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Introduction to Pet Reptiles - Choosing a Reptile

Before you Buy a Reptile

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corn snake photo

Corn Snakes

Lianne McLeod
There are many things to consider before committing to a reptile as a pet. Most importantly, some of the most common reptiles you will see in a pet store (or worse, as prizes at the fair!) are the somes that are the most difficult to care for properly. Before getting into specific care issues, though, I'd like to discuss more general issues that should be considered before deciding on a pet reptile. If you would like to recieve the following information over the course of a week a series of daily emails, you can sign up for the Reptiles 101 Free Email Course here.

Finding out if a Pet is Legal Where You Live
Many areas have enacted laws pertaining to keeping reptiles. Some are general and some are quite specific; in many places any reptiles that are considered dangerous (venomous snakes, alligators, etc.) are illegal but some places are even more restrictive (for example, where I live all consticting snakes including ball pythons are illegal). The first step in deciding on whether a reptile is the right pet for you is finding out whether you can even have one where you live.

Salmonella Risks and Prevention
All reptile owners need to be informed about Salmonella infections. The risks shouldn't keep most people from keeping reptiles since with the proper management and hygiene the risks are minimal. Still, owners should be aware of the risks, and the US Centers for Disease Control recommends that certain risk groups should be careful about contact with reptiles and amphibians.

The Importance of Light and Heat
Many problems with keeping reptiles can be traced back to not providing the proper environmental conditions, particuarly heat. Proper lighting is also important for many reptiles. The equipment to provide the proper heat and light to captive reptiles is often quite expensive, but is absolutely essential to keeping pet reptiles healthy. It is important to find out exactly what conditions your reptile needs and never cut corners when it comes to meeting those conditions!

Why Choose Captive Bred Reptiles
There are numerous reasons why you should pick a captive bred reptile if at all possible, as explained here.

How to Pick a Healthy Reptile
It is important to keep in mind that depending on where you get a reptile, it may be very stressed, dehydrated, and prone to illness. Here are some items to look for when buying your reptile to increase the chances of picking out a healthy pet reptile.

Mixing Species in a Terrarium
Though it can be tempting to try and set up your own mini ecosystem, there are several reasons why I don't generally recommend mixing species in a terrarium.

Next: Species Rundown -- Lizards, Snakes, and Reptiles

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