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  • Writer's pictureKarina Schulz

Considerations Before Reptile Ownership

While it can be tempting to purchase the adorable lizard or frog who is conveniently on sale at your local reptile store, you should always do your research and consider the needs of the animal prior to purchasing or adopting. This not only helps your pet live its best possible life, but can also help guide you towards a species that best fits your lifestyle and budget.


As we learn more about reptiles and their husbandry needs, they are exceeding our expectations for lifespan. For this reason, they are a long-term commitment. Before purchasing or adopting a reptile, it is worth considering how your current living situation could change within this time frame, or any other commitments that could possibly arise that may affect your potential pet (e.g., moving, attending college or university, do you travel regularly, having children, etc.). If you can think of reasonable and realistic solutions to any major life events or changes that come to mind, then you are one step closer to a new pet. We have had people admit that their plan when they go off to school/get bored/etc is to give it to a rescue, but that is not always possible since we receive hundreds of surrender requests every month; our waiting lists are several months long and we may not have space before you require it.


Cost is of course another major consideration when adopting any animal. Due to the care requirements of reptiles, they come with some unique costs that you may not encounter with other household pets: an enclosure, thermostat, thermometers, light bulbs (which need to be replaced regularly), supplement powders, food, and the appropriate accessories to care for insect feeders if needed. The initial set up is usually the most expensive part of the owning the reptile. After considering the animal’s basic needs, it is worth noting that emergencies can happen, and reptiles can often come with expensive vet bills since they are considered exotic pets. Like a cat or dog, regular check ups can help ensure that your reptile is in good health and catch any potential illnesses that may be developing. Given the lifespan of these animals, considering vet bills into the cost of owning one is very important.

Space Requirements

When looking at a particular species, you must consider their space requirements. Terrestrial species will need significantly wide/long enclosures, whereas arboreal species value height. If you live in a smaller house or apartment, it may be easier to provide an adequately sized enclosure for an arboreal reptile than most ground-dwelling species. The guidelines for a minimum enclosure size should not be ignored- reptiles will appreciate any extra space you give them, and an inappropriately sized enclosure can cause stress as well as limit the ability to create a sufficient environment (e.g., larger tanks can make it easier to create a heat gradient, larger enclosures allow for more space for enrichment, etc.). If the reptile you are thinking of adopting is a hatchling or juvenile, you can upgrade their enclosure as they grow to allow time to save up for their full-size adult enclosure if preferred.

Looking for an enclosure? For every 10 enclosures sold, one is donated to Ontario Reptile Rescue.

Time Requirements

After thinking about the amount of space the reptile’s enclosure would take up, you should consider how much time on average you would be able to spend caring for the reptile. Cleaning should be completed on a regular basis as this can help prevent the spread of parasites and other bacteria. Daily spot cleaning is required for some species, such as bearded dragons who can sometimes be messy. If you have a reptile who requires insects as part of their diet, caring for their feeders is something that also must be completed regularly to ensure that they remain healthy for your reptile. The time of day that the reptile is most active is important to consider if you intend to interact with the animal regularly. For example, a nocturnal species may be more difficult to spend time with as they should be fed at night and left to sleep during the day.


As previously mentioned, if you own a species that needs to eat insects, you will also need to care for the insects. If you feel squeamish about the food the reptile requires, it likely isn’t the best species to choose. Herbivorous species require a variety of fresh leafy greens, vegetables, and the occasional fruit which may be a better option for those who don’t want to feed insects or frozen/thawed rodents to their pet. Owning a reptile that can eat fruit and vegetables comes with the advantage of being able to prepare meals for the coming week, which may be more suitable for someone with a busier schedule. Overall, you should consider what your tolerance is when it comes to feeders, as well as budget since feeders will be more costly than fresh produce or powder mix diets. Generally, the larger the animal, the more food it consumes. Each of our tortoises eat nearly $50/month in produce every month. A ball python will consume 1-2 medium frozen/thawed rats per month ($5-10).


Lastly, what you expect of the reptile should also be considered. Expectations refer to how you anticipate the reptile to react during handling or interactions, general behaviours, and temperament. For example, if you want a snake that is tolerant of handling, a ball python or corn snake is more likely to be a better choice than an emerald tree python. If you are a beginner to reptile keeping, more docile species can be a safer choice than more defensive or territorial species. As a side note, while most reptile species have an anticipated temperament, each reptile can have its own unique personality and tolerance to handling. If it is possible to meet the reptile or learn more about its specific temperament prior to adoption or purchase, that is the best scenario to ensure that it’s a good fit for you. Selecting a reptile based on the behaviours you would like to see can help guide you in selecting a pet that you will be able to create a better bond with for years to come. This is one of the major benefits to adopting; we deal with these animals on a daily basis and we are intimately familiar with their individual personalities. We are able to tell you if it is the ideal fit for you and/or your family.



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