When it comes to a child asking for a pet, most parents hope for a dog, a cat or maybe even a fish. Snakes are likely the last animal that comes to mind. While slithering reptiles are often associated with scary imagery, smaller three- to five-foot snakes make better childhood companions than many people realize, said Russ Gurley, president of the Oklahoma City Herpetological Society.
Society member Larry Daniel will teach kids and parents about keeping snakes as pets Saturday at the Midwest City Library, 8143 E. Reno. The seminar serves as an introduction to snake ownership, from how to properly set up a habitat to feedings.
Gurley said one of the most important elements of snake ownership kids have to remember is keeping the cold-blooded pets warm, which helps them digest food. He suggested placing a special heating pad under the cage to keep the animals warm. Other than the climate requirement, snakes only a need a small cage with water and a hiding place and little special treatment " a good thing for young owners.
"Snakes can actually live and do really well with a little bit of neglect," he said.
They only need to eat once a week " usually a mouse or rat " and some only need food every two weeks. In the midst of a rough economy, Gurley said, the reptiles are among the cheapest pets to have.
While some parents might raise concerns about keeping a snake in the house, he said the species are rarely violent or aggressive, and that smaller snakes under five feet long are perfectly safe for children to have as pets. Larger snakes generally only bite when they're mistreated or severely underfed. They are are also hypoallergenic, can be left unattended for weeks, and aren't as slimy as they look, he said.
"They don't make noise. They don't tear up the furniture," Gurley said. "They don't bark and keep the neighbors awake."
"An Introduction to Keeping Snakes as Pets" is 10 a.m. to noon. Admission is free.