Reptiles as Pets Are Becoming a Trend But 3 Out of 4 Die in the First Year

Posted by Amber King
lizard as pet

While more and more people are choosing to keep reptiles as pets, not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

In theory, keeping a gecko, snake, or tortoise as a pet is less work than the Golden Retriever found in most American homes. Dogs require daily exercise, training, grooming, and attention, but recent articles published in Veterinary Record expose the misconceptions that are putting the lives of pet reptiles at risk.

Reptile owners may not need to grab a leash and commit to taking their scaly friend on a daily walk, but caring for reptiles isn’t so simple.

A study conducted by researcher Clifford Warwick and his team determined up to 75 percent of reptiles die within the first year they’re brought home. There are a number of factors involved in the startling statistic, but it mostly comes down to the fact that taking care of a lizard or snake isn’t the same as keeping a dog or cat.

pet lizard in a tank

As cold-blooded creatures, reptiles require specific living conditions. They live off food you can’t buy at the grocery store, and there’s a noticeable lack of knowledge about what reptiles need as far as socialization and stimulation. Veterinary Record marks how captive reptiles often exhibit signs of stress including hyperactivity, hypoactivity, and aggression. Their interaction with transparent boundaries and incompatibility to live in a small enclosed space puts most pet reptiles at some kind of risk.

The study goes on to theorize that “reptilian and amphibian biological needs are so complex and require such advanced scientific understanding that they cannot be met even in the best zoos (let alone private homes).”

And while there are many experienced reptile handlers advocating for proper pet care, most reptile owners aren’t scientists or passionate animal enthusiasts. Oftentimes, they are the people who are allergic to cats so they get a gecko, or the teenager who convinces their parents to let them keep a snake because they think it’s cool. They do what they can to keep their slithery pets alive, but a general lack of available information puts them at an automatic disadvantage.


There are some researchers who say the only way to stop this devastating trend of reptilian deaths is to place more restrictions on what kind of pets people are allowed to have. Others argue banning certain breeds will only lead to a surge in illegal exotic pet sales.

Long-term solutions to the problem are still up for debate, but all reptile lovers agree the first step in protecting exotic pets is to spread a greater understanding of what they are and what they need to survive.

Do you have a reptile as a pet? Let us know in the comments.

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Reptiles as Pets Are Becoming a Trend But 3 Out of 4 Die in the First Year