Story by: CORDELIA ROMERO / Wayne Valley High School
Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians, neither of which are very popular with today’s society. But if you take the time to look and listen, you will see that reptiles can make wonderful pets for people of all ages, despite their flaws. They may not be cuddly, and they may not be playful, but when you choose one to care for, they immediately grow on you.
As the owner of several reptiles, I have experienced firsthand the hate that they can inspire. But contrary to popular belief, most of them are very calm, docile creatures when cared for properly. A common misconception people have when discussing reptiles is that they’re dangerous, which is true. They can be dangerous when they feel threatened or stressed. Just like humans, they need to be treated with respect, and when that respect is no longer there, they go into defense mode.
But if you know how to treat humans, you know how to treat reptiles. If you give them the things they need and are kind to them, they can be some of the nicest pets out there.
Another thing people think of when they hear the word “reptile” is “slimy”, or “gross”, neither of which is true. Reptiles are often covered in scales, or have a rough skin that is speckled with little bumps. More often than not, these coverings can sport beautiful colors, as evidenced in the rare Rainbow Leopard Gecko morph, or the Panther Chameleon.
But you shouldn’t get a reptile just to use it as a centerpiece of sorts. You still need to take care of it. Lucky for you, they are relatively easy to care for. They are low-maintenance and don’t require much interaction. They are calm, smart, independent animals that can take care of themselves if needed. When it comes to cleaning, they are very neat animals. No fur, no shedding. The only shedding they do is shedding their skin, but cleaning that is just a matter of picking it up and tossing it out, some species even eat their own skin!
But as easy as they are to care for, they’re not always cheap. The animal itself usually is, but the provisions are quite costly. First, you need a tank; 10 gallon, 20 gallon, 50 gallon, depending on what reptile you get. Then you need a heat source; either a UTH (Under Tank Heater) or an RH (Radiant Heat). As you may know, reptiles are ectothermic, also known as cold-blooded, which means they can’t regulate their body heat. For your pet to be healthy you need to spend money on a heat source. But don’t let prices deter you from owning a scaly friend.
Speaking of friends, you need to find the reptile that is right for you. If you are a more hands-on person, then you should stick with something that likes to be held, like a Bearded Dragon, Leopard Gecko or Fat-Tailed Gecko. Another good thing to take into mind is the fact that those animals are all arboreal, which means they are ground dwellers.
Arboreal species are easier to care for than others because they prefer to stay low, unlike some lizards that can climb vertical walls, like Day Geckos and Anoles. Due to their calm disposition, they are very popular starter pets and most people begin with them. If you don’t care to touch your reptile, you might want to consider a Chameleon or Iguana. They don’t like to be handled; it can get them stressed and make them sick.
Reptiles have personalities, attitudes, likes and dislikes, and I’m sure you do too. You have to watch your reptile to figure out how they feel and what they want. You have to be prepared before you take on the responsibility of taking care of anything, let alone a reptile, and if you do your research, you and your new friend can be together for a long time.