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Reptiles make interesting pets, but they are quite different from looking after mammals. Environmental control and cleanliness is very important. Many of the veterinary problems we see with reptiles could be avoided with better husbandry.

Such is the popularity of reptiles that pet shops are now reporting that among their biggest selling items are frozen rats and mice, which are used as food for snakes and some lizards.

However, this doesn’t mean reptiles are for everybody. The law makes sure of that. To keep a reptile or amphibian in New South Wales you need a license, which, in turn, requires that you be at least 10 years of age.

Snakes, lizards and turtles all have special heating and lighting requirements, and not providing adequately for them will seriously affect the health of the reptile.

Then there’s the feeding regimen. Most reptiles only have to be fed two or three times a week, if that often. In fact, snakes, lizards and turtles don’t each much at all through winter. However, it’s what you feed them that helps make reptiles far more interesting than dogs or cats. Snakes have a penchant for mice, guinea pigs and chickens. Large lizards will eat the same as well as chopped lean meat and commercial dog food. Small lizards enjoy grasshoppers, cockroaches and mealworms. Most turtles will only eat in the water.

Here are a few further considerations:

While pythons, the most commonly kept snakes, are not venomous, they can still bite if you don’t handle them properly.

Snakes and lizards can easily become obese.

Those little ‘penny’ turtles you buy in the pet shop live up to 40 years and grow to the size of a dinner plate.

All that notwithstanding, reptiles make fascinating pets, and there’s good reason for the sudden growth in their popularity. To find out more about the ones we see most often, just click the relevant links.