Above is a portrait illustration of my gopher snake Peaches, when she was very small. She is shown gently resting on my hand, highlighting many reptiles’ calm and docile nature. Illustration by Lula Hugo.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in rural Northern California and as an only child I had to find ways to occupy myself. I would spend hours sitting and waiting for a lizard to make its way across a rock to absorb some heat, only to miss it when I went to grab it. Here, I discovered my love for creepy-crawly cold blooded creatures. Watching them interact with their surroundings and observing their place in the ecosystem fascinated me. Years later, I found myself the owner of a snake named Peaches who is about a foot and a half long. My mom owned a leopard gecko named Amethyst that she had kept as a class pet. Eventually Amethyst made her way into our home around the same time as Peaches.

Every reptile owner I have ever met is very excited about the nature of their pets. I reached out to Mount Tabor Middle School science teacher Roger Groom to talk about his memorable reptilian pet Ezra. Readers who attended Mount Tabor Middle School may be familiar with Ezra and remember him fondly as I did. “He’s a ball python, 22 years old […] My favorite part of owning a reptile is having such an amazingly adapted creature that is so different from mammals. I just really enjoy watching him explore his world,” said Groom. And I couldn’t agree more– I love to watch my Peaches slither around her big glass tank and while being closely watched in my backyard. Each pet has their own temperament and some would even say personality,, and it’s wonderful to observe. 

So is a reptile right for you? When I asked Groom the best part about reptile ownership he said, “…the best part about owning a snake […] is that [they are] so, so easy to take care of, and so cheap! [They] only eat once every two-three weeks.” He adds that one medium sized rat costs $7.98. Groom then continues to say, “[they] only pee/poop every three weeks or so. That’s just amazing. Easy, peasy. Cuts down on bedding, too.” This was certainly a big selling point for me when I was first looking into getting a reptile. The initial setup of the habitat for your pet is the most expensive part as well as the biggest investment, and after that you just have to handle the cost of food, bedding, and any other upkeep expenses. These are usually pretty low and manageable, which makes taking care of a reptile an easy rhythm to fall into, which is helpful to both you and your pet. “It’s also about time commitment. Even though a snake is not a cute, cuddly thing that curls up in your lap, they still need owners to interact with them if they’re going to stay a pet. It’s very clear that when I’m not taking Ezra out as much as I should [be], he gets a little jittery when I get him,” says Groom. Other reptiles such as lizards are also not going to be very cuddly or affectionate outside of absorbing heat from you (in my experience at least). Handling them can still be fun and rewarding, but you do sometimes get the sense that you’re not very important in their mind as they try to escape or just stare blankly past you. If you think that the indifferent attitude might not make a good pair with your own, a reptile may not be the best fit for you, and that’s all right! 

Finally, I have to make a sort of public service announcement. Reptiles are such wonderful candidates for pets and if you want to, you should definitely consider adopting one but you must do your research beforehand. Find out what kind of reptile you want first, then find information specific to that species. Research the space, temperature, climate, and food needed to properly keep the animal you are interested in. The most important factor is making sure that you’re comfortable with all aspects of owning a pet. Mr. Groom commented, “I am able to distance myself from the fact that Ezra eats live rats. It was a definite shift in my ability to have a snake.” Peaches eats live fuzzy mice which was definitely an adjustment for me as well, but I have come to terms with it and accepted the fact because it is essential to her way of life. 

Having a scaly little (or big) friend is awesome, but we want to make sure that they have a happy and healthy life as well. Getting a pet of any kind is a commitment, and reptiles are no different. The life expectancy of a ball python in captivity is roughly 30 years. Keep factors like this in mind if you are interested in getting any pet, reptiles included. “It’s about awareness of the natural world, and as long as the reptiles are treated appropriately and given as close to a ‘proper’ environment in which they would normally exist, owners get a glimpse into that,” said Mr. Groom on reptile care.

Lastly if you are currently a reptile owner or end up one at some point, I am simply imploring you to send me pictures to me @ninjadavidbowie on instagram. I’ll even show you my scaly little friends. 

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