Keeping a Snake as a pet
- Get some help. If the snake is over 6 feet (1.8 m) long, you will need another person there. Many deaths and injuries are caused by a person trying to handle a large snake; if the snake gets scared, it may constrict, and you will need someone else to help get it off. If you're smaller than average in stature, don't even handle a 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) snake on your own.
- If you have any kind of scent on you that the snake may mistake for food, you could get a craping response. Snakes are not very bright and if your hand smells like your pet hamster then it may think it is a juicy tasty hamster.
- Announce your presence. You don't want to surprise the snake when you reach in to pick it up, so use a combination of sound and touch to let the snake know you're there. Gently tap the cage and look for a tongue flick to indicate that the snake senses something. Then touch the snake's body gently (not the head).
- This also ensures that the snake is awake. It is a good idea, though, to handle a snake during a time of day when it is lethargic.
- Avoid handling a snake that's just eaten or is about to shed.
- Lift the snake. Slip one hand about 1/3 of the way down the snake's body and begin to lift it up slowly. Put your other hand under the last 1/4 of the snake to support its weight fully. If it's a constrictor snake, it's likely wrap its tail around your wrist and forearm; let it do this. Just make sure it doesn't coil around both hands, your neck, or your chest.
- Avoid sudden movements. As you're holding the snake, you can move around, just do so slowly to avoid startling it. Stay calm and relaxed. Snakes like warm places so they might like to crawl under and around your shirt. If your snake attempt to crawl onto a part of your body where you do not want it to go, or if it attempts to climb off of you, gently slide your hand under the snake and reposition its body.
- Keep petting short. Snakes are not social animals. Dogs and cats that engage in communal grooming see petting as normal and a bonding experience. A snake sees petting differently. Prolonged handling can be stressful to them. Keep your petting sessions to 10-30 minutes a day is best. If you hold the snake too much it will get stressed.
- Return your snake to its cage by slowly lowering it in. Let it move out of your hands to a branch or the cage floor on its own. Secure the lid when you are done, since snakes can be great escape artists.
- Reptiles can carry germs that are not safe for humans, like salmonella. Immediately wash your hands when you are done handling your snake.
- You may let your snake smell you with its tongue. You should not be scared of it. It's their way of "tasting" you and recognizing you.
- Snake handling is easy and fun, but for your first experience it's best to have someone show you. The reptile specialist at your local pet store or another enthusiast, or even someone from a local herpetological or reptile club. Use an internet search engine to find one near you.
- Every snake is different. You can hold some around your neck, and some you can't. Get completely comfortable with the snake before you attempt to hold it, and if it's the first time for you, it would be wise to do it with a smaller one.
- Always pet snakes in the "head to tail direction". Avoid petting in the opposite direction for this hurts their scales.
- Wait at least one day after feeding a snake to handle it; its food has not fully digested yet, and handling the snake could be harmful, sometimes causing the snake to regurgitate its food.
- Do not handle a snake from 48 hours after feeding. This can lead to indigestion and can be very harmful to your precious snake.
- Try to avoid any sudden movements, especially over the snakes head as this may frighten it and cause it to strike at you.
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