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Reptiles 101

Finding A Reptile for your Family #ReptileCare


We just saw the new blockbuster movie, Jurassic World, and it was wonderful! “Clicker-trained velociraptors?” “Yes, please!”

As we sat in the darkened theater, I could hear the kids whispering, “Mom, can I have a dinosaur?”

For parents who found themselves in this position, we hope you’ll eventually say, “Yes.” But only after thoroughly researching reptiles as pets. We’re here to help, and so we are working with the good folks at PetMD® and PetSmart® to help you select the best reptile for your particular situation.

Fortunately, there are no breeders creating raptors (thank goodness). But, there are many reptiles that may make a great addition to the family. The key is knowing what to expect, what type of care you’ll need to provide, and teaching your children to care for them responsibly. So let’s start with the basics.

[note style=”5″ icon=”yes” class=”template-style”]This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but PetsWeekly only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article[/note]

One thing to remember before selecting a reptile as a pet is that you’ll need to consider their unique requirements. All reptiles need access to UV and UVB lighting, a heat source (remember they are cold-blooded), an appropriate enclosure with plenty of places to hide, and the proper diet.


There are many different breeds of lizards that can make great pets for families. One of our favorites is the Bearded Dragon. These reptiles are named for their pouch-like skin folds under their necks, which is called a “guttural pouch”. When they feel threatened, they will inflate this pouch to make themselves appear larger to predators.

Bearded Dragons are quite friendly and like all animals, can become emotionally attached to their owners. They are great insect hunters and will eat just about any insect that moves. When you’re keeping them in captivity, you’ll want to feed a nice selection of crickets, mealworms, silkworms and even cockroaches. This does NOT mean you can run outside and catch bugs for your pet. You’ll need to make sure the food you purchase is from a reputable source so you don’t inadvertently expose your pet to pesticides.


Another of our favorites is the Leopard Gecko (we really love the name). Docile and friendly, these are also a great choice for kids.


Most kids love turtles and tortoises and choosing one will be largely dependent on the type of enclosure you want to maintain (Petsmart has a great guide for choosing enclosures -http://pets.petsmart.com/guides/turtles/choosing-a-habitat.shtml). Turtles need water and tortoises need land. Tortoises have dome shaped shells while turtles have flatter shells (that enable them to glide through water more easily). Both need specialized lighting that mimic the effects of the sun (without the harmful rays) or they can wind up with mites. In fact, lighting is so important that your pet can die if not exposed to enough of it.

Ultraviolet Light (UV) plays a key role in the production of Vitamin D3, which is necessary for your turtle or tortoise to grow their shells and minimize things like mites, metabolic bone disease and often a premature death. They should have UV exposure every single day – how long they need to have access to this light will depend on their species, their diet and many other things. Please do your homework before getting any type of pet!

If you live in the deserts of the Southwest (like we do), there is also a special program where you can legally adopt a desert tortoise. These protected tortoises require specialized yards, but this program makes a great project for the family.


Snakes are one of those “love them or hate them” types of reptiles. They are not my favorite creatures, but I love that others adore them, so we will always do our best to give them equal coverage. That said, there are some snakes that make better pets than others. Just remember that ALL snakes are strictly carnivorous, so if you go this route, you will need to feed them what they require (which usually means live prey). There are no “half measures” available (other than pinkies – which are frozen feeder mice).

There are over 3,000 species of snakes and many of them make great pets. For beginners, the best choice is usually a corn snake. They are easy keepers, they are pretty affectionate (as far as snakes go) and they don’t grow to huge sizes.

Whichever reptile you choose for your pet, be sure that you do your homework. Reptiles make great pets, as long as you are willing to meet their individual needs for care. The petMD Reptile Center is a great place to start and they have given us access to an amazing infographic that will really help you streamline your selection for adding a reptile to the family.

Learn more about Reptiles:

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