How To Find (And Adopt) The Best Pet Snake For You
And give your new snake the best life ❤️🐍
If you think snakes are just the coolest animals, you might be interested in taking care of a pet snake yourself.
But before you decide to take that plunge into reptile pet parenthood, there are a few things you should keep in mind about pet snakes.
We spoke to Leah Feusse, a veterinary nurse with DodoVet, to find out what to feed them, how to care for them and which kinds make the best pets for beginners.
Can you have snakes as pets?
Snakes can make great pets, but there are some things you need to know about how to care for them, especially if you’ve never had a snake before.
Snakes only eat prey
Because snakes are carnivores, that means they only eat meat. But here’s the catch — snakes eat their prey whole, so you can’t just run out to the store and grab some canned snake food or a bag of kibble.
“Many snakes do well on only thawed frozen rodents,” Feusse told The Dodo.
Snakes are cold blooded
That means your snake can’t regulate his own body temperature. Instead, he’ll need an external heat source to keep himself warm.
You can purchase a light separately to add to your tank, but some reptile terrariums come with light and heat sources built in.
Snakes you can’t have as pets
There are several kinds of snakes you can’t have as pets.
You shouldn’t keep venomous snakes as pets for obvious reasons.
“Some can have fatal bites,” Feusse said. “Housing [and] trying to maintain and feed them puts you at constant risk. Not to mention the risk to the public if they were to escape.”
Snakes over 8 feet long
Massive snakes don’t make good pets for a couple reasons.
“They require larger enclosures than most people [can’t] set up in their homes,” Feusse said. “Extra-large snakes are also dangerous.”
It’s also not a good idea to try to raise a wild snake as a pet.
“They are usually aggressive because they feel constantly threatened,” Feusse said. “Most never adapt to captivity and carry diseases and parasites. Wild-caught snakes do not live long, and some will die because they refuse to eat under the stress of their captivity.”
Snakes who are illegal to have as pets
In some places, you can’t keep any kind of snake as a pet. The legality of having a pet snake is going to be different from state to state.
It’s illegal to have any snake as a pet in:
- New Jersey
- New York
- West Virginia
The states not on this list have varying laws about keeping snakes as pets — some require permits to have venomous snakes, some require permits to have nonvenomous snakes and some don’t have any restrictions at all.
So before you go to adopt a pet snake, make sure you’re familiar with the laws in your area.
“Counties and cities within each state may have different restrictions and are always changing,” Feusse said. “So you should always check with your local municipality.”
Best pet snakes
These are some of the best pet snakes for beginners. And according to Feusse, these snakes can be pretty tame and most won’t immediately bite when they’re threatened.
Corn snakes are nonvenomous and slender, ranging anywhere from 2 to 6 feet long. What makes them nice companions is that they can be “gentle and docile with some handling,” according to Feusse.
Kingsnakes can be pretty outgoing, according to Feusse. And when they’re scared, Feusse said they’ll “coil and shake their tails like rattlesnakes.”
The markings on their bodies can come in all sorts of patterns and colors, and they’re often recognized by the light-colored bands on their darker bodies.
According to Feusse, ball pythons make great pets because they “can be very docile with consistent handling.”
And when these nonvenomous snakes get scared, they won’t try to bite you. Instead, they’ll curl up into a ball, which is how they got their name.
A milk snake is a type of kingsnake that has a banded appearance, which means he has colorful bands along his body.
Milk snakes can grow up to almost 7 feet long but can also be as small as 14 inches long. And, according to Feusse, milk snakes will warm up to you with some handling.
Hognose snakes are pretty easy to spot because they have upturned noses, which help them dig. They can grow to be a little over 5 to 6 feet long. These snakes have a tendency to play dead when they feel threatened.
According to Feusse, the Western hognose snake isn’t venomous — but you should know that his saliva could be a little irritating if you come into contact with it.
What you need to take care of a pet snake
There are a few things you need to take care of a pet snake:
“If you purchase your snake’s enclosure for their adult size, you can usually maintain it for their entire life,” Feusse said. “But substrate, light bulbs and decor will need to be changed on a regular basis.”
How to find the best pet snake
If you’re looking to add a pet snake to your family, adopting or rescuing is the best way to do it. You can find snakes in your area who are available to adopt pretty easily on Petfinder. There are also plenty of reptile rescue organizations you could reach out to.
So, snakes can make great pets as long as you’re prepared for and committed to taking care of them properly. (And remember — adoption’s the best option!)
Want access to a vet 24/7? With DodoVet, you can connect via video chat, phone or text with an empathetic veterinary expert who can help you be the best pet parent you can be. Say goodbye to Dr. Google and have all your pet parent questions answered anytime, anywhere. Learn more here.