The Right Pet for You?
Reptiles like lizards may be interesting and unusual, but they need specialist care and some can be a challenge to keep well. They are also expensive to look after correctly. Before getting any pet, you should think very hard about whether you can provide everything it needs.
What do reptiles need? Your lizard deserves the best care possible so make sure you are also prepared to:
- A great deal of space. A baby iguana, for example, may initially look small, but can grow to nearly one and a half metres long. As reptiles grow, they need more and more space.
- To be fed with the right kind of food. You may have to obtain this from a specialist, and the reptile's diet could include insects or rodents.
- A specially built home that recreates the reptile's natural environment as closely as possible. This includes controlling the levels and quality of light, with a range of temperatures and humidity in accordance with the animal's needs. Some reptiles need to spend time in water to bathe or swim, branches for climbing and many require ultra-violet light, which can all be very expensive to provide.
- A secure enclosure is also important. A reptile that escapes from its warm environment into the wild can suffer and die. Some reptiles are dangerous, such as caiman alligators.
- Anyone deciding to keep a reptile needs to find out about the specialist care it needs in captivity and be prepared to take on the commitment of time and money throughout its long life.
- To have help from an experienced keeper on keeping and a veterinary surgeon if they are ill or injured. You may have to travel some distance to find a specialist vet.
- To be looked after when you are away on holiday.
Iguanas can live for 20 years.
Most reptiles kept as pets originally come from tropical or sub-tropical climates. They are entirely dependent upon their owners to provide suitable conditions for them and will suffer a great deal if their complex needs are not met.
All reptiles need careful and expert handling. It is important to learn the correct way to pick up a lizard, to avoid injuring the animal or putting yourself at risk. Large reptiles should not be handled by young children.
The DSPCA strongly advises that you do not breed from reptiles, unless you are prepared to take on the long-term commitment to provide the specialist care for any offspring, or you can already rehome to someone with the required knowledge and facilities.
Many reptiles need ultra-violet light from the sun to help make vitamin D and absorb calcium. In captivity this needs to be provided artificially, otherwise they will start to absorb calcium from their own bones, leaving them too weak to move.
Despite many reptiles now being bred in captivity, every year, millions of animals, including reptiles, are trapped from the wild and sold into the international pet trade. Many die during capture or transport, and those that reach pet shops may be sick or weak from their ordeal.
A variety of illnesses, injuries and infections can be caused by keeping reptiles in unsuitable conditions. It is vital to find out as much as possible about a reptile's natural environment and its diet in order to prevent suffering.
- find out when your lizard is naturally active - some prefer to be active at night, others during the day - and make sure the location of your lizard's home, the lighting levels and the time of day he/she is handled does not cause disturbance or harm
- check that the person who looks after your lizard when you go on holiday knows all about the care needed, including maintaing suitable lighting and heating
- take care choosing a floor covering that allows natural behaviour, like burrowing - so, if your lizard eats it, no harm is caused.
Watch out for bone deformities that can be caused by an unbalanced diet or insufficient UV lighting.
Points to consider before you choose your pet:
- research the species of animal you plan to keep.
- each species will have special needs
- take care to avoid acquiring a wild-caught animal
- prepare a stable home
- find out about the humidity, temperature and light levels needed for the reptile being kept and, therefore, the most suitable type of equipment
- make sure you have the appropriate food and know where to obtain further supplies
- find a vet with experience of treating the species of animal you plan to keep.
Points to consider after you acquire your pet:
- maintain a stable home for your pet
- use thermometers and thermostats to monitor and maintain a stable temperature range
- hygrometers can also be used to monitor and maintain stable humidity levels
- maintain good hygiene using appropriate products and ventilation, whilst minimising the disturbance of the animal.
Read the RSPCA Lizards Pet Card for essential information about your pet
Download the Bearded Dragon Care Sheet from the RSPCA website.
Blue Tongued Skink
Download the Blue Tongued Skink Care Sheet from the RSPCA website
Download the Leopard Gecko Care Sheet from the RSPCA website.
Information and Photos are taken from the RSPCA Website