So, your folks won't let you have a reptile...
©1997 Melissa Kaplan
Even when armed with all the information, including understanding that not all reptiles are dangerous, many parents are still unwilling to get a reptile for their kids, or allow their children to get a reptile. There may be many reasons for this, including knowing their kids well enough to know that a reptile may all too likely be a passing fad and being unwilling to take on the care of the reptile themselves (you may not think your folks have much of a life, but their days are probably overfilled with things to do as it is!). They may understand the financial commitments--and uncertainty--that a pet (or another pet) means, and may not feel they are able or are willing to make that commitment at this time.
So, what can you do besides whine, wheedle, beg and just generally make a pest of yourself?
If you have been telling your parents that you will be conscientious about caring for a reptile, they will want to see you demonstrate that commitment by seeing you do the things you already need to do, and doing them when they need to be done. When your reptile's cage needs to be cleaned, or it needs to be fed or watered or have the heat light replaced, it can't wait - you need to get right on it. If you typically procrastinate and find other things to do, putting off what needs to be done, there is no reason for your parents to expect that you will be any different when it comes to caring for an animal of any type.
While the total cost of any reptile far exceeds the reptile's sticker price, what it costs to set up a reptile in New York city may be very different than what it costs in Redding, California. What you need to do to research out housing expenses is to go to several local pet stores, pad of paper in hand, and start making some notes. Even the most easy-to-care-for reptile has some very specific requirements. Depending on what type you decide to get, basic equipment and furnishings include:
Many people figure they can skimp on the enclosure size or delay in getting the equipment their animal needs. The problem is, the reptile needs the proper heating, lighting, substrate, food, etc., now ! All too often, owners find that they end up with a dead reptile. Or they may end up having to spend hundreds of dollars in veterinary expenses and the cost of the equipment they should have bought to begin with...and still their reptile may be too far gone to make it.
For veterinary expenses, check with the local herpetological society or wildlife rescue group to see who the good reptile vets are in your area, then call their offices. You don't need to actually talk to the vet as the office staff can tell you how much an initial exam for a new patient, a fecal flotation and worming medicine is (which is what you can expect to pay for any new reptile who is basically healthy but needs to be wormed).
If you can't save enough from your allowance, birthday gifts and after school jobs to not only get everything your reptile needs to start with, and to get all the replacements it is going to need (replacing burned out bulbs, vitamins, food supplies, substrate, cleaning/disinfecting supplies, annual replacement of the UVB tubes, etc.) in addition to what you are going to have to pay for the animal itself, and your parents are not willing to chip in or carry the full cost themselves, don't get it. It is not fair to the reptile to subject it to inadequate housing, food and care just because you desperately want to have it.
By the way, "do some research" doesn't mean posting on a newsgroup or message board or emailing someone demanding "tell me everything you know about [species] so my mom will let me have one" or "how much does a corn snake cost?" While the information and resources available through the Internet should be a part of your research, it should not, and cannot, if you are doing a thorough job, be the only resource you tackle in finding out everything you can about the care and keeping of the reptiles you are interested in.
your parents involved
prepare to compromise
As above, don't whine, wheedle, beg, or complain. Do it enough, and your folks just may change their minds! Instead, roll with their decision. Start off nice and slow. You may be one of the lucky ones whose reptiles grow on their parents, leading to more reptiles, like the ones you wanted to get to begin with, a year or more down the line.
Remember that, even with all the research you did, and no matter how prepared you were for that reptile, it is still going to be a learning experience for you. You are going to need to learn how to adjust your own schedule and responsibilities to fit in the care your reptile needs, the handling sessions, cage cleaning days, getting food for it, monitoring the equipment to make sure it is working all right, etc.
Many reptiles should be handled regularly. Not only does it give them exercise they wouldn't ordinarily get in their enclosure, but it provides mental stimulation for them, too. Just think about how crazy you'd get if you had to stay in your room all day (with most of the fun stuff taken out, including radio, television, your computer and hand-held video games), day after day after day, week after week, month after month. That, unfortunately, is what happens to too many reptiles that kids get. Football or soccer or whatever season starts, practice starts taking up what time isn't spent eating, studying and kicking back with your friends, and pretty soon your reptile starts getting snappy or hissy when you finally think to go take it out for awhile, so you put it away again. Just as it isn't fair to the reptile to start out with anything less than the enclosure and equipment it needs, so too isn't it fair to leave many of them completely alone except for when you remember to feed, water and clean.
for the future
Planning on going away to college and living away from home? If you are planning on living in student housing with your reptile, you may need to think again. Most college and university dorms and student housing prohibit the keeping of any pets; some specifically prohibit reptiles, or certain reptiles. Think you can just sneak yours in? Read the fine print and think again. Housing facilities staff generally have the right to enter student rooms without the student present or any advance notification given. If you are renting a house or an apartment, landlords can do the same thing if there is something like leaky plumbing to be fixed. Think your friends won't rat you out? Think again...it just takes one ticked off friend or acquaintance to tell the wrong person that you have been hiding a 15 ft python in your closet. Too many students end up with very sick animals because they aren't able to provide the right environment, diet, or veterinary care for it, or are faced with finding a home for themselves or their reptile within 24 hours once the facilities staff finds out and gives notice of eviction.
folks still say no...
And, if worse comes to terrible, and your parents can't be swayed while you are living under their roof, don't despair. The time will come when you will be on your own, with all the joys and not-so-joys of maintaining your own household and vehicle, and earning your own money to pay for it all. Then you can indulge yourself and get that reptile you've always wanted. And, who knows? Having one then may be a great way to keep your folks from dropping in unexpectedly!
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