Pet Snakes for Kids

Occasionally, people refer to our snakes as our “pets.” While we value them and care for them, we never consider them as pets. Instead they are our “education animals.” When a child tells us, after our reptile program, that he (we’ve never had this thought from a girl) thinks it would be cool to have a snake for a pet, we try to discourage it.


“Snakes can outlive any normal pet such as a dog or cat by as many as 10 years,” Chuck tells them. “If you get a snake when you’re 10, it’s likely you’ll be leaving home within the next 10 years or less. Your parents probably won’t want to keep it. Mine didn’t!” And most moms will not be willing to part with a section of their freezer to store mice for the reptile.

Snake feeding
Hatch eating mouse 2

Snakes are not fond of being handled. Rather, they prefer to live their lives unencumbered by human interaction. “You can’t cuddle with them,” says Chuck. “They won’t chase a tennis ball or Frisbee. They don’t come when they’re called.” In fact, snakes don’t show or require affection. They also have a narrow range of environmental requirements in regard to their housing, their food, and their temperature.

Locating care for an ill snake is also difficult. “Very few veterinarians are skilled in treating ailments common to snakes,” says Chuck. At any rate, snakes don’t generally show symptoms until it is too late to administer treatment.

No Longer Wanted

So how would a child discard a snake when he no longer wants it or is unable to care for it? Releasing it into the wild is not an option. “Releasing pet snakes into the wild is quickly becoming a major problem in the United States,” says Reasons for release include the snake being too large to house, too expensive to feed, and too dangerous to handle. Another reason often includes a change in the owner’s living situation. “Finding a place to live that allows snakes is a difficult task at best,” says

Even so, releasing a captive snake into the wild could be a death sentence for the pet snake and for wild snakes, as well. “The captive snake is not adapted to hunting on its own,” says Chuck. “It might not be native to the area. That’s not good for the snake or the environment because it could compete with the native species.” The released snake could also be susceptible to disease and parasites for which it has no resistance.

Limited Options

Options for locating a new home for the snake could be slim. Most zoos have no room or desire for a common species of snake, and rescue shelters could be full or unable to house the species. Finding someone capable and willing to care for it could also be difficult.

So what’s left? Avoiding acquiring the snake in the first place is the best option for a child unless he is a serious herpetologist. Impulse buying can result in problems for the child and his family, as well as problems for the reptile.


Any child considering adopting a “pet” snake should first decide why he wants one, check with his parents for their approval, and then research the care and feeding of the animal, as well as the dangers and prohibitions of releasing the snake into the wild if he changes his mind.

It’s only fair to all concerned.

2 thoughts on “Pet Snakes for Kids”

  1. The following letter is from a reader in central Washington State who had a juvenile bullsnake in her house. She didn’t want it turned loose due to single digit temperatures. She asked me what to do and I tried my best to find a solution. She didn’t let up and eventually got the snake a safe place to spend the long winter. Yep! That gives me a great feeling to know there’s folks out there who will go the extra mile. Thanks, Gisele!

    Hi Chuck;

    Thank you so much for the information. Your reply to me on the web site was so helpful. I kept the little snake in the jar for a few days, in the meantime on my way to the thrift store to look for an aquarium I stopped at the library to find some more information on snake care. The librarian told me that one of our U.S. Forest service employees is very knowledgeable about caring for snakes. I called him and he offered to keep the snake over winter and return it in the spring. He said he had several terrariums and would set one up. We took the snake over today and I think it will be well cared for.
    This was not the first snake to show up in the house I have had three others at different times. They have always been very small and luckily it has always been when the weather was still warm so I was able to put them back outside.
    Our house is slab-on-grade and I suspect the builder left a gap somewhere between the slab and the floor plate. We are lucky in that we have not had a rattle snake in our area and I do hope that continues. Some of our friends have quite a population of them.
    Thank you again for your help, it’s wonderful that you have spent the time and energy to help people with their questions and problems.

    I wish you and yours a great New Year
    All the Best


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