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Is A Pet Snake Right For Me?

a hand reaching out, palm up, holding an olive green snake

Snakes are intelligent and fascinating animals. They make wonderful pets, but they aren’t for everyone! Before you head out to the pet store, take a step back and ask yourself – Is a pet snake right for me?

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If you’re considering adding a snake to your family, congratulations!

A new companion is always exciting, but this is a decision that should never be taken lightly. This is true for EVERY pet – not just larger animals like dogs.

Sure, a snake may require a smaller space in your home, but they still rely on you for their daily needs.

Furthermore, with snakes, there are some aspects of care that may be a little challenging or unpleasant if you are squeamish.  

Are you willing to do what it takes to meet their dietary needs?

Let’s break down some important points for consideration…

close up of an olive green, black and cream coloured snake on the back of someone's hand

Is a Pet Snake Right For Me? Ask Yourself These 7 Questions!

#1 – Are You Prepared for A Long-Term Commitment?

If you’re a new pet home, regardless of the species, you need to consider whether you’re willing to provide a safe, loving home for their full lives.

Your new snake’s lifespan will vary with the exact species, but it should be noted that many can be expected to live over 20 years!

Where do you expect to be 20 years from now?

Are you willing to make decisions regarding your housing and lifestyle that will allow you to properly care for your new family member from year to year?

#2 – Are You Comfortable With Meeting Your Snake’s Nutritional Needs?

Snakes are not vegetarians, nor can they be fed a simple diet of kibble or pellets like many other pets.

Most snakes will eat pre-killed food without a problem.

If you go this route, you need to be prepared for the site of a bag full of dead mice, frogs, or other ‘critters’.

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

However, some snakes will never take to pre-killed food.

In this situation, are you comfortable with feeding your snake live prey? Are you okay with seeing the circle of life in action?

#3 – Do You Have Enough Space in Your Home?

While your snake will live in an enclosure, limiting its access to your home, you need to ensure that the enclosure is large enough to home a full-grown snake.

Depending on the species you choose, this could be quite large.

Most pet snake owners recommend using glass or Plexiglas enclosures as they prevent snakes from escaping through the holes of a wire cage and are easier to maintain and regulate temperatures.

#4 – Are You Financially Prepared for Your Pet Snake’s Needs?

Often pets that live in a cage or enclosure are depicted as ‘beginner pets’ as they are easier to care for and lower cost.

This overlooks the unique needs of pets like snakes.

Not only will you have to provide a safe enclosure and food for your snake, but they also have other needs that you must meet.

One important consideration is the temperature necessary to keep your snake healthy.

The exact temperature will depend on the species.

Tropical snakes prefer a constant temperature between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day while American snakes prefer a slightly lower temperature between 70 and 80 degrees.

In addition to heating one side of the enclosure, you will need to maintain a cooler side that they can move to when necessary.

This can all be achieved with products like heating pads and heat lamps.

NOTE: The use of lower-cost heating options like rocks may put your snake at risk of overheating or being burned. Most experts advise against leaving these options in your snake’s enclosure.

orange, brown and white snake inside an aquarium on wood shavings, in front of a rock

Finally, don’t cheap out with the cost of purchasing your snake!

There are many questionable individuals selling solely to make a quick buck with no consideration for the health of those in their care.

Take the time to research reputable breeders in your area.

When you do purchase your snake, take the time to do an initial exam, checking for any signs of illness or disease.

Concerns to note include:

  • Mouth rot
  • Closed eyes
  • Bubbles coming from the snake’s nose
  • Retained skin
  • Inability to take prey during a feeding demonstration

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself and your potential new pet!

#5 – Are There Children in Your Home to Consider?

While children CAN be taught to care for a snake at a young age, there are additional risks to consider with babies or younger children.

One such risk unique to most reptiles and amphibians is the potential for salmonella.

The younger population is more susceptible to salmonellosis as well as more serious complications resulting from salmonella infections.

It is generally recommended to avoid bringing a snake into a home with children under five, at which point they can be taught to handle their new pet safely.

Younger children can also find themselves in a dangerous situation with larger snakes.

Despite being raised as a pet in your home, larger snakes like pythons still maintain their natural instincts. This includes crushing instincts.

If you do have children in the home, they should NEVER be left unsupervised with access to the snake (even if it is ‘safe’ in its enclosure).

Related: ‘The Betta Fish Myth: Uncovering The Best Tank Size For A Betta Fish’

#6 – Are You Looking for A Pet You Can Cuddle and Train?

Some snake owners are able to train their snakes, however, they are very difficult to train and it isn’t always possible.

It should also be noted that ‘training’ in terms of a snake is not the same as that of a dog.

They can be ‘trained’ to adjust to specific routines, but they will not respond to given commands in the way that a dog would.

Additionally, if you are looking for an affectionate pet that enjoys being handled and pet, you should keep searching.

Going back to our original question, is a pet snake the right for me?

Not if you’re looking for that stereotypical emotional attachment that is experienced with cats, dogs and other smaller animals.

Snakes are more independent, often hiding away inside their enclosure. However, they are fascinating to watch when they do emerge to explore their surroundings!

#7 – Are You Willing to Research and Learn About Your New Pet?

Bringing a snake into your home will be different from any other pet you may have experienced in the past.

In order to provide your snake with a healthy, happy home, you will need to research and learn about their unique needs.

This includes proper handling, nutritional information, providing the best possible enclosure and signs of illness or disease.

There is a ton of quality information available online and published in books, as well as experts available to answer your questions and concerns. Make the most of it!

Are you willing to take the time out of your busy schedule to educate yourself on these topics?

Can you admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, humbling yourself to the role of a student with your snake’s best interests in mind?

You need to be 110% honest with yourself… If you’re not willing to put the time in, you may not be ready to be a pet owner.

young boy holding a small brown, black and cream coloured snake up by his face, smiling with the text 'is a pet snake right for me and my family?'

Have you ever wondered ‘Is A Pet Snake Right For Me?

If so, what questions did you ask yourself to help reach a well-informed decision?  

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.

40 Comments

  • Tracy @ Cleland Clan
    July 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    This is way outside my comfort zone, so my answer is no. However, my daughter did bring a tiny albino garter snake home from college one summer, and I did survive. (I lived in fear of it escaping its aquarium.) Luckily, the roommate got custody after that year. I did not know that snakes lived so long–they are definitely a bigger commitment than many people realize.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 28, 2020 at 5:45 pm

      There are a lot of myths about snakes and snake ownership that need to be squashed, such as the lifespan being short and the idea that you can just put them in any old aquarium and they’ll be fine. There is MUCH more to it that should be considered before making the commitment.

      Reply
  • Scott DeNicola
    July 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm

    When I was younger I wanted a ball python so bad and my parents flat out said there was no way they were going to allow one in the house. They thought it would eat the dog as if I’d let it crawl aroudn the house all day. I wound up gettign prianhas instead which we fed live goldfish. Go figure! Fast forward ot my adulthood and I got married and moved into my house and still wasnt allowed to get a snake. My consultiaon prize was a gecko that I fed crickets too. I’m certain at this point that a snake is not in my future but I’ve done the research just in case! 🙂

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 28, 2020 at 5:43 pm

      I have a few friends that have snakes, and I do enjoy checking them out while I’m there, but I don’t see one living at my house. We’re more of a dog and cat family – I like being able to cuddle with my pets lol

      Reply
  • Cassie | a Life on a Dime
    July 28, 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Definitely not the right snake for me! I had no idea you could buy a bag of dead critters to feed them with! Lots more to consider than whether or not they creep you out!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 28, 2020 at 10:03 pm

      I think a bag of dead critters would creep people out less than buying their food live. That being said, I’d rather not acknowledge what is contained in my pet’s food. While I know what’s in my dogs’ kibble, for example, I can easily brush that aside when feeding them as you don’t see it in front of you.

      Reply
  • Stephanie S
    July 28, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    I’ve never thought about getting a pet snake, but I do find them very fascinating to look at when I take my girls to the pet store. We always explore all the reptiles, and they just really enjoy watching them for a few. I had a friend who had a pet snake, and it was pretty cool to watch it when I would visit her.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 28, 2020 at 10:02 pm

      They are really interesting to watch – I’ve always been fascinated by snakes. However, I also know that I don’t live a lifestyle that’s conducive to caring for them properly. We travel too much to be available for their care.

      Reply
  • Deborah Kos
    July 28, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    I know that snakes are part of the animal world, but I am not a fan of snakes. I jump around and scream like a nut when a snake comes in front of me.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 28, 2020 at 10:00 pm

      A lot of people are skittish around snakes or completely afraid of them. It’s definitely one of the more common fears!

      Reply
  • Lisa
    July 29, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Flora has an aquarium and has been asking for a gecko recently. So I guess it’s only a matter of time before she works her way up to a snake. Personally, I don’t mind them (I’ve handled them before) and I think they’re fascinating creatures. Whether our two cats would be quite so welcoming is another matter, so Flora will have to wait until she moves out, I think! Lisa

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      I don’t think our cats would care, but you never know. Jinx is a little particular and a bit of a trouble maker. I think she’s the one we’d have to watch.

      Reply
  • The Book View
    July 29, 2020 at 10:28 am

    While I’m not at all a fan of snakes, this was a really interesting post! I didn’t know most of this, just a little about their feedings from movies. haha Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  • Lyosha
    July 29, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    I am thinking to get a lizard but snake would be nice as well. I love reptiles, I think I was a lizard in my past life, hehe

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 4:27 pm

      They really are fascinating. We’re not home enough to be able to care for them in the summer, ensuring that their enclosure maintains the right temperatures, etc. Otherwise, I would consider whether we could bring one into the home. I love watching them.

      Reply
  • Unwanted Life
    July 29, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    Back in my younger days I knew a few people who had snakes, and I ended up being given three when my friend was unable to look after them. For the most part it was alright, but warming up the dead mice was surprisingly hard to get right. Housemates aren’t always keen on sharing with you if you have snakes and/or dead mice in the freezer either. So be prepared to have issues with finding a place to live if you have them, given how long they can live for

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 4:26 pm

      That’s definitely a good point! Having a pet in the house impacts EVERYONE in that home, not just you – another factor to consider when deciding if your living conditions can provide an appropriate home for any pet.

      Reply
  • Ben
    July 29, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    These are awesome tips. I had a snake when I was a kid, so I knew most of these tips. I would love to have one again. I think they’re amazing. Unfortunately, my GF has a sever phobia, so that’s a no-go. Great info here, though!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 4:25 pm

      Snake phobias are pretty common. It’s one that I don’t fully understand, but we all have our own unique quirks. Right?

      Reply
  • Lauren
    July 29, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Honestly I think snakes make wonderful pets but for me personally I’m not sure I could feed them live prey!

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      I think they are great pets in the right house. I have a few friends with snakes and they are really well taken care of.

      Reply
  • Ana
    July 29, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    Interesting post. People need to consider the kind of commitment involved with bringing in a pet. I can’t imagine feeding a snake anything alive so the poor snake wouldn’t do very well with me. But, they are fascinating. Thanks for sharing your insight on pet care.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      That’s one of the biggest things that I wish people would consider – whether or not they are able to provide a snake with what it needs to survive including appropriate food. If not, it’s clearly not the right choice for your home.

      Reply
  • Sophie Wentworth
    July 29, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    I knew the answer to this question was no the second I read the title but it was a very interesting read nontheless. I wouldn’t say I’m scared of snakes, but they do creep me out a little. And I could never ever feed anything live mice, I couldn’t even feed them dead mice I don’t think. I had too many pet hamsters as a kid to be comfortable with that kind of behaviour. Dogs and guinea pigs for me…x

    Sophie

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 29, 2020 at 9:56 pm

      That would be the hardest part for me – although, I think I could rationalize already dead prey vs live prey. The problem is that you can’t guarantee that a snake will be okay with dead prey.

      Reply
  • Nkem
    July 30, 2020 at 1:48 am

    Thank you for breaking down what it would take to have a pet snake. I would absolutely never have a pet snake because of the fact that it eats dead animals and I don’t even eat animals myself. I think that it’s scary but it’s important to know all the details when considering having a pet snake because it’s a pretty cool animal to have and it can be kinda cute.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 30, 2020 at 2:01 pm

      I think that their nutritional needs would be the breaking point for many people, honestly.

      Reply
  • LuLu B
    July 30, 2020 at 3:45 am

    Snakes are fascinating to watch but they do creep me out so I know without a doubt that they aren’t the pet for me. Also the idea of feeding dead (or possible live) prey, would be very hard for me to do! I wasn’t aware that snakes live so long, that does become a very big commitment.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 30, 2020 at 2:00 pm

      There are some snakes with a shorter lifespan, but many live quite a while! It’s the biggest misconception that I found while digging into this information.

      Reply
  • Jenny in Neverland
    July 30, 2020 at 5:53 am

    Honestly I think I’d really like a pet snake. I like snakes but they definitely take a lot of care. I knew someone who had a few pet snakes once.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 30, 2020 at 1:58 pm

      They are so fascinating, they really are. I wish that we were able to provide the care one would need, but we’re not home enough to monitor temperatures, etc.

      Reply
  • Erica (The Prepping Wife)
    July 31, 2020 at 6:11 am

    Snakes are actually really cool pets. I remember there being one in some class I had in high school, and holding it was just fun. They didn’t bother me at all. But the crushing instinct is a serious thing! I had no clue that snakes lived a solid 20 years. That’s a bigger commitment than having a kid! Which would be the part I would have an issue with. Growing my business and career, with goals, I doubt I would be in a place to take care of a snake. That’s where I like my cat. He sleeps most of the time, demands attention periodically, but his food dispenses itself, water is filtered and always filled, and my husband cleans the litter box. All I’m required to do is pay attention to him for a few minutes when he demands it. Snakes definitely have a lot more demands in taking good and proper care of them.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 31, 2020 at 8:41 pm

      That is the biggest reason that we don’t have a snake right now. We travel a lot which is fine in that we can take dogs and even cats with us (we’re planning a big RV/trailer trip across Canada/the US in the future and will bring all 4 pets), however, maintaining the needs of a snake requires more than we can right now.

      Reply
  • Kat
    July 31, 2020 at 6:43 am

    This is a fascinating article for me – I love, love, LOVE snakes!
    However, as a vegetarian, the only option I would consider is an egg-eating (ovo-vegetarian) snake. Also, I probably wouldn’t buy a young one, but only opt for a ‘rescue’ snake – I’m sure there are people who get sick of their snakes or can no longer take care of it, just like it happens with cats and dogs.
    A few years ago, I volunteered in animal care at an ecology center that had a pet snake. The employees specifically told me to take the snake out and play with it for 10-20 minutes, as it is used for demonstrations with kids and needed to get accustomed to human contact. It was so much fun, I loved interacting with it.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 31, 2020 at 8:39 pm

      This is such a well-thought-out response! I am sure that there are plenty of snakes that are desperately in need of someone to take them in and care for them. Given that many people underestimate what’s required, there are likely many who find themselves overwhelmed.

      Reply
  • Subhashish Roy
    July 31, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Snakes as pets? I am too scared and also find them too slimy for comfort.One must be really passionate about snakes as pets to start owning them.Not me though.

    Reply
    • Britt
      July 31, 2020 at 8:37 pm

      Surprisingly, they actually aren’t slimy. That’s a pretty common misconception though.
      I am a firm believer that you should be passionate about whatever pet they bring home.

      Reply
  • Sarah
    August 1, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    I had a friend who had a pet snake. In fact, they had just about everything as a pet at one point or another. I always thought snakes were pretty neat pets, and while I think it would be neat to have one, in the end I feel like they aren’t the best fit for me. I want a more active pet. Even so, this is really good advice for those considering getting a pet snake. It’s good to know everything before you dive in with a new pet.

    Reply
    • Britt
      August 2, 2020 at 10:32 am

      That is such an important thing to recognize. We’re in the same boat – we aren’t home enough to properly care for something like a snake. We like camping/hiking/canoeing anytime the weather allows, which is why we prefer dogs and cats in our house. They can be trained to come along on adventures!

      Reply

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