Consider A Reptile Before A Furry Friend
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Consider A Reptile Before A Furry Friend

Why owning a reptile is perfect for apartment dwellers.

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Consider A Reptile Before A Furry Friend
Jaymes Fleury

I grew up in a bit of a zoo. My home in Auburn, Washington was packed with a family of six, a Labrador that had a litter of eight, two cats, a leopard gecko, and a kingsnake. We sold seven of those puppies and kept a yellow lab out of the bunch, leaving us with as many animals as there were people.

Time progressed, the animals began to age and become ill. First, it was the cat Mocha, who we suspect was hit by a car or picked up by an animal on her daily romp around town. It was the gecko next, the poor emaciated guy couldn’t keep his food down. Then went the other cat due to an infection. In 2014, I lost my best friend, Skye, to the Achilles heel of Labradors, bad hips, lumbar and a handful of cancerous tumors. Her daughter Casi was next, passing away this past March with the same issues and in the same room of the veterinarian’s office.

If you’re doing the math, you have concluded that this is a major downer of an introduction and that the animal to outlive them all was the snake.

My sister, fully aware of my reptilian obsession, thought she would make my eighth birthday party unforgettable. Once they peeled me away from the television screen and my idol Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter, we went to the Auburn Skate Connection where my sugar-high friends zipped around the floor on their inline skates.

Michele, my older sister, pulled me aside near the end of my chaotic party and walked me out to the parking lot. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and neither could my mom; in a box, no larger than a takeout container, was a baby kingsnake (a snakelet), jet-black with white stripes and tiny diamond-shaped marking on the top of her head.

I could not contain myself in my seat on the car ride home. The box with my new friend sat in my lap and I didn’t dare open the lid to peek inside, worried that the tiny one would make a break for it. When we had finally parked the suburban, I took a long-awaited look inside.

She had escaped, boring a hole through a corner right under my nose.

For the next two hours, we were rummaging through the cabin of the suburban, across all three rows of seating. We found all five inches of her, coiled near the fuses beneath the steering column. She would make many more attempts for freedom until I caved and put a lock on her terrarium. She was given the name Houdini after finding a weakness in the enclosure, living amongst us in the house for nearly six months. We discovered her underneath the oven’s warming drawer, and trust me, she did not want to leave.

A snake bite can be rather painful, and they will draw blood. Now, that being said, the kingsnake is a bit more aggressive and active than your other household snakes. One must remember that a bite on a non-prey item, hundreds of times the snake’s own size, is done so in fear. Over time, the snake will learn to be handled more easily and the owner should be conscious of the way they are handling their pet.

It’s best to give the snake its space when feeding and to hold it every day if possible, in a way training it to be handled by you or others. I was determined to make this relationship work – if Steve Irwin could take a snap from a Burmese Python to prove a point, I could take a bite or two from a snake smaller than a belt.

Besides those minor drawbacks, a snake can become the perfect pet for more people than you’d originally think. They are hypoallergenic with nothing to shed but their skin after growing. Snakes, unlike your neighbor’s dog, have no vocal chords. They can’t make a sound more impressive than a sneeze (you have not lived until you have seen a snake sneeze).

And here’s the real kicker, besides regular water changes, snakes can take days to digest their food. I spend less than ten dollars a month for my snake’s food of choice, frozen mice. Forget to feed your animal? No worries, as long as you get to it within two weeks of their last feed. That’s right, keeping a snake alive can be as easy as a watering a houseplant. They are the perfect incognito animal as well, not needing walks or regular time outside. Your landlord should have no idea that you own a snake. Mine certainly haven’t, and I have never paid a monthly fee or put down a pet deposit for my scaly friend.

If you’re like me, broke most of the time, sharing an apartment with at least one roommate, and have an aversion to exercise – a snake or another reptile might be a great match. Too many people it would seem, jump on the opportunity to get their first cat or dog. Raising a puppy or kitten can be a loud and messy undertaking, leaving no apartment unscathed. Vet bills add up, they get sick, they have a knack for destroying carpets, and they eat nonstop. Maybe it’s the desire to raise a best friend or a test of responsibility as a caregiver, or even a need for companionship; people keep adopting pets they’re simply not ready for.

Just like my snake needs half of its terrarium kept at a balmy 80 degrees, a dog needs a yard or at least consistent walking and a cat’s litter box requires constant cleaning. Give your pet the best chance at being happy by being real about your living situation, and maybe hold off on adopting your best friend before you’re good and ready.

Consider kicking it back with a reptile, legs or no legs at all.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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