You know the basics about reptiles. They’re often green. They aren’t furry. You’re not inclined to cozy up with one on the couch while you stream Netflix. But they do have their charms, or they wouldn’t be in something like 1.8 million households. So let’s dig a little deeper and talk reptiles.
Reptiles are a class of vertebrates. A vertebrate is an animal with a backbone or spinal column, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians. A reptile is cold-blooded and usually lays eggs (except for those like the boa constrictor, who gives birth to live young). They’re most easily recognized by their dry, scaly skin. Snakes, turtles, lizards, and crocodilians are all reptiles. Unlike fish or amphibians, reptiles don’t have gills—they use lungs to breathe.
Nature intended reptiles to be left in the wild. And the manner in which reptiles find their way to pet stores is undeniably cruel. Learn all you can about their needs before adopting, i.e., if you bring a snake home, give him a space where he can stretch out to his full length. Imagine yourself in a cage where you couldn’t ever stretch your arms and legs? If you want to adopt a pet reptile, you can have the pet you want plus give a home to one who needs it through Reptile Rescue groups. Sounds crazy, I know. But you’re not buying a houseplant (no offense to houseplants), you’re buying someone with a face.
If you decide to adopt a pet snake, find out what makes him happy. Provide him with enough space to stretch out fully, and add basking rocks and climbing branches into his environment. If you bring the rocks and branches from outdoors rather than purchasing them in a pet shop, be sure they are clean. A snake also needs at least one heating lamp. Just don’t place it where he can get close to it. This can cause burns. These are only a few items to know before adopting a snake. Do your research before making the decision to bring one into your home.
For a turtle, spending their life in a tank is sort of like how you would feel if you were forced to spend your life in the bathtub. If you adopt a turtle, provide a large enough tank for him to have space to roam and take him out sometimes for supervised playtime. Also, keep his tank clean—turtles poop a lot and can become sick or die if isn’t. Fun Fact: Turtles are playful and active creatures who can learn to recognize their owner!
If you want to adopt a tortoise, find a rescue group. Be aware that if you buy from a pet store, you should under no circumstance, buy one without its paperwork. The illegal trade in tortoises is a criminal offense and can lead up to five years in prison for both the buyer and seller.
Take your gecko out for supervised fun from time to time. Their unique toes make them awesome climbers who are fun to watch!
If you decide to keep a frog as a pet, choose one from a reptile rescue rather than catching one from the wild and hoping he acclimates to living in captivity. It will end better for both of you.
The United States is home to a diverse range of reptiles, but they face threats due to exploitation, habit destruction, and pollution. Rather than feel at a loss to do something about this, you can visit The Humane Society and The National Wildlife Federation to learn how you can help.
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