Are reptile pets for Christmas a good or bad idea? For most people, a pet reptile is probably not the greatest idea for a variety of reasons.
Two reasons not to get a pet reptile are:
1. Reptiles require specialized care that changes with the species being kept. For instance, green iguanas require huge (4′X4′X6′) enclosures that can be heated to 80-100 degrees F with high humidity, good ventilation, and full spectrum lighting. Iguanas also need a specialized diet of calcium rich leafy greens and other vegetables fed to them every day. A red-eared slider turtle will need a 75-150 gallon aquarium with clean water, a dry basking area, and full spectrum lighting. Many people don’t think of the space and cost of housing a pet reptile until it is too late.
2. Reptiles will never become a companion like a dog or cat will. Dogs and cats are part of the family. They liked to be petted, played with, and cuddled. Even the friendliest reptile pet will not ever play with you, go for a walk with you, or want to cuddle with you. Some reptiles will even become ill with stress if they are interacted with too frequently. So many reptiles become unwanted simply because they are seen as objects that require time and money as opposed to loved members of the family.
More great information to consider before getting ANY pet at Christmas, or any other time, can be found atOrlando Sentinel – Pets as presents: Think long-term
So what to do if your child loves reptiles?
You have many options for budding herpetologists on your Christmas list. There are some very cool reptile toys out there that I would have LOVED to get at Christmas. Remote control cobras, anatomically correct rubber reptiles, plush and wooden reptiles and more can be found at many zoo gift stores, nature specialty stores, and science related stores. Books featuring cold blooded critters are also a huge hit with reptile loving children.
Other exciting gift ideas include:
- Zoo “adopt and animal” programs. These programs offer people the chance to sponsor a zoo animal. Most programs will send you pictures, updates, and natural history information about the animal you “adopted.” You can also take your child to the zoo (always fun!) to visit his or her animal.
- Nature journals are a great way to encourage children already excited about reptiles to learn more. Buy a special blank notebook/journal and help your child get started. You can learn a lot more about keeping a nature journal at Keeping a Nature Journal – Environmental Education – Sierra Club,
or check out our earlier post How To Keep a Nature Journal.
- Give you child “coupons” for reptile-related family field trips. Trips to the zoo, nature center, museum, aquarium or park where you can search for reptiles and amphibians in the wild can all be part of the coupon book. Remember to take pictures of animals you see, but not to touch or bother wild animals. You can then add these experiences and pictures into your nature journal.
- Subscriptions to reptile magazines and journals or a membership in a nature or reptile related club or society is a great gift for young herpetologists. Most states and some local jurisdictions have herpetological societies that anyone can join.
- A gift of a live reptile show performed for your child at a holiday party is a great way to give your child the opportunity to safely interact with live reptiles. Most areas have at least one professional traveling animal show company, and if you are in the DC area, you should, of course, hire Reptiles Alive!