Firstly, give it a serious thought whether you really want to keep a boa constrictor, i.e., a large snake as your pet because, in the first place, it is very unusual to have a pet snake and secondly, the pet will need your complete attention and care. One good thing about these snakes is that they are not known for their aggressive behavior, but, surprisingly for their placid temperament! Although, they are a little aggressive, they soon come out of this phase when handled regularly with care. Moreover, when it comes to adult snakes, we must understand that they can soon be labeled as biters because, if they are ill-treated, they are going to bite you. Let us find some more characteristics and the requirements of keeping a boa constrictor as a pet.
Factors to Consider
Right from adopting a boa, to setting a perfect habitat, feeding, handling, etc., has to be considered and learned when you are planning to have a boa as your pet. So, let us look at each of these factors essential for boa constrictors care, in detail.
There are two types of boa constrictors, wild caught and captive born. Experts recommend to choose a captive born, and not the wild caught boa because of several problems like health of the animal and the parasites. What are the possible health problems of the wild caught boa? There can be a birth defect like kinks in the spine that can be felt when you slide the circle of your index finger and thumb over the snake's body. There are other problems like the nourishment of the snake, the incomplete shedding of the skin, eyes, eye caps, tongue and the muscle growth. As captive born boas are bred and handled by local hobbyists and snake breeders, there is less possibility of all the above problems. Yet, there are a few concerns you should not overlook when buying a captive born boa constrictor. When you are buying a boa constrictor from a breeder, check for the clear eyes, firm skin, rounded shape, flicking tongue and clean vent of the snake. It is sensible and quite essential at the same time to buy a baby captive born boa when buying it for the first time because the handling becomes easy and convenient. When you hold the boa with your hands, it should grip softly yet firmly. A boa constrictor might feel nervous when touched initially, but, the nervousness should go off within some time. Slide your hand over its body, as suggested before, to identify lumps in the body which may be the signs of constipation. Though, it is a young boa constrictor (around six to eight months) it should become well aware of its surroundings because they (the young boas) are the food for other larger creatures.
To determine the size of the cage of your pet boa, you will have to imagine the size of your boa when it turns into an adult, but, this seems a bit illogical and cannot help much. What is advisable is, to ask its breeder to show its parents and, from their size you will be able to determine the size of your boa when it becomes an adult snake. Once you get an idea about the full-grown size of your animal, you can buy a large glass aquarium for it. Having a glass cage will be helpful to monitor the activities of the boa from outside. Place a heat lamp inside the cage at a safe distance with the temperature around 80 to 85 °F during the day and 75 to 80 °F at night. These animals come from the tropical regions so they need more warmth. Also place a large bowl of water so that the snake can drink water as well as experience humidity. Along with the hot temperature, they even need humidity for survival. If possible, arrange a long stick or some such thing where the snake can exercise as well as feel like being in the natural environment. Cleanliness of the cage is very important in order to provide your pet a long and healthy life. It is advisable to clean the cage thoroughly every two weeks, but, if you clean it daily, well and good. Providing hiding places in the cage are essential as these are the places where snakes feel most comfortable and boas are not an exception to it. You can simply make them out of cardboard boxes with the holes large enough to let the snake slide in and out. You can make at least two hiding places, one warm and the other cool. Since, the snake will spend most of the time in these places make sure to keep them extremely clean.
Generally, young boas feed on defrosted rodents like mice and rats whereas an adult boa constrictor can eat a rabbit. These animals prefer privacy while eating, hence, put the snake in a dark and warm box (probably opaque) with the food item already placed and put the lid on. Avoid handling of the snake for minimum 24 hours after a meal or it will affect its digestive tract. Do not leave a live hungry rat in the cage for the young boa because the rat can kill the boa and eat it up. Try to find the prey not larger than the largest part of the snake's body because it will be glad to eat the item, but, will regurgitate it for long time, probably one or two days, which is bad. Over feeding the snake can cause obesity. So, feed the snake every few days and maintain its health.
Remember that you should always be gentle, and avoid sudden movements. Once the boa settles down in the new environment, start handling it regularly in a gentle manner. With routine contact, a level of confidence and faith will develop between both of you. Frequent handling will enable you to recognize the snake's behavior. A curious snake will stretch out its neck and hold its head high, whereas an aggressive or a defensive snake will recoil itself and flick the tongue very rarely.
All in all, follow all the above guidelines to give your pet boa a healthy and long life. Remember, you have a companion that will be with you for a very long time and give you enjoyment if it is cared for and kept well. Love your boa!