Why reptiles aren't ideal Xmas gifts

Owning a pet comes with a variety of responsibilities and costs. As veterinary professionals, we always recommend that any new pet purchase or adoption is thoroughly researched and well-thought out. When it comes to reptiles and other exotic pets, they have some very specific needs depending on their species. So, should you buy a reptile as a Christmas present for someone?  

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Buying any pet as a Christmas present can be ill-advised. Every year, the RSPCA and other animal charities see a big surge in pets being relinquished after the excitement of Christmas is over, or when the reality of the care they need sets in. The situation is worse for reptile pets as they are generally harder to look after properly and there are fewer rehoming centres for these types of animals. 

Our veterinary team have come up with some questions below to help you decide whether a reptile is the right pet for your family at any time. 

Before welcoming a pet reptile into your home, you should first research their species and specific needs: 

  1. What type of housing do they need - vivarium, outdoor pen, or something else? Size is important for their species and predicted growth. 
  2. What are their heating and lighting needs and what equipment will you need to purchase? 
  3. What type of food do they eat and where can you buy it?  
  4. How do they behave in the wild and what are their enrichment needs? Giving them a home set-up, routine, and activities that enable them to mimic their natural instincts and behaviours is important for their happiness and wellbeing. 
  5. Are they solitary creatures or will you need to get more than one?  
  6. What are their typical health issues and is your home the right place for them? 

Failure to get the above right is one of the most common reasons for poor health and death in pet reptiles. You should also ask yourself: 

  1. Who will be their primary carer? Will it be you if your child gets bored, can’t manage it, or when they grow up and move out? 
  2. Is the pet affordable when you consider their housing, nutrition, and veterinary needs? 
  3. Could their arrival cause problems with existing pets? 
  4. Do you have anyone to care for your pet reptile when you go on holiday? 
  5. Who would take on your pet if they outlive you? Some pet tortoises can live to 100! 
  6. Is your Vet experienced with the species? Some exotic pets require specialist care. 

Typically, when a pet is brought as a Christmas present, the recipient is not involved in the ‘before’ research and discussions. If they were, you might find they don’t want the long-term commitment and responsibilities that come with owning a pet reptile. 

Our team at Clent Hills Vets advises that if you have doubts after going through the questions above, it’s worth considering if another type of pet or delaying the decision would make more sense. 

If you own a reptile and have any advice that may help wannabe pet owners, why not share them on our Facebook page? 

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