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How to Help Rescued Reptiles Adjust to Their New Home

lizard on a branch | How to Help Rescued Reptiles Adjust to Their New Home

So, you’ve adopted a new reptile? Rescued reptiles, like any rescue pet, will need to be given time to adjust to their new home. After all, everything that they have known up to this point has changed. New surroundings, new people, new sounds… It can be a lot! But there are things that you can do to help make the process more comfortable for everyone involved.

Many rescue reptiles will adapt very well to their new habitat, given time and patience. The following tips and tricks will help you prepare for the possibility of setbacks or ‘hiccups’ along the way!

8 Ways to Help Rescued Reptiles Adjust to Their New Home

Set Up Your Reptile’s Habitat in Advance

Once you know the date that you are bringing your new reptile home, it’s time to get to work setting up the ideal habitat.

This will give you time to decide on the best location in your house for your reptile’s habitat, shop the best reptile tanks, test your heating and lighting systems to make sure that they are working.

If you are working with an odd-shaped location, you may want to consider custom reptile cages that will take advantage of the available space.

Research the unique requirements of each species in terms of space needed, temperature, humidity levels, and any other important aspects that you should be considering when creating the ideal habitat for your reptile.

Provide Plenty of Hiding Spaces

When rescued reptiles are first introduced to their new environment, it can be overwhelming.

Your new reptile is surrounded by new sounds, smells, and sights. Even more concerning, however, is the fact that he doesn’t know what predators may be in the area.

You know that he’s safe in his enclosure, but he isn’t aware of that yet!

As you are setting up your reptile’s habitat, make sure to include many hiding places that he can use to feel more secure.

Another way to help reduce the stress is to limit the sound and traffic passing by his habitat, especially the first few days in his new home.

Related: ‘6 Phone Numbers Every Pet Owner Should Have On Hand

Locate Your Nearest Specialty Vets

Connecting with a veterinarian that you trust is an important part of being a pet owner, regardless of what kind of pet you bring into your life.

For reptile owners, there is the added challenge of finding a veterinarian that specializes in reptile care.

Take some time to research the closest reptile and amphibian veterinarians in your area and connect with one that is taking on new patients.

In addition to finding a regular practice vet, take the time to search out the nearest emergency reptile vet. Put their information somewhere where you can access it in a hurry when needed.

Don’t Take Your Reptile Out During Transport

Before you leave the rescue with your reptile, they carefully package them up in a small box, container, or small bag.

It may be tempting to take your pet out on the way home. After all, you’re excited!

But the best thing that you can do for your new pet is to keep him safely contained until you’re home and ready to introduce him to his habitat.

Moving from their current home to somewhere new and unknown is stressful enough. Bringing them out in your vehicle will only bring the stress level up even further.

snake on a rock | How to Help Rescued Reptiles Adjust to Their New Home

Dim the Lights

Bright lights can be startling and unsettling. This is true not only of rescued reptiles but all reptiles as they are introduced to a new environment.

Before bringing your reptile into his new home, dim the lights in the room to create a peaceful atmosphere.

If you can’t lower the lighting in the area, try creating a curtain or cover that will restrict the light coming into his space without restricting airflow.

Prioritize Hydration

Proper hydration is important for the health of your reptile, especially when they are experiencing high levels of stress.

Each species has its own unique hydration needs. This could include any combination of fresh drinking water, places for bathing, or misting.

Keep an eye on your reptile’s hydration levels for the first few days in his new habitat.

If you notice that he isn’t drinking or bathing enough to meet his basic hydration needs, contact your veterinarian to discuss your concerns and explore the possibility of a bigger medical issue.

Related: ‘Is A Pet Snake Right For Me?

Feeding Tips for Rescued Reptiles

It is not uncommon for animals of any species to lose their appetite when faced with high levels of stress.

In fact, offering your reptile food before he’s ready to eat could add to the stress level.

Hold off on providing food for the first 24 hours that your reptile is in his new habitat, allowing him to acclimate to the space first.

When you do start feeding your reptile, begin by offering food in smaller quantities.

If you’re unsure about what to feed your new reptile, contact your veterinarian, the rescue that you are adopting from, or your local exotic reptile store for guidance.

Hands Off in the Beginning

You may be tempted to handle and play with your new pet as soon as possible, but you need to give him space to adjust.

Being handled can be very stressful for reptiles, especially when it’s someone they don’t know.

Give your new pet a few days to adjust before trying to interact. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you see him eating comfortably first.

This could take a few days, even a week. Try not to rush the process.  

lizard on a rock pin | How to Help Rescued Reptiles Adjust to Their New Home

Bringing home a new pet is an exciting time, but it’s also a stressful situation for many rescued pets (and rescued reptiles are no exception).

A little patience, in the beginning, will set you up for a long, happy life together.

Have you introduced rescued reptiles to your home before? If so, what tips do you have for new reptile owners?

About Author

Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering, and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.

6 Comments

  • Robin
    March 15, 2022 at 9:58 am

    I have never owned a reptile before. These tips are really interesting! I wouldn’t have thought about dimming the lights for them. You’re right though, bright lights can even be intimidating for humans. I can only imagine how much more intimidating they are for a young reptile.

    Reply
    • Britt
      March 15, 2022 at 1:54 pm

      It’s one of those little steps that doesn’t take too much effort but can really help to make things easier for a reptile when they are trying to adjust to somewhere new. They are often so overwhelmed that any additional sensory trigger can push their stress level over the top.

      Reply
  • Simona
    March 17, 2022 at 8:26 am

    I always wanted to get a chameleon, and never considered any of these so thank you for sharing! If I ever get around to maybe rescue one, I will definitely follow these x

    Reply
    • Britt
      March 22, 2022 at 2:05 am

      I’ve never had a chameleon personally but a good friend did. I loved just watching him anytime that I was over visiting my friend’s place haha

      Reply
  • Tiffany
    March 17, 2022 at 8:49 am

    I feel like a lot of those steps make so much sense, but they aren’t things I would have necessarily thought about. Especially about setting up their habitat in advance. giving them a hiding space, and knowing where the closest veterinarian that will beable to care for them is, and I feel like that might be the most importance, since it might not be in the cards at the moment if there is no one close and avaiable. I have never personally had a rescued or non-rescued but my older little sister at one time had a bearded dragon, but I have no idea what happened to him.

    Reply
    • Britt
      March 22, 2022 at 2:04 am

      Before doing this article, I spoke with a friend that works as a veterinary technician at a clinic that is known for working with reptiles. She was actually the one that mentioned the idea of dimming the lights which isn’t something that I had considered!

      Reply

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