rescued that was fed live food is now eating frozen/thawed mice, rats or rabbits.
I am a big believer that pre-killed is better all around, if you disagree you are probably one of those people that used to kick kittens and squash bugs when you were little and think its cool to watch and animal suffer, then die. In the wild it is natural to kill and eat but in my home I am humane enough to step in and eliminate needless suffering. So I do. I strongly encourage you to do so also. Ask you local reptile Veterinarian about how snakes end up in his surgery room from a rat fighting for its life and chewing the eyes out of a pet snake because some jerk-off thought it would give him a hard on to watch a rat die. That’s sick. Also, there are some pet shops that for a fee will allow you to watch their snakes feed on live prey. Please please please do not buy from those shops.
For those of you who never heard of the Pre-killed food situation it is simple as this. There are painless ways to kill rats or rabbits in which to feed your snakes. Rodents are placed in a chamber and gassed by CO2. In only a few minutes they pass out. This brings a painless death but one more step should follow. Place the now dead rodent in a sub-zero freezer for at least 30 days. This process kills many of the bacteria and parasites that the food item may harbor. Come time to feed you defrost the food item in the fridge or the way you would any meat. I also recommend injecting the now warm dead food with a liquid vitamin and giving the snakes the healthiest meal they can get. I am always taking in pythons to relocate for idiots who buy them and want to get rid of them. They all eat pre-killed food by the time I’m done with them. For some the transition is not that easy. It may require you to do some wiggling to make the snake think its alive but they do go for it after a while. You may have to try different sizes and although snakes see in shades of gray I have had some respond better to a different color rat. Sometimes your snake may not take it unless you feed at night, perhaps the rats needs to be warmer or maybe given to him in his hide spot. You will figure out your snake’s preference after a while. You may have to throw away a few rats at first until your snakes catch on to the process; this is not a problem, only a minor expense and some of your time. Once acclimated to the process they may strike and try to strangle the dead animal. This is normal but dangerous for you. Be careful. Never hold the food in your hands. I use snake tongs that are 3 feet long and keep me way out of reach. Their strike is lightning fast and totally cool to watch but painful to be a part of. You have been warned.
Aside from the humane aspect of pre-killed food it is much safer for your snakes. A dead rat will not fight for its life and chew the eyes out of our snake in a last ditch effort to live! With a pre-killed rat you can leave it in the cage overnight with no worries of it attacking your snake. I have several pythons and boas that have been conditioned or maybe even tamed to the point that they don’t strike at the food. They are so mellow (not safe mind you, just mellow about it) that they almost seem to gently open their mouths and start to swallow. However, if they have not eaten the food item in 12 hours please throw it away.
As for the humane way to kill your rat, rabbit or mouse I only suggest it be done by CO2. You may prefer to do it yourself but it is much easier to order them from places like http://www.rodentpro.com Ask for Casey and tell them SnakeBabe sent you. And, if you have an extra freezer like I do you can order in larger quantities which is even cheaper than buying a live rat or rabbit from a pet shop.
Some will try and kill or stun the rat prior to feeding it to their snake. Some place the rat in a pillowcase and whack it against a wall or use a stick or hammer to break its neck. This is a horrible way for a rat to die and is illegal in many states. Many times it just knocks the rat out. Later the rat can revive to what could be hours of horrible suffering if the snake does not finish it off. If your snake does eat the poor rodent you just tortured it and still does not deal with the issue of how rats can spread parasites and disease to your snake. Only a deep freeze for at least 30 days after a humane kill with CO2 will do that so why not just order the frozen to start with.
WaterJust because your water bowl is full you can have a dehydrated or very thirsty snake. Snakes often refuse to drink stagnant or old water.
Clean your water bowls everyday. And don’t just change the water, you need to empty the water and scrub out the bowl with cleaner/ sanitizer. If you are not dedicated to cleaning don't get a reptile. Don’t delay and let bacteria grow. This is harmful to your pet. Now advance this cleaning process to the 5th or 6th year you own your python and its 10 feet long. You need a bathtub sized water bin to soak in.
How do you take that out of your cage, bring it in your yard and hose it down? You cant! How does an average person living in a home carry gallons and gallons of water filled with poop to a toilet to dispose of it? Then you have to sanitize the tub in its cage before you refill. It is almost impossible so many reptiles end up with just a small dish to drink from and depriving the tropical reptile to behave as it would in nature and soak. Not being able to soak is not life threatening but I do try to provide that activity. I know if I can’t at least take a bubble bath once a week I am not a happy camper. But that’s just me.
VitaminsI take vitamins, don’t you? I used to have Flintstone vitamins and loved to bite the heads off Barney and Fred but I am an adult and those childish pleasures have slowly been replaced by boring grown up vitamins. Although I do laugh as I eat Ginger Bread Men crotch first. As for your reptile I will offer two of my vitamin choices. The first and favorite of most every reptile owner I know is “Miner-All. Please check them out at www.miner-all.net”
It looks like baby powder. Its easy to sprinkle it on the dark green leafy vegetables you feed your lizards (cause you would never be stupid enough to feed lettuce right? Right? Come on say it…) and let them gobble it down. Another that works well is “Rep-Cal but my babies don’t seem to find it as tasty. Perhaps its too tasty or possibly gritty in comparison to the somewhat fluffy light feel of miner-al. but if they eat it then you’re on your way. I mix my vitamins with water and use it in a syringe to inject it into the pre-killed food.
If you don’t have access to syringes to inject vitamins you may have to get the tail end of the pre-killed frozen thawed food item wet for the powder to stick. If it falls off then it does no good for your lizard or snake. You waste vitamins and that’s a waste of money you could be spending on my girly pictures!!!
InsectivoresGot a reptile that eats bugs? That is an insectivore.
Well, you are what your eat so be sure the bugs your pet eats are healthy and well fed. Gut loading is a term we use for feeding your crickets or roaches (yes cockroaches are great for your lizards) a good diet prior to feeding it to your pet. The crickets you get at your pet shop may not have eaten for days. Most pet shops, or torture chambers as I see them; rarely have water for the crickets. So by the time you get them to your pet they are starved and dehydrated and have little nutritional value. So fatten 'em up for a few days! Mixed veggies are great. Green beans, carrots, corn, and such work great. It is natural and cheaper than the commercial mix for crickets. A good quality pulverized rodent chow is good also. Please do not forget the clean water and even fresh orange slices.
One more thing to nag at you about, but never ever catch a bug from your yard to feed a pet. Insects from the outdoors can have pesticides, fertilizers and who knows what on them and you could poison your pet. So remember, farm raised cockroaches and crickets.
Hey, I told you reptile care when done right is serious work.
HerbivoresGot a reptile that eats plant life? That is an herbivore.
I would think this would be easy but all I see are people feeding their iguanas and tortoises is lettuce. Lettuce is not needed for any reptile, ever. Just forget about it. Don’t even give it a thought. They can eat it but its like zero in the nutrients needed for a healthy pet. If you have an herbivore check on its particular diet. Most likely you will see dark green leafy veggies only, Collard greens, Mustard greens and Dandelion greens are usually very good. Now spinach is good for humans and Popeye but has a negative effect on a reptile’s ability to absorb calcium so it should be avoided. Please research your particular animal and get the right diet for him.