As exotic pets become more and more popular, one of the most common things we hear is that people struggle to find someone to look after them when they are away from home. Sadly, a lot of family members are often put off by having to feed frozen mice to a snake or handle crickets to feed a lizard or are just petrified of going anywhere near a tarantula tank! However, it is important that our scaly and hairy friends get the same care our furry friends do when you go away.
We hear a lot of the time people saying that snakes can be left for a week or two without any care as they don’t need to eat every day and don’t need exercise. Sadly, this is really not true, and they should be checked on at least once a day. Snakes are ectotherms and require a heated enclosure, whether that is via a heat mat for smaller snakes or an overhead heat source for larger ones. This can easily brake or if not connected to a thermostat (which is always recommended!) it could overheat and be a fire risk or become a burn risk to your snake. As well at that, they require fresh water daily just like any other animal, and especially in a heated enclosure the water can become stale, or even start growing algae within 24 hours. As well as this the snake could become ill, and if no one sees the snake for up to 2 weeks, this could result in serious issues, or even fatalities.
When it comes to lizards, most of our common pet species – bearded dragons, leopard geckos and crested geckos, they require daily checks, feeds depending on the age of the lizard, and once again fresh water. As with snakes, lizards have their specific heating and lighting requirements which need to be checked daily to ensure they are fully functioning, and they need to be provided with fresh water. As well as this, a lot of our lizard friends are used to being handled and socialising with the family, so to suddenly go two weeks without any contact, they can become stressed and start to exhibit abnormal behaviours.
And then we have our tortoise and turtle friends. These animals require daily feeds and fresh water. During the majority of the year, tortoises need to be allowed outside in a secure pen and then secured at night-time in a fox-proof area that may also be heated depending on the time of year and the species. Turtles may need to have filters changed or even a partial water change depending on the set up, this is to prevent the build up of toxic ammonia and nitrates in the water through feeding and toileting. And again, their heating and lighting needs to be checked daily to ensure it is functioning correctly.
As well as reptiles there may be other exotic animals that some might feel can be left without care, for example invertebrates like tarantulas or even birds like parrots, but these animals need daily care and checks to ensure their well being.
Finding a pet sitting service that is qualified to care for exotics is not easy, and we would always recommend asking some key questions:
- Have you cared for this species before?
- How often will you check on the animal daily?
- Are you able to come to the house or do you require the animal to be brought to you?
- Are you aware of the species-specific care requirements – heat/UV/diet?
These are just some key questions, but there may be more you wish to ask that focuses on your individual pet, like behaviour and temperament.
The key thing is that all pets, exotic or not, should be cared for while you are away and it is important to find a trusted, trained pet service that is able to do this to keep your pets happy and healthy.