11 Reasons Snakes Make the Perfect Pet
Pet snakes aren't for everyone, but there are plenty of reasons they make excellent pets, even for first-time owners.
11 Reasons Pet Snakes Are the Perfect Pet
Slimy. Aggressive. Unpredictable. Whatever you've heard about pet snakes in the past, forget it. Snakes can be incredible pets, as long as you don't expect them to act like something they're not.
Owning a pet snake is much different than owning a cat, dog or hamster, but in many ways, that's a plus. There are tons of things to love about owning snakes, but these are the most compelling reasons to consider.
They’re Silent, Except When They Fart
Have you ever heard a snake bark? If you have, choosing a new pet is the least of your problems. Dogs are loving, affectionate members of the family, but they also tend to be noisy. They decide their paws need to be really, really clean at 3 a.m. They notify you about every mail carrier, cat and squirrel that walks by. Even cats wake people up with 6 a.m. "feed me" meows.
Snakes do no such thing. The most you'll hear is the quiet rustle of them moving about their enclosure at night. If they haven't been handled a lot, you might hear a hiss or two when you first pick them up. If you're really lucky, you might hear a hilariously loud snake fart from time to time. The sound rivals that of a truck driver who's consumed nothing but Diet Coke and an order of Taco Bell all day. It's impressive — and funny. The rest of the time, snakes are dead silent.
They’re Way Less Dangerous Than a Dog
Anyone who thinks snakes are less predictable than dogs is dead wrong. Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, about 7,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the wild each year, and only one in 50 million people will die from a snake bite.
Those are venomous snakes we're talking about. There aren't any stats about how many pet snake bites happen because the majority of them are so minor, they're never reported. Far more kids are killed by attacks from family dogs than from pet snakes. Admittedly, part of the reason snake bites are less frequent is that fewer people own pet snakes than pet dogs, but the majority of pet snakes aren't capable of causing serious harm.
Popularly kept snakes, like corn snakes, king snakes and ball pythons, have extremely small, sharp teeth. A bite from one of them leaves tiny pin pricks that heal practically overnight. A snake bite may bleed a lot because snake saliva contains anticoagulants, but it only looks scary. You're not going to need to go get stitches or reconstructive surgery from a ball python bite.
The idea that snakes are unpredictable isn't true, either. Most people just haven't learned how to interpret a snake's body language. There are only two reasons a snake will bite you: It thinks you are food, or it thinks you're trying to eat them. Most of these bites occur when you're initially taking the snake out of its enclosure. Order a cheap snake hook, and the risk of getting bitten drops to practically zero.
And They're Way Less Expensive Than Owning a Dog
There are a few reasons a pet snake might need a visit to the vet, but annual checkups and vaccinations aren't a part of the package. They also eat much less, don't need trips to the groomer and won't need expensive surgery after eating an entire tennis ball.
Their enclosures can be as simple or elaborate as you want, but setting up a basic snake enclosure can be done for less than $200. Replacing the snake's bedding is cheap, and there's not much else you'll have to buy on a regular basis.
They Don’t Destroy Furniture or Make Messes
Cleaning a pet snake's enclosure can be messy, but aside from that, they're a mess-free pet.
Snakes don't smell like guinea pigs, leave surprises on the carpet or tear up the trash when they're left home alone. Amazing.
You Only Have to Feed Them Every Few Weeks
The whole "eating mice" thing is intimidating and icky. We get it. Most people don't realize that feeding live mice to snakes isn't recommended. Most responsible keepers purchase frozen rodents that are killed humanely, then thawed and offered to the snake. It's still a little sad, but no sadder than feeding your dog food with lamb or chicken in it.
No snakes are vegetarian, so if you can't handle the rodent food thing, don't get a snake. That said, you only need to feed them around once a week when they're young and only every two to three weeks when they're mature. An appropriate feeding schedule depends on the species, but all snakes have slow metabolisms and need far fewer meals than a dog or cat.
Their Enclosures Are Super Easy to Maintain
If you want to go nuts with an elaborate, bioactive enclosure with live plants, go for it. A simple setup, however, is much less work. A pet snake's water dish should be rinsed and refilled frequently, and waste or shed skin should be removed when you notice it. The entire enclosure should get a deep cleaning every month or two, replacing the substrate and sanitizing all decor with a pet-safe cleaning solution.
You have to keep an eye on the temperature and humidity, so setting up the enclosure initially takes some time and research, but maintaining it is a breeze. Basically, if the routine maintenance of a snake enclosure seems like a lot, the only reasonable pet for you is a pet rock.
They Don't Care If You Don’t Have Time for Them
For anyone who wants an affectionate pet to share an emotional bond with, the ambivalence of pet reptiles is off-putting. Snakes don't love their owners. But they don't hate them, either. Many of them are content to be handled and enjoy exploring outside their cage, but their owners are more like talking trees to them than companions.
The upside of your pet not really caring about you is that when you don't have time to give them attention, it's no big deal. You can go for weeks without handling your snake. As long as its basic needs are met, you don't have any reason to feel guilty. If you're taking a road trip for a few days, just have a friend make sure they have enough water, and you're good to go. No expensive boarding service needed.
Pet Snakes Live a Really, Really Long Time
The longevity of pet snakes depends on the species, but 10 years is about the minimum. Ball pythons and boa constrictors both live around 30 years in captivity, with some living 40 years or more.
This can be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it. It's a lengthy commitment, but it also means you won't have to deal with a major heartbreak every decade.
Keeping a Pet Snake Is a Valuable Experience for Kids
Fear of reptiles is common, but it mainly comes from a lack of information and familiarity. The unknown is scary. Kids who grow up around pet reptiles, pet snakes included, develop an understanding and respect for them — and for animals, in general.
They also learn how to handle them safely, and their care is simple enough that kids can do most of it themselves, developing a sense of responsibility and confidence.
Holding Them Relieves Stress
Holding a snake can be really, really calming. They're not slimy; they're smooth! Ball pythons, in particular, are slow-moving and lazy, giving your arm a gentle massage as they climb.
Handling a more active species is more of an activity, but it's still relaxing and enjoyable. It's also much easier than holding a squirming bunny or a nervous hamster.
They Have a Certain, 'Wow, Cool!' Factor
Having a pet snake is polarizing. People either think it's really cool — or really creepy. Even those who are weirded out are ofte curious, though. If you want a pet that's low-maintenance, inexpensive to care for, unusual, cool to look at and fun to hold, a snake is an excellent choice. Just don't expect it to wag its tail when you walk in the door.
To learn more about unusual pets, check out these stories on Always Pets: