Four Things You Absolutely Must Know Before Adopting a Reptile

I adore cats, and I follow multiple dog rescues on Facebook. But allergies have kept me from having a fur baby of my own. Fortunately, I am still the loving mother of a bearded dragon.

Since adopting my “scaley princess,” I have learned how reptiles like bearded dragons, snakes, and leopard geckos can make wonderful pets. Unfortunately, some people treat reptiles as little more than trophies or disposable pets, or maybe a dog with scales. If you are thinking of adopting a reptile, there are four things that you must consider first!


1. Do Your Research

Not only do reptiles and mammals have different nutritional and environmental needs, but not all reptiles have the same needs. For example, bearded dragons and iguanas need UV lighting. Different snakes require different humidity levels. Leopard geckos eat only insects.

Whatever reptile you choose, make sure you understand its needs and are prepared to meet them in your home and budget–on their terms, not your own!

pet iguana

2. A Reptile Is Not A Dog

“Well, duh, isn’t that obvious?” you ask. It should be, but some people do treat their lizards like nothing more than dogs with scales! Many mammals have been shown to demonstrate affection and other social behaviors. Rats can even show compassion.

Less is known about the emotions of reptiles, but they are generally regarded as less social animals. Two lizards on top of each other are not cuddling like puppies–they are more likely competing for dominance and basking space. Mistaking behaviors like this can cause stress on the animals and reduce their quality of life. Don’t treat your pet like the animal it isn’t!

3. Reptiles Need Enrichment

“Enrichment” is a term that many vets and zoos use to describe activities that encourage natural behaviors. Cold-blooded reptiles do spend a lot of time sitting around and soaking up warmth, but they still benefit from mental stimulation! Try giving them lots of things to climb on, and rearrange their “furniture” periodically. Switch up the type of substrate you use–but make sure it’s still suitable to the species. Give them time out of their cage every day, take them outside if it’s warm, or feed them at a different time of day.

pet bearded dragon

4. Prepare To Learn A Lot!

With the appropriate care and attitude, a reptile can be a rewarding and even educational companion! My bearded dragon, Aravis, will sometimes hide in her cage for days, seemingly for no reason. To my disappointment, Google and other online sources were no help in figuring out why. Finally, I noticed that she tends to hide when the weather changes–she feels the barometric pressure drop and hides to escape the rain that follows. To quote Jurassic Park, “Clever girl.”

Keeping a reptile may not be the same as keeping a mammal, but this doesn’t mean that they are not fun, fascinating pets. With the proper knowledge and care, even the most cold-blooded critter will warm your heart!

Author Bio: Emily Jacobs is a freelance writer and content marketer living in Northwest Ohio with her bearded dragon, Aravis. When she’s not working for clients or writing for her website, she enjoys cooking, road trips, jogging, and reading morbid history.

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