Prospective reptile owners require guidance, education

Before taking in a lizard or tortoise, individuals must be ready for a lengthy commitment

While dogs and cats might be the first to come to mind when considering companion animals, these furry friends are far from the only option.

In anticipation of National Reptile Awareness Day (Oct. 21), the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is spreading the word that, with informed selection and proper care, reptiles—including lizards, snakes, and turtles—can make wonderful pets.

“More than 4.5 million American households own reptile pets, and, as more people recognize the benefits of pet companionship to help cope with social isolation and stress during the pandemic, we expect that number to grow,” says PIJAC’s board chair, John Mack. “We continue to urge prospective reptile owners to do careful research and consult with experts before making the ownership commitment.”

Here are five considerations veterinarians should share with clients who are considering a reptile as a pet:

1) Legality
Like any exotic pet, individuals should check state and local laws to see if the specific reptile they are considering is permitted.

2) Lifespan
Before taking in a reptile companion, potential owners should understand the commitment they are making. In captivity, frogs can have a lifespan of 10 years, while some lizards and tortoises can live 30 and 50 years, respectively.

3) Habitat
Providing suitable temperature, humidity, and lighting to imitate a reptile’s natural environment is essential for creating and maintaining a healthy habitat.

4) Handling
Like most animals, reptiles may carry bacteria that can lead to illness in humans. It is essential to follow equipment-disinfecting guidelines and to wash hands thoroughly after handling a reptile, its food, waste, or habitat.

5) Diet
While some reptiles consume processed pellets or fruit/vegetables, others require a live diet (e.g. rodents for snakes, crickets for lizards and iguanas, etc.).

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