Snakes - do the make sense as a pet?

I was going to make this a poll, but only two choices seemed liken waste of time, so tell us your opinion now!

I don’t think snakes should be permitted to be imported into this country, period. So the Burmese python, the anaconda, and any other large snake that usually gets dumped outside to wreck havoc on the local ecosystem should never be permitted to be sold in pet shops or on the black market.

Now as far as domestic snakes go, something poisonous, like a rattlesnake should also go on the list.

So, if you just have to have a snake for a pet, get yourself a nice garter snake or something that won’t bother much of anyone if it gets loose.

I know farmers use rat snakes and such for rodent control, and that would be fine. I’ve never really thought the rat snake was considered a pet by the farmer any way.

To me, there is simply no purpose to have such an animal as a pet. I know it can demonstrate how tough and fearless you are and attract the ladies, but does watching a live mouse or rat squeezed and eaten get anyone excited? Ok, enough to see it at least once a day? Ok, as a pet, where you have to keep a few rats around too to feed them to your new best buddy?

I simply don’t get it. On many levels, it seems cruel to the snake itself, locked up in an aquarium that is too small from him and not properly cleaned. It’s not cuddly, and you can’t really pet one. So, what’s the allure?

I know there are probably snake owners out here and I am genuinely interested on what about a snake compels you to own there something about that cuddly, no-legged reptile that I’m missing? Vote yes and tell us about it!

Or, if you agree with me that snakes should not be pets, and should never be imported, vote no and tell us why!

I like snakes, and used to keep them as a child. I’ve never felt tough nor have I attracted any ladies, or gentlemen either, that I noticed. The virtue of snakes over some other reptiles is that they are more pleasant to handle, being cool and smooth and sensuous and lacking scratchy toenails. Their eating habits are much like those of any other obligate carnivore, although they don’t eat much or frequently. They are in the main quite happy to be inactive and don’t require any social or intellectual stimulation. I am quite a passionate advocate of not keeping animals if you can’t provide what they need for mental and physical health. Snakes are quite easy to provide these things for. If you want to rail about something cruel, turn your attention to parrot keepers.

I was given a Ball Python by a friend of mine who was going into the navy. Another friend really liked him and bought one of his own, which I also inherited. They are amazing pets but are only for responsible pet owners. All poisonous snakes are illegal or require a permit to own in America and rightfully so. I believe that all nonnative reptiles need to be highly restricted by breed not quantity. Ball Pythons are very similar to Boas and or even Anacondas but they only grow to be under 6ft, instead 15ft and 20ft, and would be hard pressed to eat anything larger than a mouse.

Like all other pets.

This is true for all pet owners. Mike Vick’s dogs, for example weren’t the luckiest pets on the block.

But just how are pets “amazing”? Do they recognize you and wag their “tail” when you come into the room? play fetch? Playfully bite you when you play with them?

Any of those that get dumped outside in my area just aren’t going to survive the winter. Not that that excuses such a thing, it’s still wrong, but the “pet snake gone feral eating the native wildlife” is more a problem for warmer climates.

If anything, owning a live snake is going to have the opposite effect from “attraction” when it comes to the ladies.

You clearly have little to no actual experience with snakes. You don’t feed them daily. Compared to mammals they rarely eat.

Um… on what do you base this notion that every single snake keeper fails to “properly” clean the snake’s cage?

Also - given some notable gaps in your knowledge otherwise - I’m reasonably sure you have no clue how much room a snake requires. In the wild, most of the time snakes lie there motionless. They don’t require toys or social stimulation.

Actually, you can pet/stroke a snake. Some of them like hanging out on humans because we’re warm and they’re cold blooded. They’re not cuddly but their skins are silky and smooth

Disclaimer: I do not nor have I ever owned a snake. I do think they’re interesting creatures. My greatest complaint, as usual with captive animals, are irresponsible humans who don’t know how to take care of the animals in their care.


You are correct in that I have no experience with snakes, other than seeing them in the zoo or on TV. In fact it was a TV Show that inspires this thread.

The show was about exotic snakes being released in Florida, and how they are changing the ecosystem. My OP was sparked by this, but i was curious to hear from people that actually would support the “snake as a pet” idea as well as those that, like me, see no upside to a pet snake.

To answer your comments, and to set aside any more confusion on this, I want to point out that:

  1. I do indeed know snakes are not fed every day. And depending on the breed of snake, the time between feedings varies. I don’t actually say that in the OP, but I can see how my writings could confuse the reader. It is a poorly constructed paragraph. What I meant to ask: is the snakes method of eating enough for the owner to want to see it everyday? To me, there isn’t much else a snake does that would be exciting to watch. But a pet is something you want to see and interact with on an almost daily basis. So, does watching a snake catching, killing and eating its dinner say once a month or so enough for the owner to want to see it every day?

I guess my point was, other than feeding time, there really isn’t much to do with a snake as far as I can tell. Feeding time must be pretty spectacular to keep someone interested in a snake during its non- eating periods.

  1. the snakes attract babes comment. I was being somewhat over-the-top. I know the image most snake owners have is that of a risk taker. And a man. And a risk-taking man can be attractive to a woman. However, I am also aware that many snake owners are women. And getting a snake for the simple payback of attracting a sexual partner is probably not the first thing on someone’s mind when they become a snake owner. My apologies if I offended any snake owners.

  2. the cleanliness of the area the snake is kept in. This is purely speculation on my part, but I would guess that the average snake owner probably does not clean the cage, aquarium, etc. as much or as well as they should. Just like fish owners, hampster owners, etc. The hardcore pet owner, whatever they own, will make sure their pet is looked after properly, however keeping an aquarium cleaned properly is probably something that gets overlooked. I base this on a small sample size of personal experiences, with a couple friends who had snakes as pets. Both admitted that didn’t check on their snakes every day. I didn’t mean to impugn every snake owner. Nor did my OP do so. But I thought it important to clarify in case others read the OP as you did.

4). I don’t have any idea how much room a snake requires. But I venture to guess you don’t either. What I do know is a snake is a wild animal, that does NOT sit in one place and wait for prey to come by and never leave that spot. They need to move to exercise their muscles. To hunt. Find a mate. I think having a snake in a small glass box is cruel.

My teacher in elementary school had a ball python. She later gave it away to her relatives- who by happy coincidence were friends in my neighborhood. So I have sorta-first hand experience with snakes.

I just find them to be beautiful. I know I have a rather uncommon perspective on animals and my sentiments aren’t necessarily shared by most people. They’re beautiful, and graceful, and so soft. And they don’t try to run away when you pick them up, which is a huge plus for me. They’re happy to just curl around your arms and stuff.

(I miss that snake).

For those idiots who get snakes (especially “exotic” ones) because they think it will impress people obviously it doesn’t matter what the snake does or doesn’t do. I had a housemate who did that–that alone was enough for me to conclude that he was an utter fool, though there was more than enough other collaborating evidence.

However, for a child, having local species in captivity can be a very educational experience. I had a California mountain king snake, and learned a lot from keeping it–about the species, about snakes in general, and about reptiles as cold-blooded animals. My king snake liked to be held by people, and might even have been called “affectionate.” As noted above, they like the warmth.

If a snake is getting its meals handed to him/her, it doesn’t need–or WANT–to move around much. Because they eat so rarely, snakes move as little as possible. They have to conserve their calories, so they don’t just slither around for fun. I don’t know of any research on captive snakes’ survival rate after being released, or on those snakes getting “out-of-shape” because they didn’t “exercise” while in captivity.

Snakes are not pets-they are possessions, pure and simple. I have never seen a snake behave
edited to finish sentence: with any sort of affection towards it’s owner.

I would assume that most snake owners are just interested in/have a fascination for snakes…

What"s the problem with owning a parrot?

Well, maybe the ladies don’t like YOUR snake, but…

I always thought that owning a dog or cat while living in an appartment was wrong too…

I actually do find snakes hunting, catching, and eating their prey interesting. I find predatory behavior in many species interesting. Interesting enough to keep a snake as a pet? Well, not me, but obviously for some.

Snakes do move around even when not eating, though mostly when they’re getting hungry and starting to look for food. Tamed snakes can often be handled which is another way of interacting with them. I’ve handled snakes that make no effort to escape or flee from human hands even when loosely held so presumably snakes find some interest (warmth, likely) or are completely indifferent to the treatment.

Again, I think that’s a problem with the individual owner, not with pet keeping in general. Animals don’t need completely sanitary surroundings, and snakes don’t eliminate body waste as often as mammals, just as they don’t eat as often, so there’s not a need for daily cleaning. You really don’t need to look in on the animal every day, especially with the ability to automate lighting, heating, and so forth and, of course, provided you have a secure cage.

Two points here: first, as noted by someone else already, snakes really don’t move around much when not actively hunting. Second, based on snake owners I’ve known in the past, it’s not unusual for the snake to be taken out and handled on a regular basis, or even to allow it to move around in a larger room (I knew one owner who used to let his snake stay outside the cage for days at a time. It liked to hang out on top of his bookcases).

This is rather like people who claim I’m cruel for keeping my parrots in a little tiny cage all the time when, in fact, when I’m home they’re almost always out of the little tiny cage. I do need to confine them away from the kitchen when cooking, but I usually do that by putting them in the bedroom and closing the door, not putting them back in a “tiny” cage. Such people are also often confused when my birds voluntarily return to their cages for a nap. The problem is, the people are anthropomorphizing. While we have things in common with various animals, their needs and wants aren’t always ours. Yes, snakes like to have some freedom of movement but they’ll also spend days at a time not moving, or moving very little because, surprise, they aren’t us. Part of becoming a responsible animal owner is learning what the animals’ actual needs are and not what the uneducated believe them to be. There is also the problem of the uneducated making assumptions rather than finding out what responsible owners actually do or don’t do.

That said, I do think feral pets are a problem, and in some places, like Florida, they can be a serious problem. I am not opposed to laws that protect the environment by prohibiting ownership of potentially problem species in areas that are vulnerable.

I’ve worked with ball (aka Royal) pythons, and they’re really nice, handleable creatures in general. If I had the space and money, I’d quite like one, and in this country, feeding live mammals is illegal, and I’ve certainly never done it or seen it done, so it’s certainly not the thrill of watching it catch a mouse that appeals. I just think they’re fascinating creatures, and oddly relaxing to hold.

Regarding the cleaning out- most largish snakes only eat once a week or so, so only defecate once a week or so, and barely move- the tank won’t get messy in a day!

Snakes don’t need walking, they only crap once a week or so- and really, they don’t need checking on daily, their metabolism is so slow that short of something breaking into the tank and attacking them, it’s hard to think what could go wrong in a single day for a snake. This is one of their major advantages as a pet for some people.

They’re not bothered about having much space, regardless of what you ‘know’, snakes will lie in one spot, literally lie there and not move, for weeks, waiting for food to wander past, or while digesting their last meal. Not all snakes are purely sit-and-wait predators, it’s true, and they do move around, but none exercise for the sake of it- and all are quite content and healthy living in a small area, given a ready supply of appropriate food, somewhere to hide, water, and a basking spot.

They don’t want space to explore, or toys to play with, because their brains are very very different to ours, which is part of their fascination to some people.

Yes, they’re frequently bought by idiots who don’t think the animal’s long term needs through- that goes just as much for cats and dogs, which are also frequently released, causing environmental chaos, but that doesn’t make them awful pets for everyone… I’ll agree that it should be a lot more difficult to get some species, but I think it’s too easy to get hold of a lot of animals, and I don’t see why snakes should be a special case.

Objectively, what’s so amazing about a waggy tail, or playing fetch?


Former exotic Pet store owner checking in for this one.

There is a lot to address in this thread so I’m not going to itemize everything and rather speak generally to the OP and some of the other participants in the thread. If you’ve got specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Currently in Florida, there is a ban on the importation, and sale of the large constrictor species. Like venomous species you must now possess a permit to work with those animals. However, this ban is generated more from media-driven hysterics then actual hard science about the animals’ effect on the ecosystem. It is very true that Burmese pythons and a few other species are now established and breeding in the everglades; however those shows will always fail to mention that the animals have been present in numbers since the late 1970’s and we have yet to see any appreciable impact on the native ecosystem. Like all reptiles, pythons eat infrequently; and their young, while numerous, are subject to predation at an extremely high rate. Generally speaking, they are a very minor threat to any native species’ population. Of more concern though should be the small but growing population of monitor lizards and tegu being found only recently. Those animals can have a serious impact upon many levels of the ecosystem and unlike the snakes, eat frequently. Of course Miami and south Florida is also home to a large number of small localized populations of other exotics like monkeys, agamid lizards, other non native mammals and fish. These populations are normally self-limiting due to factors of climate, predation by native species, and human pressures. It is important to remember that from the standpoint of a conservationist, ANY change or introduction into the environment is a negative. That is not to say that these wild populations are not a problem to be considered, but that they are also hardly a lurking menace that will destroy the ecosystem. Florida is not a tiny island with an isolated population of animals unable to defend themselves.

As to why people would like a snake for a pet; there are many reasons. Some people simply find them fascinating. They enjoy watching the animals go about their business and find interest in observing their behaviours. Some people want a pet that is silent, does not smell, and does not require daily feeding and maintenance. Snakes can male an interesting and particularly forgiving first pet for children because of their low needs. You can go on vacation and feed it well before you leave. Some people do not want a lot of emotional interaction from their pet, just like those who keep aquariums. Others enjoy building beautiful and detailed terrariums and reptiles are a good choice of animal to keep in such environments. Contrary to popular sentiment, most snakes are pretty secretive and do extremely well in captivity. If food comes to them, they are usually quite unmotivated to go exploring and grow and breed wonderfully in habitats that would drive us bonkers. There are people who are interested in breeding specific species, many of which are endangered of threatened in their native habitats. In fact, hobbyist breeders have been responsible for the preservation of a lot of species that zoos simply did not have the funding or drive to work with. Hobbyists also produce a lot of the beautiful genetic variants that collectors prefer. These animals are really living pieces of art, unlikely to survive in the wild due to their unusual coloration, they thrive in captivity.

Of course there are those that purchase an exotic pet for machismo, or to show off, but they make up a smaller percentage of the population then you might assume.

Unlike snakes, to be emotionally and physically healthy parrots have a need for a lot of exercise that few captive situations can provide (they are strong, open-air flyers, unlike small cage birds like finches which natively flit about from bush to bush and forage on the ground a lot, perfectly adapted to a small aviary), they need a lot and I mean a lot of social interaction, and typically live longer than any other pet except tortoises – some are equivalent to or exceeding human lifespans. They are highly intelligent (again, unlike snakes) and suffer as a dolphin or monkey would in the sensory-deficient socially-isolated environments most captive parrots find themselves in.

I don’t doubt that there are some committed parrot keepers which provide the kind of environment that parrots thrive in. But it is far, far, harder to do than to keep a snake happy, and hence, I pity most kept parrots far more than a solitary snake living in a box.

As to the cuddliness factor, that is only one kind of pleasure to be had from a pet. Snakes are a bit like keeping fish, only you can pick them up.

Emphasis added.

I am convinced it is impossible for one adult human being to truly give a parrot all the attention it needs and craves. I’m not entirely sure it’s possible for two human beings to do that. That’s why we have always had more than one bird at a time, so the birds have another bird to give them attention in addition to the attention the two household humans give them. I’ve had people tell me you shouldn’t have more than one bird because then the birds will ignore the humans in preference to bird company but so far I’ve seen no sign of that. The whole dang flock just hangs out with me instead of just one bird hanging out with me.

The little feather brains would rather socialize than eat - and birds are not small eaters, they have the fuel efficiency of a fighter jet, that is to say, they “refuel” constantly. The parrot idea of heaven is a party with all his/her friends and family at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

In some ways, the socializing is more important for parrot health (both mental and physical) than having a luxurious aviary or a spotless environment.

And yes, they do live a long time, even the little ones. Getting a larger one is like adopting a child, you’ll need to make provisions for where it will go once you’re no longer around.

In comparison, a snake which requires you only look in on it every other day (or whatever) and doesn’t require constant attention, and probably won’t care if it winds up in the collection of another human when you’re gone, is an easy pet to take care of properly.

I can’t get into any pet that won’t look back at me and mean it.