Exotic animals like reptiles and amphibians can make great beginning pets for kids or adults. They’re also an option for those with allergies to fur or pet dander. Herps (from the Greek word for creeping thing) may not exactly be cuddly or affectionate creatures, but if you’re a parent whose kids are going through a dinosaur, insect, or crawly creature fascination phase, you will understand the attraction. Parents will also appreciate that reptiles and amphibians can be lower maintenance in some instances.
Before you consider bringing any exotic reptile or amphibian into your home, understand that many of these creatures can live for years and will require varying degrees of specialized care, owner experience, and investment. Many ‘herps’ don’t like being handled – or don’t do well being handled – so there is a risk for bites and scratches. Why? Unlike dogs and cats, reptiles and amphibians are not domesticated animals. Generally speaking, some species that are heavily bred in captivity – like corn snakes – may be milder in temperament than their wild counterparts, but don’t count on it. Choose wisely.
The best beginner reptiles and amphibians include corn snakes, bearded dragons, leopard geckos, tortoises, and frogs. Smaller carnivorous lizards and amphibians need a varied diet that includes insects dusted with supplements, such as calcium and other vitamins. Larger carnivorous reptiles like monitor lizards and snakes will need to eat rodents whether they’re live, freshly killed, or thawed from frozen. Others may need to be fed live crickets, mealworms, cockroaches, or worms, so if you’re not up for the task, choose a different type of pet.
Are There Affectionate Reptiles?
Some reptiles and amphibians like being gently stroked, scratched, or being offered food, but beyond that, most herps just aren’t programmed for hands-on affection. Many species can learn to recognize and bond with their human caretakers, but they’re not the norm, and they are not showing emotion in the truest sense of the word. In fact, reptiles do not show emotion beyond fear, aggression and occasionally, pleasure. In this form, they are not emotions, but basic instincts.
Can You Train Reptiles?
Just like people, some reptiles are smarter than others. Reptiles can be trained in the sense that they can learn to associate cause and effect and will react accordingly. For instance, some species can learn to recognize their owner by scent, so they will eventually be more relaxed when something familiar approaches their habitat as opposed to the reaction to a predator scent. While some types of reptiles may be able to be trained to feed from your hand, others would just as soon take a bite out of you. While you can certainly try to train your pet further, don’t expect too much.
Have more questions about reptiles and amphibians? Check out ourblog post.
[DISCLAIMER] Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.
Is it good to have a pet? We may be biased, but our answer is a resounding YES! Without a doubt, having a pet is good for your health. Here are five great reasons why animals are good for you and your health.
Pets provide love and companionship. Get a pet and you’ll never feel alone. Pets provide us with unconditional love, lots of affection, and are great for prompting laughter with their antics, so it’s hard to feel lonely with a furry friend by your side. Even better? Pets are always happy to see you, even when you’ve only been gone for a few minutes! (Many pet owners will tell you that dogs are much better at this response than most cats.)
Better mental health. According to an article in TIME magazine, research increasingly shows that owning a pet can improve your mental health. Many hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities often have a pet in residence to help soothe anxiety. Pet owners are also less likely to suffer from depression.
Reduced stress levels. Petting a loving animal can rapidly calm and soothe you when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Since stress is a significant risk factor for serious health conditions, a pet can help lower your stress levels and in turn, reduce your risk for experiencing health problems.
Reduced risk for allergies and asthma. Numerous scientific studies have shown that having a furry friend in the home can make children less susceptible to developing allergies or asthma later in life.
Lower blood pressure. Did you know that simply petting a dog or cat can help lower your blood pressure? It’s true. Getting regular exercise can also help lower your blood pressure. Dog owners tend to get more exercise than non-dog owners, as dogs are a great reason to get outside and take a walk.
Still not convinced? According to the CDC, some of the health benefits of having a pet include:
Decreased blood pressure
Decreased cholesterol levels
Decreased triglyceride levels
Decreased feelings of loneliness
Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
Increased opportunities for socialization
One final note: better health associated with owning a pet isn’t limited to just cats and dogs. Whether your pet is sporting fur, scales, fins, or hooves – it’s the simple act of caring for another living being that makes being a pet owner worthwhile. Don’t have a pet yet or thinking of getting one? Check out our blog on how to choose the right pet for you and your family.
Not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately.
Reptiles and amphibians range from low- to high-maintenance care
Thinking of adding an exotic pet like a reptile or amphibian to your household? While they’re not exactly cuddly and affectionate, many ‘herps’ (coined from the Greek word for creeping thing) can make great pets, but different species will need different levels of owner experience and investment. Because reptiles and amphibians may require varying degrees of specialized care, it’s important to
do some research! Before you consider adopting one of these critters, here’s some basic information on reptiles and amphibians that could help you make the right decision for you and your family!
Low maintenance reptiles and amphibians
For kids and adults who may be allergic to furry or feathered pets or just want a pet that’s out of the norm, low maintenance reptiles and amphibians can be wonderful options. Some notes of caution – many herps do not like being handled and do not do well being handled, so there can be a risk of biting or injury. Low maintenance reptiles and amphibians include corn snakes, bearded dragons, leopard geckos, tortoises, and frogs, making them a great beginner options for families with children.
Smaller carnivorous lizards and amphibians feed on a varied diet that includes insects dusted with supplements, such as calcium and other vitamins. Larger carnivorous reptiles, such as monitor lizards and snakes will eat rodents – whether live, freshly killed or thawed from frozen. Others may need to be fed live crickets, mealworms, cockroaches, or worms.
How long do reptiles live?
Another thing to consider when deciding to adopt a reptile is how long do they live? When properly cared for, many reptiles will live far longer in captivity than in the wild, so owning one may be a longer commitment than having a dog or cat.
Snakes: Many types of snakes can live for decades. Corn snakes have a lifespan of 10-20 years. Ball pythons can live for 20-30 years. Kingsnakes average between 12-15 years. Some can even grow well over 5-feet long, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before bringing a snake home.
Turtles & Tortoises: Turtles are water-lovers; tortoises live on land. Turtles and tortoises have the longest potential lifespan. With proper care, some species can live up to 40 to 60 years or even longer. Tortoises often live to a ripe old age, so they’re definitely a long-term commitment – especially since they could outlive you.
Frogs: It’s difficult to answer this as tracking the lifespan of a single frog is next to impossible unless it’s raised in captivity. Depending on the species, frogs can live anywhere between 2 to 40 years, but the average age to expect a frog or toad to live is about 4 to 15 years.
Setting Up a Healthy Habitat
Aquariums, terrariums, tanks, and other habitats will need some specialized equipment, regular cleaning, and care. Reptiles cannot regulate their own body heat, so you will need to have temperature and brightness-regulating devices like:
● A humidifier to help keep the air warm and moist.
● Daytime lights and heat sources. Reptile tanks need a “hot side” and a “cool side” to regulate body temperature.
● Nighttime lights and heat sources. The cool side of the tank needs infrared heat lamps for nighttime use. Most reptiles – like iguanas – also require ultraviolet light.
● Thermometers. Get two thermometers: one for the hot side and one for the cooler side.
Required Accessories For Reptiles and Amphibians
● Hides where they can retreat from the heat and rest.
● Food and water bowls, some will need deeper water for swimming.
● Tile, newspaper, or reptile carpet bedding.
● Rocks, logs, plants, and other accessories.
Health considerations with reptiles and amphibians
With owning a reptile or amphibian comes some health considerations for both the animal and humans. Regular cleaning of the pet’s habitats, as well as lots of handwashing, is a must to help keep your family safe. All children should be closely supervised when caring for reptiles and amphibians because they can potentially carry Salmonella bacteria.
Each year, around 70,000 people in the U.S. contract salmonellosis from direct or indirect contact with reptiles and amphibians. Children, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness or death. If you or anyone in your household have health conditions that could put you at risk, it may not be the best fit.please consider another type of pet.
While many people would not consider owning these types of pets, some reptiles are prohibited by the Arizona Department of Wildlife. Illegal reptiles (without proper permits/licenses) include exotic venomous reptiles, such as cobras, cottonmouths, copperheads, mambas, etc., and any endangered or protected species. Crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, caimans, and gharials) are also illegal to own without proper permits.
Finally, remember that reptiles and amphibians need veterinary care, too. Regular wellness exams can help keep them happy and healthy for years to come.
Click here for a list of AZPetVet hospitals that treat exotics and reptiles.
Hummingbird facts and myths: Discover the secrets behind these speedy birds
In Arizona, if you’ve ever spent a morning sitting out on your patio enjoying the sun,
gone on a leisurely trail hike, or spent the day at a botanical garden, chances are
you’ve had an encounter with one of the smallest birds in the world — the
hummingbird. These adorable feathered friends grace our desert landscape with
their beauty as they flutter around from flower to flower. While there are over 300
hummingbird species found around the world, only around two dozen can be found
in the U.S.
Hummingbirds may be little, but there are a lot of exciting facts, quirks, and even a
few myths associated with these tiny treasures. Here are 10 interesting facts about
hummingbirds to expand your knowledge of these fascinating birds:
1. The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird species in the U.S. — measuring
just 3 inches long.
2. Along with being one of the few species of birds that can hover,
hummingbirds are the only birds that can fly backward. This fantastic skill is due
to the structure of their wings. Hummingbirds can rotate their wings in a full circle —
change direction, and it’s effectively putting them into reverse!
3. Our tiny feathered friends are not fans of walking, and can only use their feet
to scratch, preen and shuffle side to side on a perch. Hummingbirds’ feet have
evolved and adapted to become smaller to be more efficient flyers, but they’re not
very useful for speed-walking.
4. One common myth about hummingbirds is that they suck nectar up through
their long bills using a force called capillary action. This action can be observed by
placing a very long, thin tube in a glass of water. Without using any suction, water
will travel up the tube. However, the capillary action idea was recently disproven in
2015. Hummingbirds lick up nectar using their long, forked tongues that have hair-
like extensions that open up. Once the bird’s tongue hits the nectar, it retracts,
trapping the liquid inside as the hummingbird pulls its tongue back into its mouth.
5. Want to see a hummingbird’s tongue at work? You’ll need a special camera for
that. A hummingbird can lick up to 13 times per second — so you’ll need to be in
super slow-mo mode!
6. While they may be small, hummingbirds are fierce and are one of the most
aggressive bird species. If you have a hummingbird feeder, you’ll often see one
dominant hummingbird that will guard your backyard as its own to protect its food
source. Hummingbirds are also known to attack other birds, such as crows and
hawks if they invade their space.
7. The sword-billed hummingbird is the only bird in existence that has a bill
that’s longer than its body. In fact, the bill is so long that the hummingbird has to
continually hold it upright if it’s resting on a perch — otherwise, it will topple over.
8. When flying forward, a hummingbird can reach a speed of up to 30 mph.
When diving, these birds can reach up to 60 mph! Despite being incredibly fast,
hummingbirds still have predators that will happily feast on them if they can catch
them. Some of the hummingbirds’ natural predators include owls, praying mantises,
snakes, spiders, and roadrunners, among others.
9. A hummingbird’s wings can flap up to 70 times per second. Hummingbird
hearts can reach a rate of up to 1,260 beats per minute to power their speedy wings
10. Hummingbirds have a speedy metabolism and have to eat about half of their
body weight every day. Our feathered friends have to consume so much food and
be consistently eating — if they slept the same way as humans do, they would starve!
Hummingbirds go into a much deeper form of sleep that’s similar to a mini hibernation. This process slows the bird’s metabolism down enough to make it through the night without needing a midnight snack.
Now that you know 10 interesting facts about hummingbirds, share these tidbits
with friends the next time you one of these speedy birds zooms by. Have a favorite
hummingbird fact that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Some of the most well-known amphibians are frogs. Evidence suggests that frogs have been around for over 200 million years. With the abundance of different species, it’s amazing how little many people know about these four-legged hoppers. Here are a few interesting facts that might just surprise you!
Five fun facts about frogs you might not know:
1. A group of frogs is called an army
Mimicking an army, large groups of frogs come together during the breeding season to search for food. Moving in a large group provides frogs who would otherwise be vulnerable traveling alone with an increased chance of survival.
2. Frogs drink water through their skin
Frogs drink water through what’s known as a ‘drinking patch’, which is located on the underside of a frog’s belly and thighs that allows them to absorb water through their skin.
3. Frogs are found all over the world
Except for Antarctica. Far too cold! While frogs live both on land and in water, they move more efficiently on the ground by jumping and climbing. Using their long legs, many frogs can leap 20 times their body height!
4. The world’s largest frog species is known as the ‘Goliath Frog’
The ‘Goliath Frog’ lives in Western Africa and can grow to be around a foot long and weigh up to 7 pounds! In contrast, the world’s smallest frogs are less than 1/2 inch long.
5. A frog’s eyes and nose are on the very top of their heads
This allows them to see and breathe while most of their body is underwater. The protruding eyes on the frog able them to see in front, to the sides, and slightly behind them. Their eyes also allow them to swallow their food. Each time the frog blinks, they are pulling their eyes down to the roof of their mouth to push the food down their throat. Some of the most common foods that frogs eat are bugs, spiders, worms, slugs, larvae, and sometimes small fish.
Now that your knowledge of frogs has expanded beyond Kermit, you can share these facts with your friends. Have a favorite frog fact that we missed? Tell us in the comments below.