Snakes to have as pets
So, you've decided to get a pet snake and now you're wondering which kind of snake to get. If so, I promise you will find this article helpful. I've listed below four of the best snakes to keep as pets based on my 25 years of snake keeping experience.
My Criteria for Best Snakes as Pets
Ask ten different snake keepers what the best types of pet snakes are, and you'll get ten different lists. That's because everyone has their own opinions and experiences. Regardless, I am willing to be the four snakes listed below come up on most of those lists!
I've chosen what I feel are the best pet snakes based on four important criteria:
- Average adult size
- Temperament / behavior
- Feeding habits
- Health in captivity / hardiness
Here's why I chose these four criteria:
- Average Adult Size - For health reasons, a snake should be able to stretch out two-thirds of its body length inside its own cage. So if your pet snake reaches an adult length of six feet, the snake should ideally have a cage that's around four feet in length. Adult snake size is important when you're talking about types of pet snakes, because most people have limited space in their home that they can dedicate to snake keeping. The longest snake on my list usually will not exceed six and a half feet in length.
- Temperament / Behavior - Experienced snake keepers and breeders will sometimes work with "unruly" snakes. But such snakes don't make for good pets. So I've listed four types of snakes that generally have good temperaments (meaning they are reluctant bite and easy to tame).
- Feeding Habits - If you're going to keep snakes as pets (regardless of the species), you are going to be handling rodents. There's no way around it. But it sure makes life easier when your pet snake readily eats frozen / thawed rodents, because you can buy them in bulk that way. Three out of the four snakes on my list will readily accept frozen / thawed rodents on a consistent basis. The fourth snake on my list (the ball python) can be a bit more "hit or miss" with regard to the foods they accept - at least in my experience. But they are still an excellent type of pet snake so I've included them on my list.
- Health in Captivity / Hardiness - Some snakes are difficult to keep in captivity, and are best left to the professionals. So when considering a type of snake to keep as a pet, you'll want to choose a snake species that does well in captivity from a health and wellness standpoint. The four pet snakes no my list will all thrive in captivity if their basics needs are met (proper temperature, clean cage, fresh water and regular feeding).
Best Types of Snakes to Keep as Pets
So those are the four criteria I used when making my list of best snakes to keep as pets. And now, without further ado, here are the four types of snakes I recommend as pets - especially for the novice snake-keeper.
Pet Snake #1 - The Corn Snake
This snake shows up on a lot of people's lists of best pet snakes, and with good reason. Corn snakes meet all of the criteria I've outlined above: (A) they rarely grow to over six feet long, averaging just over five feet; (B) they have good temperaments and can easily be tamed when handled once a week or so; (C) they will generally accept frozen / thawed mice or rats on a consistent basis; and (D) they will generally live long, healthy lives if their basic needs are met.
On top of all this, corn snakes come in a wide variety of color "morphs" with names such as snow, pewter, blood red, candy cane and creamsicle ... just to name a few.
It's hard to go wrong by choosing the corn snake as your type of pet snake! I put the corn snake on the top of my list of pet snakes - especially for the first-time keeper.
Pet Snake #2 - The Kingsnake
There are actually a wide variety of kingsnake species and sub-species, and many of them make good pets for the reasons outlined above. The California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) is one of the most common types of pet snakes in general, and one of the most popular kingsnakes among keepers. Other kingsnakes commonly kept as pets include the grey-banded kingsnake, the Florida kingsnake, and the mountain kingsnake varieties.
The kingsnake species mentioned above (and several others) meet the four criteria I've outlined for good snakes to keep as pets. Depending on the species, adult kingsnakes will average between four and six feet in length. They can be tamed easily, they eat well, and they do well in captivity.
Also, because of the wide variety of species and sub-species, you can get a pet kingsnake with many different colors. Some are speckled, some are striped, some are banded - but all are interesting in their own way. The kingsnake is truly a great type of pet snake for any level of snake-keeper.
Pet Snake #3 - The Gopher Snake
I have an albino San Diego gopher snake (one of several gopher snake species), and I refer to him as my "ambassador" to the snake world. He is my ambassador because he has the best temperament of all my pet snakes. So he is the snake I get out whenever a curious - but somewhat intimidated - houseguest wants to learn about snakes. I tell them, "Wait right here. I've got just the snake for you to meet."
I've shared this story because it's indicative of gopher snake behavior. When you raise them by hand, they become extremely tame and are very predictable when outside of their enclosures.
Also, in the six+ years that I've had him, my gopher snake has only turned down a handful of meals ... out of hundreds of meals! Usually, it would be because he was going into shed. So that satisfies another of our pet snake criteria - feeding behavior.
Gopher snakes reach an average adult length of just over six feet (though some species can grow a foot or so longer than that). Gopher snakes are the longest snakes on my list, but they are still a manageable size, and they do well in the 4' x 2' cages that you can find everywhere.