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5 Tips for Pet Sitting an Exotic Pet
5 Tips for Pet Sitting an Exotic Pet (Avoid These Common Mistakes)

As much as exotic pet owners would love to take their reptile everywhere they go, there are too many changing factors that go into caring for them. So they have to resort to asking a friend to help pet sit while they are out of town and while it might seem like no big deal, first time pet sitters of exotic pets might have a mini heart attack.

Before your lizard or snake parent friend asks you to pet sit for them, make sure you are comfortable with the ins and outs of actually caring for one. It is not a good situation to care for a snake if you have a fear of them for neither you nor the snake!

These are a few tips to help those who are curious about pet sitting an exotic pet and have no clue where to start.

Avoid Handling
It does not make very much sense to handle an animal you have never handled before without the owner’s guidance or permission. Before they leave and if you are comfortable, have the owner introduce you to their reptile in a calm environment. The more relaxed you are with them, the less anxiety you will have while caring for them.

But when the owner is away and you have decided to pet sit, avoid handling at all during your time with the animal. Each reptile has sharp chompers that they know how to use if they feel threatened by an unfamiliar and inexperienced human who tries to grab them from their enclosure. Snakes like Ball Pythons do not typically tolerate handling anyways unless it is from the owner; they are no dog that needs lots of undivided attention!

Wash Your Hands
If you do have to handle the reptile to check something or to clean their enclosure, wash your hands before and after doing so. Reptile skin and scales can be very sensitive to germs and dirt on your hands, leading to rashes and infections such as septicemia. Reptiles are also known to be carriers of salmonella, which is harmful to us humans. Anything that is associated with the reptile can also be contaminated with salmonella. These can be the animal’s enclosure, feeding equipment, water bowls, etc. Hand washing with soap is the sure fire way of avoiding cross contamination between you, the animal, and the rest of the house.

Stick to the Feeding Schedule
While some reptiles only eat every few days, their feeding times vary with their age and other environmental factors. If it is colder, they tend to eat less as they are going into a hibernation state but they also tend to lose their appetite when it is time for them to shed.

Have the pet owner give you a detailed list of what and when to feed them. Some snakes need pinkies (infant mice) and it is a little jarring for anyone who isn’t used to feeding snakes, so having a demonstration from the owner is a good experience. Luckily, ball pythons and smaller snakes only need to be fed once every week so hopefully the owners aren’t gone too long so you don’t have to worry about it.

The insects that lizards eat are given a coat in a special “dust” before they actually eat them. This dust is a mixture of vitamins and minerals that supplement the lizard’s diet, the insect is simply a meaty vehicle to get a balanced meal.

Routinely Check Enclosure
Checking the enclosure for any cracks or damages is good practice so you do not lose a very clever animal in your house. The enclosure’s door just has to be loose by a fraction and that is enough leeway for a small snake to squeeze on out. Having a free roaming reptile in the house, doing lord knows what, is any pet sitter’s worst nightmare.

Looking at the temperature and humidity in the enclosure also has to be common practice throughout the day. Most reptiles, such as bearded dragons and green iguanas, need UVB or UVA lights so they can absorb calcium properly from their diet. On top of that, they need their required temperatures so they can digest their food correctly without becoming constipated or impacted. Humidity also places a huge importance for some species because they need it to keep their skin and body healthy. Any long term, extreme variation is harmful to the animal.

Have an Emergency Vet Contact

Accidents do happen, unfortunately. Have the owner give you the contacts they have for emergency animal hospitals nearby. These places should have veterinarians that are familiar or even specialize in the care of exotic animals. If you are unsure about the animal’s behavior, coloring, or lack of eating, always contact the owner first before jumping to conclusions. They probably have dealt with a similar problem because reptiles tend to be a finicky pet to take care of, especially rescues with special needs.