Thinking of getting a snake or lizard?
So many people just happen to go to a pet store only to see some animal that they have to have. While there is nothing wrong with wanting something you see. There are a few thing you really need to do before you bring that animal home. This goes from anything from a Garter Snake, to a Monitor, to a Bearded Dragon. There are always the same essential items that MUST be in place before that animal comes home with you.
1) First and foremost is to do all the research you can on the specified animal. When you go to the store(or breeder) to buy this animal, you should NOT be asking care questions. You should know way before you pick up your animal what the care needs are. If I had a store and you asked me to buy an animal then asked me how to take care of it, I would hold the animal for you and tell you to research it and then come back and YOU tell me how to care for it. Also can you provide to the animals needs? Is it arboreal or burrowing? Desert dweller or does it live in a tropical rain forest? The animal will not change it's lifestyle to suit your needs, you have to accomodate to the animals needs. Know the animals temperment, if you want a placid animal don't go getting an Amazon Tree Boa and think you will get the only tame one in the world, and when it is nasty say you can't handle it.
2)What are you going to keep the animal in? This should be determined before you bring the animal home. A cage should not be bought the same day as getting the animal. The cage should be up and running at the proper temperatures and humidity by the time your new pet comes home. This includes the substrate too. This also goes for a temporary enclosure for a neonate that will one day grow larger, like a Boa or some Pythons. You may want to start with a smaller cage that will last about a year of the snakes life. This first year is probably the most important time of your pets life. Just like human children, this is the developement stage of life.
3)What kind of lighting does your animal require? Snakes are not very particular about lighting, but most reptiles are. Most require UVB lighting, to help with digestion and metabolizing nutrients. Most animals need a proper photocycle (light and dark period) How will you provide this?
4)What are you going to feed it? Know your animals diet before you bring it home. Some animals are strict herbavores, some insectavores, some solely carnavores, and some are a little bit of all. For carnavores I would ALWAYS feeding prekilled or frozen thawed prey. With insects they usually need to be live.
5)How are you going to heat your cage? There are many different oppinions on the subject. Some use lamps, some human heat pads, others radiant heat panels. The only way NOT to heat is with a HEAT ROCK directly inside the cage where the animal will have direct contact with it. Regardless who says different, NEVER use one, your animal WILL get burned. Most ways of heating are fine. The main goal is to give your pet a hot side to warm up in (see caresheet for YOUR pets proper temps)and a cool side to cool off in. Know what these temps should be BEFORE the animal comes home. Don't play a guessing game with the animals life.
6)How are you going to monitor your animals cage conditions? At the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM you should have a digital thermometer either inside the cage at the animals living level, or an external thermometer with a temperature probe for the inside of the cage. This will eliminate Soooo many questions in the future. The first question any knowledgable herp keeper will ask you when you ask "Why isn't my animal eating?" Then you can tell them a definate temperature. They they have some way to advise you. If you guess and say "oh the temps are up to standards" that tells us nothing. Who's standards? An ideal monitoring set up is to have 1 thermometer for the hot side, 1 thermometer for the cool side, and a hygrometer to measure the humidity inside the cage. None of these are very expensive items, from $7-$15.
I have heard many times from people "I can't afford to get that right now" this goes into the planning. If you can't afford something for your animals well being, then you really can't afford the animal at this time. People will give you much more respect for waiting to buy an animal, than jumping in and buying, or aquiring more animals your not ready for, just to fit in. You have a pet(or pets) for yourself, not for others.
If you follow these few steps, you will have a lot more enjoyment out of your herps, and a lot less problems. Impulse buying of herps is the main cause of animal rescue.
No one Plans to Fail, but many Fail to Plan. Having a plan is the key to succesfully keeping a pet happy, and many other things in life.