Homeward Bound: A New Reptile Pets’ Journey

Homeward Bound | Your Reptile Journey

Hatchling Bearded Dragon

Baby Beardie

Homeward Bound: A Reptile Pets Journey looks at what happens prior to your reptile pet coming home. With a little (OK a lot) of anthropomorphism I’m going to explain or rather attempt an explanation of a reptile’s journey from hatching to becoming your new pet.

Captive Bred vs. Wild Caught

For all practical purposes, any animal who is not conceived by a breeders action of putting males and females together in a controlled ‘captive’ environment; then the same female either laying eggs or giving birth,  should be considered a ‘wild caught animal. There are some so-called grey areas. Gravid (reptile speak for pregnant) females are caught and kept in a captive environment until she gives birth or lays her eggs which are then hatched in a captive environment. These are known as captive born or farmed animals. Not all sellers of reptiles follow this train of thought, however. For more on this, see our article Dollars & Sense of Captive Bred Reptiles. One last word on captive bred vs. wild caught, always buy a captive bred animal.

Bringing a Reptile Home

The following will have some tongue in cheek moments where humor is used to explain what it might be like to be a reptile who is purchased then brought to home. You hatch to find yourself surrounded by a foreign substance which is instinctually odd. Just when things couldn’t get worse, you’re abducted by some giant predator and flown through the air to be set down in another foreign place and left to your own devices. Some time passes and you familiarize yourself with this new world. You discover that one area is warmer than another and that there is water available.
One day there’s a trembling and the giant is back hovering over you. You put on your best display to discourage this thing from eating you and then it happens! Manna from heaven, there is food miraculously provided without traveling very far. This routine goes on for some time with no rhyme or reason. Some time later you’re picked up and placed into a new place with strangers or kin you recognize them as being similar. Then it goes dark and after various earthquakes and a cacophony of noises it all stops.

“No way of knowing what has been going on outside!”  you prepare for anything, this is life or death.

There’s a brilliant light, another giant predator (not the one from before) is coming at you. You’re again abducted and placed into another space with all of your traveling companions except for George, he went to sleep but didn’t wake up. You cannot recall feeling this bad before. Your stomach feels like it’s going to come up through your nostrils at any moment. You then decide to go to the hide area and rest. A new routine starts. Now the giant who is feeding you and your companions enters your home and moves things around then leaves. There are new giants as well! They pass by the invisible barrier you cannot understand, sometimes one of these creatures stops and watches you. Others bang on the invisible barrier which prevents your escape causing incredible noise.

Occasionally there are earthquakes, you’re abducted, turned about in unnatural positions as giants ogle you. After seeing you’re not worth eating, they put you back only to abduct one of your companions who you never see again. Then it happens to you. One of the giants comes and abducts you! You are lifted into the air (just like Geoffrey was), turned about into strange positions then stuffed into another place and suddenly the lights go out and there’s more earthquakes. After a bunch of earthquakes the sky opens up and light pours in your lifted into the air slowly. You begin thinking…

“This is the part with the anal probe isn’t it?”

Beyond the Probe…probationary period that is

OK snapping back to reality now, let’s explain this once and for all. There seems to be an increasing amount of new reptile owners having issues with their new reptile pet eating. There’s a ‘probationary’ or adjustment period when owning a reptile. All tongue in cheek aside, when acquiring a new reptile there are a couple of things we need to do. Both of these should must be done prior to buying the new pet.

  • Tank prepared with heat, water, and decor
  • Herp Vet in the area has been located and contacted should anything go awry

Outside of changing water and checking temperatures with a temp gun there should be no interaction with the new pet reptile other than observation. That’s it.

Leave your new pet reptile alone for at least two weeks prior to trying to handle it at all.

Offer lizards food but don’t expect them to eat. Then and only then should you begin to introduce yourself to your new pet reptile. This should be a two-week to month-long process of small interactions of 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Tips for Introducing Yourself

  • Place your hand in the enclosure (without touching the reptile) leaving it there for 10 min. Over the course of a week gradually place your hand closer each time.
  • Change any food or water dishes when the reptiles are asleep (stress reduction tip from Dave L. Johnson)
  • Once the reptile allows you touch them without trying to get away pick them up gently (not removing them from the enclosure) support their body weight completely. 10 min.
  • After the above begin taking them out of the enclosure and handling them on a sofa or somewhere soft (this prevents harmful falls to hardwood or tile floors). Gradually increase the handling time.

What tips would you offer? We always want to hear from other keepers so drop us a comment over at the fanpage and let us know what tips you would share with a new reptile owner. We also have great selections on reptile veterinary medicine books in our Reptile & Invertebrate Library available for purchase as well.