So you got a new pet Snake, Now What?
First off, congratulations on entering the wonderful world of reptiles. If this is your first snake, or your 50th, here a few tips to help you acclimate your new pet.
Stress is the enemy of reptiles. Moving is stressful, if it affects us, why do we not think it will affect your pets? Even more so with reptiles.
If this is your first snake, before you even pick it up; you must make sure the enclosure is properly set up, and is properly holding the specific temperature/humidity your particular species requires.
Too often, a snake is purchased then we frantically try to get a terrarium, set it up, all the while the snake is in a little box/bag from the store. Then we dump the snake into a cold, unfamiliar space. (Read More here Homeward Bound: A Reptiles Journey)
If you have a few snakes, you probably have the enclosure ready, did you think about quarantine? All animals carry germs (even us), and each location has a different set of germs. A snake from one person’s collection, entering a new collection, carries with it potential for disaster. The stress of moving, new germs, improper startup husbandry, can cause a snake to get ill. Most common is the URI (Upper Respiratory Infection), this left untreated, can kill the snake, and spread throughout your collection in just a few days. There are other diseases such as IBD (Inclusion Body Disease), spread by boas and is deadly to ball pythons; mites, etc., that can overwhelm an unprepared owner, and take over a collection in very little time. Most snake people recommend a minimum of 2 month quarantine when bringing a new snake into a collection. A different room/building even if possible! That way, if there is an issue, it doesn’t spread throughout your collection.
New Snake Owner Tips
For first time snake owners, here are a few tips when bringing home a new snake. As discussed, make sure the new habitat is appropriate, and functioning properly for your particular species, and yes, most species have unique requirements. Wait a minimum of a week to try to feed your new snake, (babies a week usually does the trick, but adults I usually wait 2 weeks), this will not harm the animal in the least. When stressed, snakes can and will regurgitate, and a ½ digested rat, is not something you want to clean up. Another factor, is making sure they are well hydrated, a lot of breeders, do not feed or give water to the snakes they are selling at shows, because they do not want them to go to the bathroom in the display cases. While this won’t hurt them, if they don’t have enough hydration, they can’t digest food, and again they can regurgitate, or even die if it stays undigested inside them too long.
Let the snake be!
This is the HARDEST thing for new snake owners, your snake has to get used to new smells, a new home, and everything is upside down in their world. Give the snake a few days to get used to things, then start out slow, a few minutes at a time, until they can feel comfortable knowing you are not a threat. Think about moving, and the very first day, your room is all messed up, you can’t find anything, but you have to go to school in the middle of the school year, no friends, don’t know where anything is, it can be upsetting. Better to move with enough time to get settled in, and maybe even make a friend in the neighborhood before school starts.
Remember, every snake is as different as the people you meet. Some need more time/space by themselves, some don’t mind being held from day one, but it takes a little time for them to get to know you, and you to get to know them. Take the time in the beginning, and you will appreciate it in the end.