Ask An Expert: 5 Tips For Owning Your First Reptile

July 8, 2016 8:00 AM

(Photo credit: GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)

Owning a dog or a cat is often a very rewarding experience, but some people are interested in something a bit more exotic. Owning a reptile can be a fascinating experience with a unique pet, and there are many different types of reptiles to suit many types of potential owners. Of course, with a rarer pet comes more questions and concerns in caring for them. Reptiles have many special needs in care, and it can be difficult to find someone who knows exactly what your scaly, slimy pet needs to be happy and healthy. To help with your first reptile, check out some of these tips.
Riverside Reptiles
www.riversidereptiles.com

In Connecticut and the East, one of the foremost experts on reptiles is Brian Kleinman, owner of Riverside Reptiles. Growing up as a child in the rural Barkhamsted, Connecticut, Kleinman developed a fascination and love for all the slithering, crawling creatures he found near his home. When it came time for him to choose a career path, it wasn’t hard to decide he wanted to continue pursuing that passion. He has found such a deep love of the misunderstood reptiles that he started Riverside Reptiles in 2004 to travel throughout the state and country educating people about these interesting, unique creatures.

Temperature Is Key

More than perhaps any other pet, heat and temperature control is a crucial part of caring for your reptile. They cannot generate their own body heat, so without carefully monitoring and maintaining sources of heat for them, they won’t make it. Be sure the enclosure you set for your pet includes heat lights and/or lamps. But also be sure to provide a space for the pet to cool down so they don’t get too hot — the best bet is to create one heated end and one cooler end for a “thermo-gradient” enclosure.

Re-Create The Environment

If you do not properly re-create the natural habitat for your pet, they will become stressed and very unhappy. Unlike cats, dogs, hamsters and most other household pets, reptiles need to feel like they are in nature. To re-create this effect, be sure to offer a “natural” looking water source, and plenty of logs, sticks, leaves, etc. where your pet can hide or bask out under the heat.

Buy From A Reputable Place 

Reptiles are sensitive, and can become quite sick and unwell quickly. But they also have a notable ability to hide illness and a deteriorating condition from the outside. They can be quickly deteriorating in health while showing few or even no outside symptoms, and it would be sad and discouraging to have your new pet die within a few days of coming home. Be sure to buy your pet from a reputable seller, where you know it has been properly cared for and checked for veterinary concerns.

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Find A Vet

Cats and dogs are commonplace for vets, but reptiles aren’t. Reptiles are classified as “exotic pets,” which means most vets will charge extra money to see them. Before taking the plunge in buying a reptile, familiarize yourself with the cost for basic veterinary needs and find the best options in the area for you.

Wash Your Hands

Reptiles are cool and interesting pets, but they also harbor more diseases than others. If you have a reptile pet you will be handling, it is very important to always remember to wash your hands directly after. Many reptiles can transmit salmonella to their handlers, making this a much more obligatory activity for the careful pet owner. If you have small children, with weaker immune systems, you may want to reconsider owning a reptile.

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Written by Bianca Belli of Examiner.com for CBS Local. Bianca is a passionate writer and lover of her Connecticut home. When she is not working, she loves sitting in the shade with a glass of tea and a good read.

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