Things to Know Before Keeping Corn Snakes as Pets

Snakes! The very sight can make you squirm with disgust. But did you know that corn snakes are actually quite fun as pets! Here's more about these exotic pets.
The thought of snakes as pets is something that sent chills down the spine whenever it crossed my mind. But when I studied about this one particular snake, I was quite surprised at the fact that snakes can make exotic pets too! I am sure you must have heard about corn snakes. Yes, I am talking about this beautiful red-colored snake. These snakes are native to the southeastern parts of the United States, and mostly dwell on land. They are often mistaken for the venomous copperheads. These docile snakes are a member of the Pantherophis guttatus species, and are as long as 4 - 5 feet. They sexually mature between the second and third year of their life. Like many snakes, they too are nocturnal in nature, and are more active during dawn or dusk.
Corn snakes, unlike other snakes, have a docile temperament. Found extensively in corn fields, they are farmers' friends, as they help in getting rid of pesky rodents like mice and rats. So before going for the idea of keeping a corn snake as a pet, you really need to be sure of the difference between taming a reptile and taming other animals. Snakes are sensitive creatures and identify danger out of fear combined with ignorance. A corn snake is no different. This particular snake can live up to 20 years and more with proper care.
Considering Pet Quality
A normal corn snake can grow up to 6 feet long and can live as long as 20 years. So when you decide on buying one, make sure that you have run a check on the legality of exotic pets in your area. Also, it is best to opt for a captive bred specimen, as snakes bred in captivity are easy to tame. Before buying one, also check for its health condition. A well-fleshed snake with clear eyes, flickering tongue, and an alert body, sans any signs of cuts or scrapes, indicates sound health.
Housing
Before the pet arrives, housing is the primary task to be completed. A 15 ft x 5 ft x 3 ft cage with a secure fitting lid should serve the purpose. It is advised to keep a substrate on the cage flooring to prevent it from getting soiled. This also makes the cleaning job easier. Other good choices are using pine bark chips and astro turf (artificial turf). Do not use cedar or pine shavings, as they can cause respiratory problems in snakes. Another important aspect of the habitat is a hiding spot for the reptile. All snakes like to hide and curl up for security and also to maintain their body temperature. A hide box, big enough for the snake to burrow in, should be fine. One can also place some twigs and branches inside, to facilitate the pet's free movement inside the cage or terrarium.
Water Facility
Snakes defecate in water. Hence, your cage must have a water dish compulsorily. Make sure to clean the water from time to time. Most of the time, the snake soaks itself in the water dish before a shed. For snakes, the skin gets older, tighter, and worn out with time. So when the snake starts to shed, a new skin awaits beneath the old skin. During this natural process, the eyes of the snake turn a milky-blue color, and a whitish sheen develops over the body. At this time, utmost care should be taken concerning its health. A freshwater dish should be always available to it for proper hydration and easy shedding. It is advised to keep a heavy dish whose diameter is big enough for the snake to soak in comfortably.
Feeding
Snakes are carnivores and this is a well-known fact. A corn snake needs a freshly killed prey (or live) for food. The diet can include small rats, 'pinky mice' and small rodents. Young ones can be fed a couple of times in a week, whereas, adults can be fed once in 10 days. As the snakes grow, they can be fed slightly bigger prey, like adult mice. When shedding time approaches, the appetite of the snake also reduces drastically. So make sure that their feeding cycles are also reduced around that period of time.
Temperature Regulation
This is the aspect where reptiles differ from other pets. Snakes are cold-blooded animals, and need to maintain their body temperatures with the changing environmental conditions. And the corn snake, being a reptile, cannot manufacture its own body heat, and has to depend on the fluctuations of the internal body temperature. Hence, proper thermoregulation is a must for its digestive processes and immune system functioning. Within the terrarium, the temperature should be a gradient of 70 - 85 ºF. Under-tank heating pads is a good choice as it disperses uniform heat across the terrarium floor. Another good idea is using an overhead heat lamp (installed on a side of the terrarium), which creates a basking zone for the snake. Do not use hot rocks for temperature regulation, as they produce intense heat inside the terrarium and can cause harm to snakes. Since they are not tropical snakes, they do not need extreme heat to survive.
Pet Handling
Corn snakes are docile, and unlike other snakes, do now wrap around your fingers or arms. They are freedom lovers and love to keep moving in a direction they take. So when you hold them, make sure you have held the body and let the head free. Another important point to be remembered is that snakes can get nervous when placed in new surroundings. So do not place your snake in the hands of a stranger, in a new place. Although they are not aggressive, fear and ignorance can instigate them to bite, although it is not venomous. If you feel your pet is moving in the wrong direction, gently tilt its head to change the direction of its movement.
Medical Health and Vet Care
Snakes are quite susceptible to infections caused by bacteria, worms, and protozoans. When your snake settles down in the first few days, collect the feces in a clean plastic bag, seal it, and label it with your name, your pet's name and contact details. Take the sample to a vet to check for signs of infections. If your snake is ill, there are some tangible symptoms that can be identified, such as dehydration, emancipation, refusal to eat, discharge of a thin stringy mucous from the nose, or change in the color of the feces.
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Kids are always fascinated by colors. Many parents might instantly disagree because of their instantaneous dislike for these crawling reptiles. Unfortunately, snakes are the most misunderstood and misinterpreted creatures on earth. However, the good news is that corn snakes, which are not even venomous, make excellent pets for children and beginners. One of the dazzling variety found is the albino corn snake. As pets, they are extremely eye-catching, with a pattern of dark red blotches, a white belly, and a pair of striking ruby red eyes. These snakes are often referred to as 'amelanistic'. It is very amicable and can adjust with its variety as well in the same terrarium. In fact, after petting them for long, they also love to be held and will not impulsively hide every time someone comes near them.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and is in no way meant to promote the sale of exotic pets. Although legal in certain parts of the world, keeping exotic animals as pets is ethically wrong, and we do not support it.