Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Vacations And Your Reptiles

©2002 Bonnie J. Keller


Summer is almost here, and with it, vacation time. Many people call me at about this time of year to ask about what to do for their new reptilian friends while they are on vacation. Some people want to take them with them on vacation; others want to know of a good pet-sitting service that will care for reptiles. My answers to these queries vary with each person's situation, but in general, here is what I tell them.

For any reptile, taking them with you on vacation is not a good idea. Moving, having a new environment, etc., is extremely stressful to reptiles. It often leads to food refusal, higher than normal aggression, and/or complete withdrawal of your animal. This is especially true if you are going a long way away; the longer the trip, the more stressful on your reptile.

For snakes, little needs to be done while you are away for a week, or even two! Most snakes don't need to eat often (only grass/garter/water snakes need frequent feedings, as well as baby snakes of any type), so if you feed them right before you leave, they should be fine for a 1-2 week vacation. Longer vacations may be OK, depending on the type of snake you have. If you DO have a snake that requires frequent feeding, try to find a friend who knows the basics. Simply make sure that there is a large, untippable water dish in the cage for your snake to drink from. If he happens to defecate in the water while you're gone, he'll be fine until you return. If you're uncomfortable with that thought, allow your snake to "soak" for a few minutes the day before you leave, and that will give him the opportunity to drink. Going without water for 1-2 weeks should not be a problem, as long as the temperature in his cage doesn't get uncomfortably warm for extended periods. In any event, don't take your snake with you - it just causes more trouble than you'd imagine!

Turtles and lizards, on the other hand, require much more attention than do snakes. Many lizards, turtles, and tortoises should be fed daily, or at least every other day. Fortunately, many pet-sitting services (or friends/neighbors) are more likely to help you with these animals than they are with snakes (an unfortunate fact). If your lizards or turtles are insect-eaters, provide an ample supply of insects for your sitter to use, and leave a few dollars with them in case they need to obtain more for some reason (like if the cat accidentally knocks over the cricket cage and lets 100 crickets loose in your house - oops, that's another story, sorry!).

Have them come over a few days before you leave so they can see how many insects to use, what to "dust" them with, if anything. If your lizards or tortoises are vegetarians, leave several days' worth of pre-made chopped food for the sitter to use. Then leave money and your special "recipe" for them to make more when needed. NOTE: Make sure your sitter is willing to do this; not all sitting services will go to the trouble. Water turtles are generally fed in a similar manner to fish, so pet sitters usually don't have any trouble feeding them, but do make sure first. If your water turtle is used to a more specialized diet than the store-bought turtle food sticks, consider getting the sticks just for your vacation. This is one of the few store-bought reptile foods that actually seems to work, and will be OK for your reptile to eat, so use it if you need to!

If you're like me, and have a variety of reptiles, cats, dogs, fish, and a partridge in a pear tree, you'll need to find a really good pet sitter, or a really good friend. Fortunately, I have both, so my vacation is all set. My household routine takes about 25 minutes in the mornings, and another 5 minutes or so at night. My friends who will be caring for my animals during vacation will have their hands full! If you need to find just such a person, let me know. I can often suggest people who might help. Or, if you know of a pet-sitting service that will care for these exotic creatures, let me know that, too - I like being able to refer people to businesses that will work with them! Have a wonderful, safe vacation!

Bonnie Keller can be reached by e-mail, on the web at, and at

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