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Veterinary Group

Ask the Vet

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Do snakes and iguanas make good pets?

Question: I have just acquired a Persian kitten and am considering Pet Insurance. Can you give any recommendations and advice? Would it be better to just put money aside each month?

Answer: Reptiles like snakes and iguanas make extremely interesting and unusual pets, but can be very difficult and expensive to look after correctly. The 3 main areas to consider are space, diet and environment.

A baby iguana may look small but can grow to nearly 1.5 metres long, whilst a Burmese python can reach over 5 metres. As reptiles grow they need more and more space. They need exactly the right kind of food, which might include insects or rodents and may have to be obtained from a specialist. Last, but not least, they need a specially built home that recreates the animal’s natural environment as closely as possible. This includes controlling the levels and quality of light, temperature and humidity in accordance with the animals needs. Some snakes, such as many pythons and the anaconda, need to spend time in water to bathe or swim. They may need branches for climbing and many reptiles require ultraviolet light to help make Vitamin D and absorb calcium. In captivity this needs to be provided artificially. These requirements can be very expensive to provide. In addition, some iguanas can live for 20 years and some snakes for 50 years. Most reptiles originally come from tropical and sub-tropical climates. They are entirely dependent on their owners to provide suitable conditions for them and may suffer a variety of illnesses, injuries and infections if their complex needs are not met.