There are a lot of people who enjoy keeping reptiles as pets—over 4.5 million people, to be exact. In addition to the novelty of owning an exotic animal, many reptile owners appreciate how much lower maintenance and less expensive they are than traditional pets. Don’t have a lot of space? Have an unpredictable work schedule? Reptiles are the perfect combination of being a fun companion without being time-consuming. While there are plenty of reasons to enjoy keeping reptiles as pets, a question that’s less frequently asked is whether reptiles enjoy being pets. In this article, we’ll explore how to determine if your pet reptile is happy and what signs to look out for.
First off, can reptiles be happy?
To properly answer whether reptiles enjoy being pets we must first consider whether reptiles are capable of feeling enjoyment at all. The short answer is not really. The reptilian brain is far less sophisticated compared to that of warm-blooded animals. These living fossils are related to the dinosaurs and their brains are still just as primitive. Reptiles have a much narrower emotional range with feelings that relate to survival (hunger, fear, aggression, etc.).
It is for this reason that reptiles have their reputation for aloofness, as this lack of emotion prevents them from establishing the strong bond humans find with dogs or cats. It also answers whether a reptile might feel any sort of way as being kept as a pet. In conclusion, your pet reptile isn’t really capable of feeling ‘happy’ in the same way a human might. Instead, the closest emotions to that would be feeling safe and secure.
Signs Your Pet Reptile Is Happy
Now that we’ve established that a reptile’s version of happiness is different from our own, here are four signs to look out for and positive snake body language.
Reptiles are very quiet animals. As solitary creatures, they never needed to develop means of vocal communication with one another. The sounds they do make that are easily audible by other critters and humans are mostly a warning to back off. Hissing, clicking, or even heavy breathing are noises that indicate they are agitated. So if you don’t hear hissing–or much of anything for that matter–coming from your reptile, it’s actually a good sign.
A reptile that feels secure is one that’s relaxed and laid back. They’ll move in slow, leisurely motions with no sense of urgency. Their normal ‘patroling’ around their enclosure will be of casual interest rather than alarm. Such movement will often be accompanied by relaxed resting positions such as basking or curling into one’s self (snakes).
Doesn’t hide from you
Another great sign that your pet reptile is content as your pet is if it doesn’t seem afraid of you. Does it eye you intently when you enter the room? If so, it might be on high alert and associate you with danger. On the other hand, if the reptile is calmly perched somewhere and blankly staring out into the distance without a specific visual target, it’s likely to calm and happily taking in its surroundings. The surest way to tell your reptile is comfortable in your presence is if it doesn’t immediately scurry away when you reach for it. The lack of fear demonstrates a well-established bond of trust.
Relaxed in your grip
It’s a natural reaction for animals to breathe harder when they’re stressed. This is part of fight-or-flight, an innate stress response that causes a chain of physiological effects including the increase of blood pressure and heart rate, the diversion of blood from unnecessary systems to the muscles and brain, and the body tenses in preparation to flee.
Where To Find Happy Reptile Pets
Knowing how to recognize the sign of a happy reptile can offer a huge peace of mind to beginners. You can increase the odds that your new pet feels safe and secure by buying captive-bred as opposed to wild-caught. Captive-bred reptiles were, as their name implies, bred in captivity. In addition to having fewer health risks of things like parasites or disease, they also are better adjusted to human contact. This saves the animals (and their owners) a lot of stress, which can otherwise negatively impact their overall health.
You can find captive-bred reptiles for sale at specialty online shops. These stores have inventories are entirely devoted to reptiles and all the necessary items to care for them. There you’ll find the best selection of snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises, including rare and cool morphs.