Monday, January 28, 2013

Snake Owner Owns Much More Than He Bargained For

Dear Tazi:

I am 17, and plan on moving into my own place as soon as I turn 18. My Mom has a ton of rules that I don’t like living by, from how I have to eat to how I keep my room. I have been working since I was 15 and have saved a lot of money, have a friend who has agreed to be my roommate, and have my plans all worked out so there is no need for you to lecture (or "advise") me on whether or not I am ready to move out and what to expect. That isn't my problem

My problem is that I want a pet snake, and my mother said no, as expected. A friend’s older brother had to get rid of his snake when he moved in with his girlfriend. Since I am going to be 18 in less than a year I offered to take the snake when I moved, which he said was fine. Since that agreement, his girlfriend decided it was not fine, since the snake – a red-tailed boa – gives her the creeps. I had no choice but to take the snake or risk not getting it at all, so I took it and have been hiding its tank in my bedroom closet – my Mom never goes in there; one of her rules is that I put my own clothes away (a sub-rule of keeping my room clean).

My closet isn't all that big, and I had no idea how fast or how big this snake was going to grow. I am going to need a bigger tank for it, but that won’t fit in my closet. I am thinking of hiding it in my garage with a heat lamp to keep it warm, but my friends tell me that won’t work – the snake will still be cold; one friend said it might start a fire that way (his Dad is a firefighter). I don’t want to tell my Mom about the snake because she will make me get rid of it. Do you know of any place I might hide it from her until September?

Snake Lover

Dear Snake Lover:

Like Indiana Jones, I hate snakes, so you will not get much sympathy from me. 

The snake, however, is a living creature so he has my sympathy. Snakes are poikilothermic - that’s the big, fancy scientific word that means their body temperature is not constant, and fluctuates with their surroundings. The common term, “cold blooded” is a misnomer; when kept in too hot of an environment, poikilothermic creatures can die from overheating. That is your first lesson in owning an exotic animal! Your second lesson will be in responsibility. 

Since you are surprised at how large and fast your snake is growing, you must have taken it in while it was still a baby – a hatchling, as they are properly called, and only a foot or two in length. By the end of one year that snake will be 5 or 6 feet long; by the end of two years even longer – and much wider. You are going to need a very large apartment that will hold a very large tank. In the meantime, there will be no hiding this creature from your mother. 

According to, a website dedicated to the care of amphibians and reptiles as pets, when it comes to owning a boa constrictor (which is what the red-tailed boa is), you need to ask yourself: “Do you really want a snake that will get to be 10 feet long, weigh over 50 pounds, urinate and defecate like a St. Bernard, should live more than 30 years and for whom you will have to kill mice, rats and, eventually, small rabbits?

That will be one large poop!

Did you not realize that your snake would get this large when you adopted it? Can you now see why your mother would not like having a boa constrictor living in her house? If, at this point, you are having second thoughts about owning such a snake, it is time for you to own up to your behavior and tell your mother what you have done so she can work with you in finding a new home for this snake or a shelter that will attempt to find an adoptive owner for it. (Since you are under 18, you cannot enter into a binding legal contract, and will need your mother's help here).

If you are committed to being a responsible snake owner, you will still have to inform your mother that you have a boa constrictor in your closet. Seriously, this is not the type of creature that you can easily hide, and things could end badly for the snake if your mother accidentally discovers it out of its cage and calls animal control!

If you have a heated basement, you should be able to keep the snake in a large tank in the basement, away from your mother, without injury to the animal until you move out of her house – this would only work if your mother was in agreement with this plan. If your mother is dead-set against having the snake in her house, you will have to look for a very understanding friend or a professional shelter that would board the animal for you until September. Whatever you do, do not release the animal into the wild. Not only is this illegal, it disrupts the ecosystem and could very well mean death by starvation or disease for the snake, which was born in captivity.

I realize that you do not like living by your mother’s rules, but as long as you live in her house you will have to do as she demands. Even if you get your own apartment, there will be rules to follow – specifically, those put down by your landlord, so make sure that any lease you sign is to your agreement and that it allows for you to keep a large snake as a pet. Did I mention that red-tailed boas can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 50 pounds? Be sure that you mention this to a prospective landlord, lest you break the terms of your lease and get evicted.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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