Snakes are becoming increasingly popular as pets and many species are now available. The species most commonly kept as pets include corn snakes, ball pythons, boas, king and milk snakes. All snakes have particular requirments with respect to housing, feeding and husbandry.
Lifespan: Corn snakes can live up to 15-25 years and Ball pythons 35-45 years so the relatively long lifespan of snakes should be an important consideration when choosing a snake as a pet.
Snakes may be housed in a suitably sized glass or plexi-glass aquarium or tank. This type of accommodation allows for clear viewing of your pet and also helps with maintaining relative humidity. Ideally the tank or cage will have a door that can be latched shut as snakes can make great escape artists. Branches from hardwood trees, driftwood, hanging ropes and grapevines can be added to the habitat to add environmental enrichment. A ‘hide out’ should also be provided to help your pet feel secure. Suitable substrate or bedding for snakes include plain/unprinted newpaper/paper, paper towels or indoor/outdoor carpeting. Snakes require environments that have high temperatures with high humidity. Temperatures of between 25-30C should be maintained in your pets habitat and heat lamps or heaters with thermostats may be used for this purpose. A thermometer should be placed into the cage/ tank and this should be monitored regularly to ensure that a suitable temperature is maintained. An artificial UV light source is beneficial for your pet as access to direct, unfiltered sunlight is not always possible or ideal. Ideally lights should be used to mimic natural light patterns ie. lights are on for 10-12 hours during the day and are turned off at night 12-14 hours.
Most pet snakes consume a basic diet of rats and mice although snakes will have specific feeding requirements depending on their breed/species. Water should be provided in a heavy dish (ceramic would be suitable) to prevent spillages or the dish being overturned.
Snakes can shed 4 to 8 times per year. The frequency with which snakes shed their skin depends on a number of factors including habitat temperature, the amount of food fed and frequency of feeding, age (young snakes shed more frequently) and the snake’s activity level. Shedding can take 1-2 weeks and healthy snakes usually have no trouble shedding however poor husbandry and diet can lead to problems so you should observe your pet closely during this time.