Owning a reptile is not a simple undertaking. Unlike a dog or cat, reptiles have extensive needs when it comes to food, shelter and veterinary care. The average live span of a reptile is 15 to 50 years in the wild and as little as three years in captivity. Owning a reptile can be very expensive, as many require special lighting to keep them warm, specific and sometimes live food, special enclosures and frequent visits to the vet. Reptile expert Caroline Seitz has important advice for anyone thinking about getting a reptile.
Caroline Seitz
Director & Wildlife Educator
Reptiles Alive
(703) 560-0257

Caroline Seitz is the director of Reptiles Alive, a traveling live reptile show in the Washington DC area. Fascinated with reptiles since the age of 3, Caroline has spent most of her life working in zoos and nature centers with the curious critters. She created Reptiles Alive in an effort to educate children and adults about reptiles and wildlife conservation. Reptiles Alive brings live animals to schools, summer camps, corporate event and birthday parties, giving kids a chance to see these amazing animals up close.  

Research The Costs Of Care

Owning a reptile can be very expensive. In addition to all the equipment you need like lights, aquariums and food, reptiles need to visit the veterinarian more often than cats and dogs. Seitz says that reptiles in captivity tend to get sick often and most of the time the owner won’t realize it until its too late. Before you make the commitment to own a reptile, make sure you are comfortable with the prospect of having to spend the money they need to stay healthy.

Volunteer At A Zoo Or Nature Center

These animals are very complicated so the best way to learn how to care for them is from the experts. Volunteering at a zoo or nearby sanctuary will show you what it really takes to care for a reptile on a daily basis. Some real life experience with these animals will help you determine whether or not owning a reptile is for you.

Foster A Reptile

Unfortunately a lot of reptiles are abandoned by overwhelmed owners and subsequently end up in animal shelters and rescue centers. Many shelters are not equipped to care for reptiles and have to send them out to foster homes. Fostering a reptile is a perfect way to find out if you’re up to the challenge.

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Pick An Animal That Suits Your Family

Many reptiles can carry salmonella, a bacteria that can very dangerous for pregnant women and small children. If you have that all going on in your home, you may want to wait until your children are older before getting a reptile. You also need to consider space and environment. Some animals start off requiring a small enclosure that needs to upgraded to a size that may or may not fit in your home. 

Start Out Small And Simple

Once you are ready to make the commitment, its time to choose an animal. Seitz has a list of reptiles that are the perfect “starter” pets for a first timer. They are the leopard Gecko, corn or king snake, American toad, bearded dragon and the blue-tongued skink. These animals are small and have food and shelter requirements that relatively easy to maintain. How do you get your hands on one of these animals? First of all, never ever take one out of the wild. Your first call should be to a reptile or animal rescue. If you don’t have success there, try and locate a reputable breeder.

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Christa Emmer is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in broadcast journalism. She has experience as a news writer, editor and producer in television news. Follow her on twitter @ChristaEmmer. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.