I raised snakes and iguanas for 20 years and let them free roam my house whenever they wanted. Potty trained the iguanas and even a garter snake! Great creatures, but they're not for everyone! Ask Me Anything!

Stephie D
Jun 3, 2017

For reptile lovers or people who want to have reptiles, great time to ask questions.

Steph De La Garza says:

This AMA will end Jun 3, 2017 7:15PM EDT

Stephie D says:

This AMA will end Jun 3, 2017 6:15PM EDT

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People either love em or hate em and I'd like to change the negativity associated with reptiles.

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Years of personal experience and dedication to reptiles.

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What research do you do about these animals to learn more or improve as an owner?

Jun 3, 11:21AM EDT0

Hi Robert,

at the time I had them, I owned the Green Iguana's Manual by James Hatfield since it was the best book out at the time and quite comprehensive. I also joined iguana forums which were a great way to talk to other owners and learn from their mistakes. As for snakes, I owned some snake books but mostly, I took them on myself. I also had an exotic vet whom I could ask questions to.

Jun 3, 4:20PM EDT0

Are there any that you've had to confine to a smaller space?

Jun 3, 6:42AM EDT0

I lived in an apartment when I first started raising snakes but the snakes were garters and longnoses, so they weren't huge. I would often let them out of their aquariums to wander or hang out on plants/trees. I'd even take them outside so they could get some sun. 

My iguanas all had their own bedrooms and backup aquariums which were huge. They also had run of the house and outdoor access.

Jun 3, 4:22PM EDT0

If there's one thing you could tell yourself at the start with what you know now, what is it?

Jun 2, 5:38AM EDT0

Hi, I think it'd be to raise my own organic food to feed my iguanas or buy purely organic to avoid the chance of them getting cancer.

For anyone raising iguanas, know that they love hibiscus...the leaves and the flowers. So if you live somewhere that you can grow these, it's a huge benefit. They regenerate quickly and igs will seek them out. If you buy them from a store, just be sure to wash them down very well in case they had been sprayed (or ask where you buy them). 

I had a couple of bushes planted in the yard and she'd wander over to them and start munching. It was almost difficult for the plant to keep up with her demand, so the bigger, the better!

Last edited @ Jun 3, 4:17PM EDT.
Jun 3, 3:31PM EDT0

How much do their personalities vary from individual to individual?

Jun 1, 12:34PM EDT0

Well I've only had  couple of iguanas and maybe 4 or 5 snakes. I also suppose how well you tune into their personalities determines what you see as individualism. I used to read a lot of iguana threads and the way the people talked about their pets, indicated that they all had very different personalities. It's dependent upon how you raise them and the interaction you supply.

Jun 3, 4:15PM EDT0

Why do you believe people are so scared of snakes? What do you usually do to help someone lose that fear? Thanks!

May 31, 11:53PM EDT0

Hi Falicia,

I think a lot has to do with how they've been raised. Historically, snakes have usually had a negative conotation so most people fear them. I try to explain how they help by keeping insects and rodents in check and that they're always more scared of people. There are few aggressive snakes in the world. Most just like to mind their own business. I had usually owned a snake when I'd educate people about them and show them mine to see how docile they were and that they weren't "slimy." I'd make sure they touched them too. I'd also tell them about my own experiences with them, usually funny things they do or amazing things so they get a different impression of them. 

Jun 1, 3:07AM EDT0

Do you have any interest in chameleons?

May 30, 2:56AM EDT0

Hi John,

yes, I love chameleons. When I looked into keeping them, there were a lot of requirements I didn't feel comfortable with, so I didn't get one. What they were, I don't remember now. I may have been concerned with the humidity or something or their cage setup. They're goregeous animals.

Jun 1, 3:09AM EDT0

Have you ever been bitten by one of your snakes?

May 29, 7:42PM EDT0

Yes, but it was when I was hand feeding them and it was my fault. They never bit me out of anger or defense. 

Jun 1, 3:09AM EDT0

Have you ever lost a relationship because of your unusual pets? Tia

May 29, 9:01AM EDT0

Good question! No, I haven't. It did take some scheduling on weekends though when I had iguanas. I usually wanted to be home by a certain time to feed or take them outside to poop. 

Jun 1, 3:11AM EDT0

What myths would you like to bust about either of these animals?

May 28, 5:19AM EDT0

That they're NOT dumb. I potty trained a garter snake in a couple of weeks! People don't give reptiles enough credit. Also that snakes are beneficial to the environment and none of them deserved to be killed...venomous ones included!

May 28, 9:33PM EDT0

Would you ever be interested in being a professional snake handler?

May 28, 3:07AM EDT0

Yes, I would. I feel I have a way with snakes and they feel comfortable around me. What I don't like are ones they keep in small boxes in order to milk them for their venom. If I were to work in a capacity like that, it would be going to relocate them from people's houses/property. I've handled rattlesnakes because they were around my property in a densely populated city. I didn't want anyone getting hurt and I didn't want anyone to kill them, so I took them in, fed them then relocated them. 

May 28, 9:36PM EDT0

What type of snake makes the best pet to you?

May 27, 7:00PM EDT0

Well, I only had smaller snakes. I did have a 5' ratsnake for a while but he was too big. A larger snake will cost more to feed and heat so if you're just starting out, I'd suggest a smaller one.

May 28, 8:41PM EDT0

What skills have you developed over these years as a pet owner?

May 26, 7:50PM EDT0

Hi Richard! Well, I've learned the hard way about what it takes to keep reptiles. For one, only feeding iguanas organic greens and veggies is the biggest thing I came away with. My second iguana ended up getting a tumour in her stomach and died a pretty bad death which devestated me. I felt that it was due to the greens I bought at the store which had probably been sprayed with pesticides. It never occurred to me to only buy organic. Plus, they cost twice as much money. Looking back, I really should have done this. 

Always monitoring the temperature of reptiles is important also. Especially when they're digesting. Not keeping them warm enough can lead to food becoming overloaded with bacteria, killing the animal. 

May 27, 6:14PM EDT0

What kind of demeanor does an iguana have? Can you influence it?

May 26, 7:26AM EDT0

Hi Justin! Well, they're all different. You have a huge influence on their demeanor. If you start out with a very young one, you need to interact with it a lot if you want it to become tame and sociable with you and other people. I also think that having other human interaction, other than yourself, helps them to feel more comfortable around people in general. Iguanas tend to stick to whomever raises them and can often get jealous of another person! I remember reading once where a girl who was raising a male iguana had her boyfriend over. He was sitting next to her on the couch and the iguana came up and sat right between them...sort of like saying, "She's MINE!" Another funny story was about a woman who was raising one and the husband did something that made the iguana mad. The iguana went into the bedroom, got under the sheets on HIS side of the bed and pooped there. They have quite the personality!

May 27, 6:18PM EDT0

How many of each have you ever owned at one time? Thanks

May 25, 8:18AM EDT0

Hi Ariel19. I think I had about 4 snakes at one time. I had an iguana and one or two snakes during another time. I've never had more than 4 at once though. When I had iguanas I only owned one at a time.

May 27, 6:20PM EDT0

Has one of your animals ever escaped your home?

May 24, 7:20PM EDT0

Hi Alyssa90...thankfully, no. Although there was one tme when my iguana was in season and she was able to free roam in the backyard. I'd never had any issues with her trying to get away but caught her one day climbing up the brick siding of the house! She could have easily gotten on the roof or made it into a tree and I would never have thought to look there. I was able to catch her as she was climbing up, but only barely! Iguanas tend to get a lot more active during breeding season and move quickly and unpredictably. 

May 27, 6:22PM EDT0

What gave you the idea to raise snakes and iguanas?

May 24, 1:11PM EDT0

Well when I moved to Texas, we were walking to the pool one day and a baby snake ran over my foot. My boyfriend picked it up and I thought it was so cute that it prompted me to look for a snake to have as a pet! I didn't start raising iguanas until a few years later when my boss said he had one that needed a home. I took her in and the rest is history!

May 27, 6:33PM EDT0

Do you live in a climate that is normal for these types of animals?

May 24, 2:55AM EDT0

I lived in Texas when I raised them, so it was warm enough and of course I had heat lamps and pads set up for them plus I had to get a humidifier, especially for the iguanas.

May 27, 6:34PM EDT0

Are some of them more trouble than others?

May 23, 4:32PM EDT0

Hi Lisa,

reptiles aren't easy to raise. Unfortunately you end up learning along the way, no matter how many books or forums you read. You need to be able to have a vet who knows about exotics you can trust and be nearby. I probably had more issues with the iguanas than snakes. You really have to watch what they eat because they're curious and tend to eat weird things that aren't good for them. I don't advocate anyone owning animals that should be in the wild. I also don't like that pet stores sell them and cause the "problem."

May 27, 6:36PM EDT0

What has been the most difficult part of owning these animals?

May 22, 5:47PM EDT0

Besides having them die, I think the most difficult thing is making sure their food is good (no pesticides) and keeping them warm. Cleaning their enclosures constantly to keep bacteria from affecting them is essential and you never stop learning about them. I won't raise them anymore because losing them was too hard on me.

May 27, 6:38PM EDT0

Which creature is better for a beginner owner to keep?

May 22, 11:48AM EDT0

Hi! Well, I actually don't like to recommend anyone keep snakes or iguanas because I believe they should all just be out in the wild. If you're really set on it though, please do as much research beforehand. I'd start with snakes. I don't like to encourage pet stores to sell snakes or iguanas so it'd be best to maybe find a rescue iguana you can care for. Or if you're into volunteering, look for some kind of reptile rescue place in your area. That'd be a great way to learn.

May 28, 8:45PM EDT0

Have you ever been scared of one of your own pets? Thanks in advance

May 22, 6:51AM EDT0

Hi Kimberly...no, can't say I have. There aren't many creatures I'm afraid of ;-)

May 28, 8:46PM EDT0

What's the funniest thing that one of your pets has done?

May 22, 4:28AM EDT0

When I had my iguana, I had a lounge chair set up for her outside she'd lie on. So I went out there to suntan on my own chair one day and she got off of hers and climbed up on my butt and decided that was a much better place than hers! lol

May 28, 9:32PM EDT0

What can you tell me about your favorite pet ever?

May 22, 4:20AM EDT0

I only had a dog once when I was young then dove into reptiles when I lived on my own, so really it boils down to snakes, iguanas or dogs. I'd have to say my iguanas were my favourite although I really loved my snakes. I enjoyed bonding with my igs and even went so far as to have them on my lap while I went through a large coffee table book of exotic animals with them. They would always react to the jaguar photos which I found interesting.

May 28, 9:41PM EDT0

Do you plan on having these types of animals forever?

May 22, 12:10AM EDT0

Hi, no...I live in New Zealand where there are no snakes and IMHO it's too cold for reptiles to live comfortably in the winter. I don't like having them in cages (unless they're babies) and I move around too much to commit to a pet now.

May 28, 8:52PM EDT0

Have your pets ever freaked out any of your guests?

May 21, 11:03PM EDT0

Hi! No, but I recall once where my mechanic came over and my iguana was chillin on the top of the couch. He went to go pet her and she swatted his hand away with her front foot! It was funny.

May 28, 8:51PM EDT0

How on earth do you potty train an iguana?

May 21, 3:36PM EDT0

I guess it was kind of like any pet. If she went on the floor I'd put her nose near it then take her to her tray. Or for outside training, if I saw her getting ready to go, I'd take her outside in the grass. Eventually she just got used to going outside and would go to the door to be let out. Finally, I'd just leave the door cracked so she could go out if I wasn't home. A small doggie door would work too. It only took a couple of weeks at most do train them. They prefer to always go in one particular spot so just don't move around the "spot" much if it's inside. They also like to poop in water so when I'd give her a bath, I'd position her tail near the drain. After 10-15 min when she was done bathing, I'd just watch for the sign that she was ready to go and start draining the tub and it just got sucked right down. 

May 28, 8:55PM EDT0

Do you have children? Do they get along with the animals?

May 21, 11:16AM EDT0

Hi, no I don't have kids.

May 28, 8:49PM EDT0

What techniques do you use to improve your pets' behavior? Cheers

May 21, 10:15AM EDT0

I actually don't think I tried to improve their behaviour much...just let them be who they were. Iguanas do need attention if you want to keep them sociable though. Some igs really bond well with their owners but I think that needs to start when they're babies. Some are comfortable out in public but mine kinda freaked out too much because I was single and didn't have many people over for her to interact with. 

May 28, 8:57PM EDT0

What do you feed your snakes most regularly?

May 21, 7:20AM EDT0

Well with my garter snakes, I tried to vary their diets. They got feeder fish, worms, tadpoles, defrosted frozen fish pieces (no bones) and sometimes pinky mice. Sometimes the odd insect. The Texas longnose mainly ate pinkies.

May 28, 8:59PM EDT0

What kind of iguanas make the best pets? Thanks

May 20, 11:32PM EDT0

I just had green iguanas so I can't really comment on the different species since I haven't raised any others. Greens are the most common in the US.

May 28, 8:59PM EDT0

Do you have a preference for one of them over the other?

May 20, 8:23PM EDT0

Well I probably liked iguanas just because they were more interactive than snakes. Although my snakes all had their own personalities and were very smart. People don't give them enough credit. I potty trained my garter!

May 28, 9:00PM EDT0

Do any of your friends have a phobia of snakes?

May 20, 6:52PM EDT0

Yes and I would always try to educate people on why not to be afraid. I turned most of them around too and they appreciated snakes and stopped killing them so that was good

May 28, 9:03PM EDT0

What is one thing every pet owner should know about iguanas? Thanks

May 20, 6:16PM EDT0

Good question. I think people have the misconception that they're easy to take care of and they're not. I think it's imperitive to feed them pesticide-free greens and fruits/veggies. I'm convinced it's what caused the death of mine. You must have a good exotic vet nearby too. Female iguanas WILL lay eggs every year if they're healthy (without male interaction) so you need to prepare nesting boxes with the right ratio of sand/dirt and heat. They get a little nuts during that time too. Male iguanas will need an outlet for their sex drive and leave neat little sperm packs around the house. Never had a male ig, but read plenty of stories! They'll stalk a female owner if she's in season too and can jump on them and bite/scratch. It can get ugly! Read as much as possible before getting one and consider a rescue ig. They may be harder to train or become trusting though...depends on the age. There's a LOT to know.

Another interesting thing was that my igs FREAKED out over airplanes and especially helicopters. They thought they were huge birds. You also need to watch out for birds of prey if you have an ig outside and if they're small enough, the bird could literally come down and grab it. 

The other thing is that most all igs seem to react to black and white polkadots. My ig would freak when I'd wear a dress that had large polkadots on it. She also reacted to seeing photos of jaguars so it must be in their DNA to be afraid of those as they're prey to large cats. 

Last edited @ May 28, 9:44PM EDT.
May 28, 9:12PM EDT0

Do you ever wake up with an iguana or snake in your bed?

May 20, 2:48PM EDT0

Only if I put them there! lol My ig used to sleep at the bottom of the bed. Loved flannel sheets and down comforters!

May 28, 9:13PM EDT0

Which of these pets is more expensive to keep over the long term? Thanks

May 20, 1:49PM EDT0

Hmm good question. I didn't really keep track. For snakes, it sort of depends on how big they are as the cost of their food will increase. For a week's worth of mostly non organic food for my ig was around $20. Had I bought organic, it would've doubled. Ultimately I'd suggest growing your own food for the ig if you can so you know it's not sprayed. For snakes, depending on what they eat, pinkie mice were around $3 or so each but that was like 20 years ago. Mice more expensive. Feeder fish were pretty cheap, as were worms.

May 28, 9:16PM EDT0