I remember a summer I stayed with my dad and upon arrival had discovered his new pet—an iguana named Pablo. The reptile was known for his anarchic behavior, such as escaping from the 6-foot plexiglass home built by his and my father. He would hide under and behind couches, scratch the hell out of a fresh tattoo or insist he sunbathe on the dash of a car.
But we had fun and walks in the park were great. A group of kids once were throwing pebbles at Pablo. Pablo started running towards them hissing and it scared the bejesus out of them. It was wonderful.
We all have different preferences when it comes to pets. I have rabbits (I would have more but I am being restrained from doing so), most of my family have dogs and others I know fancy felines. But what do you need to know when it comes to getting a reptile for a pet?
We Minnesotans are lucky as we have what is known to be the oldest reptile specialty store in the nation right here in the Twin Cities.
Twin Cities Reptiles started as a mail order business in 1978 and progressed to a retail store in 1980 by Bruce Delles. Bruce grew up in northern California and later moved to Minnesota after leaving the military in 1975. He began working for Terry Odegaard at his store called The Pet Dragon and was in charge of mail order sales. Terry sold the business to Bruce a year later and the rest is history.
Twin Cities Reptiles prides itself in offering the largest selection of reptiles, amphibians and supplies available. Pet owners can also find small animals and fish supplies as well as top of the line premium dog and cat foods.
Employee, Sara, provided us with a few tips on what to consider before purchasing one of their reptiles and also answers some common questions.
“Why would anybody want that?” is heard most often at TCR from people that are new to the store.
Maybe they have been driving by for years and finally stopped in, or maybe they saw it from the light rail and were curious.
It could be the first snakes, lizards, frogs or tarantulas in their burrows that they have ever seen. Some are instantly fascinated, some are mildly curious and some are scared. They have heard old wives tales and campfire spooky stories not knowing any better.
The answer to why anyone would want one of these animals for a pet varies.
There are thousands of people in the Twin Cities area alone that have exotic pets, including reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Some people are allergic to fur and are amazed at how much personality a reptile can have while others have simply been in love with them since they caught their first garter snake as a child. Many people want a pet, but working long hours or traveling a lot can prevent them from doing so. However, snakes and tarantulas can be left for a week or longer very easily, no arranging dog or cat sitting required, no walks and for the most part, no worries.
No different than your more mainstream pets, the people that keep reptiles love them.
People that keep these pets use them for not only companionship, but also for education. Whether teaching friends or entire classrooms of children, it is very rewarding to be able to impart a respect of the animal. Learning about anything that you are scared of takes away a large part of that fear. When people learn, they frequently end up with one or more of their own.
When someone is interested in getting a reptile for a pet, like considering a high energy dog or a more laid back breed, the first thing to figure is what kind best fits your lifestyle. There are lizards that are high maintenance, needing daily attention, and then there are some that are never hands on and you treat just like a fish in a tank. There are some that will happily ride around on your shoulder all day and others that want to be left alone. There are snakes that are well known for sitting on your lap for an hour and never moving and there are some that always want to explore. What about size? Well, that can range anywhere from three feet to 16.
The decision is an important one, as many can have a lifespan of 20 years or more. Figuring out what kind is the best fit starts with narrowing down what appeals to you, then narrowing that down to what really will work for you.
Once you have narrowed down what kind you like, then your next step is learning how to take care of it. Read books, ask questions from other people that have them, learn everything you can. Don’t be afraid to write down information such as what it’s eating, how often, temperatures and general care. In the excitement of getting a new pet, these things can be forgotten.
Lastly, like any new pet, let it settle in and get used to its new home.
Lastly lastly, enjoy!
Autumn Van Ravenhorst is a staff writer and columnist for SouthernMinn Scene. If you live in the Owatonna area, she’d also be happy to sell you an ad in this wonderful magazine. Drop her a line at AVanRavenhorst@owatonna.com