Worldwide, we have a complete fascination with owning pets of all shapes and sizes, with cats and dogs being the most popular. It takes a certain type of person to channel the love that most of us have for furry friends and pour it into a scaly reptile, but plenty of owners do! The truth is, snakes do make good pets, as long as you’re prepared for the specialised care, interesting diet and flicking tongue. So, let’s slither our way into the interesting world of snakes and see if they would make the right pet for you.

What are snakes?

The description of snakes does not work in their favour when advocating them as pets. Snakes are carnivorous reptiles known collectively as Serpentes. They are limbless, elongated and covered in scales. How… cute?! In all seriousness, they have their own personalities and, similar to dogs, each ‘breed’ has its own reputation. Corn snakes are known to be docile and gentle, whereas some Boa species can show signs of aggression.

If you’re planning on sharing your home with a snake, carry out plenty of research so that you not only have the space and correct environment ready for your new friend, but also have a species of snake that allows you to get what you want out of being a snake keeper. 

What is the best beginner snake?

You don’t need to be a fully-fledged zookeeper in order to house a snake. There are plenty of ‘beginner’ snakes out there that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and experience in reptile husbandry. 

Corn Snake

Everyone knows the corn snake species. They are docile, easy to care for, available in a variety of colours and are often easy to handle. Generally, corn snakes grow between 60cm – 200cm and take between 2 – 3 years to reach their full size, making them a ‘sensible’ sized pet snake. Make sure you’re invested for the long term, as corn snakes can live over 20 years in captivity. 

Green Snake 

As their name suggests, they are a striking green in colour and come in two different varieties; The Smooth green snake and the Rough green snake. What’s the difference I hear you ask? Well, not much to be honest. The Smooth green snake often tends to be smaller than its Rough green snake cousin, with Smooths reaching around 60cm in length and Roughs reaching around 90cm. They can be timid and shy but are easy to care for and are easily available in the reptile market.

Ball Python 

The Ball Python is one of the most popular pet snake choices and makes a great beginner snake! However, there are two factors to bear in mind: their life span can exceed 30 years and the female Ball Python can reach over 160cm in length, so ensure you are fully prepared for what you are taking on…

Do snakes need special care?

Snakes do require specialised care and it is important that adequate research is undertaken before sharing your home with a snake.

Enclosure type: 

The species of snake you decide to adopt will dictate the type of enclosure they will need. There are many different enclosures available, however, you will need to provide either an arboreal-style enclosure or a terrestrial-style enclosure. 

Snake species such as the Green Tree Python are arboreal, meaning that they spend a lot of their lives high in the trees. Therefore, their enclosure should be tall and slender, providing adequate climbing room. On the other hand, Sand Boas enjoy burrowing and should be offered a shorter and wider enclosure.


Snakes are ectothermic, meaning they cannot produce heat from their bodies. This means that heating lamps or heat mats are required in order for snakes to regulate their body temperatures. 


Some snake species will require higher humidity than others. For example, Ball Pythons usually require around 50% – 60% humidity in their enclosures, so their vivarium will need to be misted to raise humidity levels. 


Snakes enjoy taking a bath, with some species requiring it more than others. Ensure that there is adequate room, if required, for a large water bowl for your snake to submerge itself in. Some snakes, however, do not require this feature. 

What do snakes eat?

Let’s address the elephant in the room – a snake’s diet. The first thing that springs to everyone’s mind when talking about snake keeping is the frozen rats next to your peas in the freezer. There’s no getting away from it, snakes eat rodents, and they eat them whole. So, if you’re planning on owning a snake, this is a hurdle that you will need to overcome.

A snake’s diet can vary and depending on the species of snake it varies in what they will need to be offered. Some snakes eat mice, rats, birds and chicks, whereas others will happily live off insects, eggs, slugs and fish!

Keep in mind that snakes find their food using their tongues. The forked tongue detects signals given off from nearby prey, allowing them to smell and locate their lunch. If offering frozen food to your snake, it will need to be fully defrosted and a pair of long tweezers may need to be used to simulate the movement of the ‘prey’.

It is unethical to feed live prey in captivity to snakes. Ensure that food offered to your snake is ethically sourced and from a trusted supplier. Never feed wild-caught food to your snake.

Snake health problems

Like any animal, snakes come with their fair share of health problems. Before adopting a snake, make sure to find your local reptile vet in case your snake shows signs of ill health. Locate a veterinary practice that deals with exotics here.


Stomatitis, also known as mouth rot, can be common in snakes. It is caused by a bacteria that naturally occurs within the snake’s mouth and can affect the snake from the mouth, right the way through the whole digestive system. 

Common symptoms include oral discharge, swelling of the mouth and gums and behaviours such as rubbing their head on hard objects. If you are worried that your snake has stomatitis, contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.

Stuck shed 

Like most reptiles, snakes shed their skin. Snakes shed their skin for a number of reasons. Whilst they are growing, snakes can simply ‘outgrow’ their skin. In the wild, by shedding their skin, snakes can also remove harmful parasites that may have latched onto them. 

On some occasions, skin can become stuck, and snakes are unable to remove it from their bodies. Common areas of stuck shed include the eyes, mouth and the tip of their tails. Often, an increase in the humidity of the enclosure can solve the problem. Otherwise, speak with your veterinary surgeon. 


Not something you would imagine a snake to suffer with, is it? However, a snake’s increased digestion time and the fact that they swallow their food whole can contribute to a great deal of constipation. 

If you notice abdominal swelling or a decreased appetite, try bathing your snake in lukewarm water a couple of times a day to try and stimulate the passing of faeces. Always contact your veterinary surgeon if you are worried about constipation or bloating. 

Final thoughts on pet snakes

In all honesty, snakes can make fantastic pets and offer a different pet owner experience to that of a cat or a dog. Not only that, but a snake also makes for a great talking point when guests come to visit. It is important to remember that snakes are a long-term commitment and require specific care requirements. Contact a reputable breeder, visit a well-known and trustworthy pet store or even look to rehome a snake when choosing your new scaly friend. Most of all, enjoy your new reptilian companion, as they are totally fascinating to watch and care for.