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August 31, 2013

Pet snakes can slither their way into your heart

For some animal lovers, watching these exotic creatures slither across the Animal Planet screen isn't enough -- you want to bring the thrill of snake ownership into your own home. 

While snakes seem exciting and manageable through a television screen or from behind a glass wall, there are a few things that aspiring snake owners must know before bringing these exotic creatures into their homes.

The most common snakes kept by enthusiasts are cornsnakes, kingsnakes, and ball pythons. Many of these snakes, like the corn and king, are well suited for older children and first-time snake owners, due to their simple feeding methods and docile temperament. However, some species reach very large sizes in captivity, and their considerable space requirements must be anticipated.

"Other popular snakes like boa constrictors and carpet python are better for an owner comfortable with larger snakes, as they often get 7 or more feet long," explained Dr. Jordan Gentry, zoological medicine resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Green tree python, rainbow boas, and tree boas have slightly more specialized care and are less tolerant to handling, but can make great pets for an owner that has researched the species."

Large constricting snakes, venomous snakes, and snakes with difficult care requirements do not make suitable pets and should only be kept by experienced herpetologists.

Doing research on the individual snake species you are interested in will provide you with recommendations for their care, including environmental, sanitation, and dietary considerations.

"The habitat for the snake depends entirely on the species of snake, as some are from an arid environment that does not require as much humidity as a snake from a tropical environment," said Gentry.

As for feeding requirements, almost all pet snakes should be on a whole prey diet of pre-killed rodents, such as mice or rats. 

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