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Snakes are Awesome

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My kids desperately wanted a pet. I desperately wanted not to take care of this pet. My parents are animal lovers, so I grew up with a series of dogs and cats; I know how involved pet care can get and I’m just not that into it.

True story: while I was in college, my parents lived in India. Over the summer I’d go “home” and cat-sit because wow, any excuse to live in India. I spent two weeks chasing my parents’ cat Neko* around the house and rubbing its toes with fungus medicine and frankly, that cat never forgave me. Since then, I’ve been lukewarm on the pet subject.

Anyway, my kids (especially Tiger Lily) really wanted a pet for their collective birthdays, and when I took them to the local reptile show they started asking for a snake. A snake, of all things. Not a chance.

Except . . .

we love snakes

I’m not that afraid of snakes. They’re not slimy or wiggly, they’re totally quiet, they only eat once a week and they hardly ever get sick. Holy crap, they’re the perfect pet for people who aren’t that into pets! Yes kids, you can have a snake!

And that’s how Demon-eyes Buttercup (DB) joined our family. Tiger Lily picked him out during her pink phase, so seriously, we have a pale pink snake with creepy red eyes. But he’s awesome! When it’s time to “pet Snakey” the kids all line up on the couch, sanitize their hands,** and sit oh so quietly so DB will feel safe. When he sheds, everything stops so we can watch because it’s indescribably cool.

Babypants has taken the shed skin to pre-school for show and tell and Tiger Lily once brought our snake itself to show her second grade class. We were worried that kids would be afraid but every single kid wanted to see him up close and run a finger across his scales. Kids are curious creatures and for most of them, snake fear is easy to overcome with confident handlers around.

Our snake, a corn snake, will get pretty long–4 to 5 feet (a bit over 1.5 meters)–but he’ll never be heavy or wide enough to be particularly dangerous, even to  kids. He’s not venomous, and with proper exercise and frequent handling he’s quite calm and used to people. I had a touch of snake phobia when we bought him, but he’s really quite easy to have around. It took some research–none of us knew how to raise a reptile before we got one–but once you have the proper equipment, snakes are a breeze compared to the cats and dogs and birds I grew up with.

To sum up: I own a snake and that makes me a badass. Also, as pets go, snakes are low-maintenance and really fascinating. Most people don’t think of them as a fun pet for kids, but I’m really glad I said yes to this request. It’s been fun for us all.

*If you speak Japanese, you’re laughing right now. Yes, my parents named their cat ‘Cat.’ My dad knows this–he’s fluent in Japanese–but they thought it was funny so ‘Cat’ it is. Was. He died years ago. And got stuck in the freezer. Then cremated. But that’s a whole different post.

**Snakes can catch salmonella bacteria from humans and/or give it to humans, so clean hands keep everyone safe.

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11 Comments

    • My sister had guinea pigs and they were adorable, but a bit tricky to take care of. They both “died young.” She was maybe 10 or 11 by then, so she took it pretty well. Snakes live a pretty long time, though. We’ll probably still have this guy when the kids go to college.

      • I had a hamster in the 5th grade, and one day I was cleaning his cage, and I noticed he was unresponsive. And I was like, “Hey Mom, check it out! Patches can play dead!” And then I was like OHH NOOO.

    • Hamsters are not that good as pets, at least for small kids, because they are mostly active during the night. Very frustrating for the kid if the pet is never awake when they are, but very loud when the kid is supposed to be asleep.

      • True story: in college, my roommate (who was never around at night) had a pet mouse, and she kept it in a cage with a squeaky wheel. For a few days, I thought someone in the dorm was having sex for hours, and then I finally realized it was just that mouse running on its wheel at all hours of the damn night!

  1. snakes are definitely awesome, my son has become one of those crazy dudes who has a collection of over forty and wants to breed them and also manages a reptile shop. People should be aware that they can however be very long lived and so are a long term commitment compared to a small rodent.

    • True. In terms of lifespan it’s much more like getting a cat or dog, and snakes can be harder to re-home if needed. Short-lived pets like hamsters or goldfish might be better choices for people who’ve never cared for an animal or are just looking to give their kids a “pet experience” without a long-term commitment.

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