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Carnivorous Reptiles (Snakes & Monitors)

Recommended Reptiles: Corn snakes, kingsnakes, rosy boas, red tail boas, ball pythons, rat snakes and Savannah monitors make great pets. Always buy a captive-bred reptile. The reptile should be active and already feeding on pre-killed mice or rats. Ideally, the breeder will give a guarantee that gives you plenty of time to have the animal examined by your local reptile veterinarian. Always quarantine any new reptile for at least one month. This will help prevent spreading disease to your other pet reptiles.

Diet: Carnivorous reptiles need to eat whole-prey food items. This is most easily accomplished by feeding mice or rats. Only pre-killed rats or mice should be fed to prevent injury or death to your reptile. The prey item should be healthy and on a balanced diet (lab chow for rodents). Most reptile magazines have advertisements for frozen rodents. Some carnivorous reptiles have very specific prey requirements and may not accept mice or rats. Consult your local reptile veterinarian if you are having problems.

Water: Water is required for all living animals. A clean source of water should always be available. Check and clean frequently since most reptiles like to defecate and urinate in the water.

Temperature: All reptiles are ectothermic, which means they obtain their body temperature from their environment. All reptiles require a temperature gradient (a hot side and a cooler side). This allows the reptile to meet its optimal body temperature for normal food digestion and a healthy immune system. This is most easily accomplished with a heating pad and an overhead heat source like an infrared ceramic heat element. You should always have a movable thermometer to check the temperature in all areas of the cage. Reptiles like the heat so make sure they will not be able to burn themselves. Also, reptiles should have hide areas at both temperature ranges. The actual temperatures needed depend on the type of reptile and where it is naturally from. In general, North American snakes need the hot side to be in the mid 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the cool side to be in the mid 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Monitors and tropical snakes need the hot side to be in the high 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the cool side to be in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hibernation: We do not recommend hibernating most pet reptiles. Some reptiles do breed better if hibernated. All reptiles should be examined prior to hibernation to make sure they are healthy enough to survive the stress. Do not feed the reptile for 2-3 weeks before hibernation. The proper temperature varies according to the type of reptile.

Substrate: Use a substrate that is inexpensive and easy to clean. This is easy to accomplish with newspaper or bath towels. Clean the entire cage when the reptile defecates. Avoid using wood chips since they contain bacteria and fungus, and can be ingested.

Light: The light cycle (day and night) should resemble their natural light cycle. If it is unknown then use a 12-hour day to night cycle. Ideally a full-spectrum light will be used, but it may not be required.

Cage Size: The minimum cage size should be at least the length of the snake, and several times the length of a lizard. Ideally the cage will be as large as you have space. Remember that it is more difficult to maintain a proper temperature gradient in a larger cage.

Cage: The cage needs to be easy to clean, and have good ventilation. Glass aquariums or plastic reptile cages work the best. Wood cages are very difficult to clean.

Cage Furniture: The reptile should have multiple hiding areas, which can be accomplished with many materials. The furniture needs to be easy to remove and clean. Climbing snakes like vertical climbing areas (branches).

Humidity: Some reptiles do better in high humidity. This depends on the species and where they evolved. The cage needs to be cleaned frequently because bacteria and fungus thrive in a humid environment. Also, make sure there is plenty of ventilation.