Are you a reptile lover? Do you live in the Oakland area? Then these tips are for you! We’ve put together 15 tips to help you care for your reptile and help them live their lives to the fullest. Whether you're a novice or a more experienced owner who is looking for resources in the area, we can help!
set up care for your reptile
Do your homework! From humidity and temperature to food preferences and environment, reptile species have a wide spectrum of differences. Getting a reptile isn’t as easy as plugging in a heating rock and a terrarium. Make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility that comes with the particular reptile you’re interested in. Start with a reptile that has relatively easy needs to meet. Once you have learned how to maintain an easier habitat, you can expand your scaly family with a slightly more challenging critter.
Prep your vivarium. Have your reptile's habitat set up before adding the reptile. This way you can be sure you have everything you need to monitor the habitat conditions. You will also have temperature and humidity perfect so your reptile can make themself right at home.
Placement is important. Be conscientious of habitat placement. Vivariums and other enclosures should not be placed near windows. Reptiles do benefit from natural sunlight, but placing their terrarium by a window may cause overheating.
Natural is best. Set up your reptile’s habitat to mimic their natural environment. Plants, substrate, rocks, branches, find out what your reptile likes best, and recreate their natural habitat. Bioactive Supply has a wide range of vivarium supplies so you can make your reptile’s environment perfect. You can order online, or check their calendar for expo dates.
basic care for your reptile
Be vigilant about maintenance. Reptiles are a little high maintenance when it comes to their environment and all of the gadgets they need. You’ve got misters, lights, and more!
UV bulbs are needed in your reptile's enclosure to help them manufacture D3, an essential vitamin needed for calcium absorption. Unfortunately, lack of UV light (and a proper diet) can lead to a Metabolic Bone Disease that can be incredibly difficult to reverse.
Reptiles also need their environments to stay within a specific temperature and humidity to stay healthy. So it’s important to do frequent checks of temperature and humidity. This way, any changes or equipment malfunctions can be caught quickly.
Pro-tip: Make sure to change your U/V B bulbs every 6 months for maximum effectiveness.
Have an emergency plan on hand. Have emergency supplies and a plan on hand so you’re prepared if the power goes out. Back up generators, hand warmers in a sock… there are a plethora of ways you can keep your reptiles at a safe temperature in case of a blackout. Find the one that works best for you.
Make sure they eat their greens. Many lizards and turtles love chowing down on some leafy greens. Collard greens, turnip greens, and romaine are great choices for leaf loving lizards. Fruit is also an essential part of the diet of many lizards and aquatic turtles.
Don’t forget their vitamins. Reptiles need calcium! Make sure you're providing your reptile with a calcium supplement. In addition to calcium, some reptiles need additional supplementation of vitamins; for example, turtles need Vitamin A. This circles back to: DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
enrichment & handling
Stimulate their minds. Enrichment is important for reptiles too! There’s more to life than sitting on a branch, and your reptile wants to experience it. They enjoy exploring new things, experiencing new textures, and discovering new smells. Think about changing up the substrate in their habitat on a regular basis.The new environment will give them tons to explore and check out. For enrichment, you can also add activities to their daily routine. For ideas on enrichment activities for your reptile, check out this awesome video from Zen Habitats.
Let them enjoy the outdoors- This is more difficult with snakes, but a warm summer day is the perfect time to take your lizard out to get some natural sunlight. To make sure they don’t get themselves into a pickle, a ferret harness is a good fit for a bearded dragon, and you can even find harnesses sized perfectly for geckos!
Handle with care. If you did your homework, you’ll know if your reptile is a type that generally enjoys interaction… or is a bit intolerant. If they don’t mind, then handle them regularly. Be confident, but gentle, and don’t grab them by the tail. Handling your reptiles helps them bond with you in their own unique way. It also helps you get to know their behaviors better. Knowing your reptile will help you notice if something seems “off” since reptiles are good at hiding injury and illness.
Wash your hands. The importance of hand washing can not be overstated. For your health, and that of any other critters or people in your home, wash your hands after handling your reptiles. Many of them are naturally a host to Salmonella, which is a bacteria that causes food poisoning.
professional care for your reptile
The right medical care is a must. Find a veterinarian that specializes in exotics. Appropriate veterinary care is just as important for reptiles as it is for more traditional pets. Luckily, in Oakland, we have access to plenty of veterinarians who can care for exotic pets. You can find a list with links here.
Have a go to supply store. Find a reptile supply store that has knowledgeable staff. Even if you have experience with reptiles, it’s helpful to know you can get good advice, whether you’ve decided to add a new species to the mix, or you need a specialty item. East Bay Vivarium has the honor of being the oldest reptile store in the US and routinely participates in reptile education events. If you have questions, they can help.
Pro-tip: Check out The Norcal Reptile Expo happening at Alameda County Fairgrounds this month! February 18th and 19th, there will be some great vendors there with plants and supplies for reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
Use a pet sitter who knows exotics. If you go out of town for business or pleasure, you need someone you can trust to take care of your reptiles. Instead of trusting a regular pet sitter who tacks exotics on as an afterthought, or your friend who screams when a cricket jumps, find an exotics specialist.
Fur And Feather Pet Care specializes in unique pets. Michelle is a Registered Veterinary Technician with over 30 years of experience working with reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and more.
With years of experience under her belt, Michelle is specifically trained to monitor and notice any signs of illness or distress in exotic pets. Reptiles, like many exotic pets, are known to expertly hide the fact that they’re not feeling well.
Another really important thing? You don’t have to worry about feeding! Michelle is not afraid of feeding reptiles with roaches, worms, mice, you name it.
You can read even more about Michelle’s experience in this helpful blog post. Plus, learn more about why it’s so important to hire a professional to care for your reptile.