The Reptile Revolution: Understanding the Appeal of Reptiles as Pets

Posted - July 17, 2023

By Carol Bryant, Professional Pet Blogger

Something slithery is shaking up the pet industry – reptiles have increased in popularity over the past several years. Though they are dry and scaly, reptile lovers consider them to be exotic, unique, low-maintenance pets with fascinating behaviors. 

Statistically speaking, of the 86.9 million households in the United States that own a pet, at least six million of them are reptile homes. Turtles, snakes, and reptiles are finding their way into the homes of younger pet owners.  

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) reports that between 18 percent and 29 percent of Generation Z are proud to own a reptile or two.  

“Reptiles used to be thought of as unusual pets but have really transitioned to companions, even becoming part of the family for people,” says Ernie Katris of Zilla. “We are seeing reptile owners becoming younger; therefore, they tend to be significantly more influenced by their media and content on digital and social channels.” 

If you’ve ever considered sharing life with a reptile, you landed in the right place. If the thought of owning a snake or lizard sends shivers up your spine, we’re convinced we can change your mind.  

Unique Traits and Characteristics of Reptiles 

Some of the cool aspects of reptiles are some of the reasons people are flocking to them as pets. These include:  

  • Water is unable to escape through a reptile’s skin, making them impermeable. 
  • Reptiles shed their skin continuously throughout their lifetime. 
  • Shivering and sweating are not possible in reptiles; they bask in the sun to get warm or head to a shady area to cool off. 
  • Some lizards can glide with the assistance of wing-like flaps between their limbs. 
  • Unlike snakes, lizards have two external ear openings, and most have two pairs of legs. 

Fun fact: Green iguanas become immobile when the weather dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Floridians commonly see iguanas dropping from trees as the temperature goes down. Fortunately, they are not dead; instead, they wait to thaw out in the sun. 

What People Love About Reptiles 

Ryan Jordan of Portland, Oregon, has shared life with reptiles for over 25 years. He’s owned everything from kingsnakes to rosy boas, geckos to iguanas, and all sorts of turtles and tortoises.  

He admits it’s hard to pick a favorite, but he has a strong fondness for Mexican Black Kingsnakes and wants to welcome some uncommon pygmy chameleons to his home. 

“Kingsnakes and corn snakes are excellent first snakes,” he says, “and crested geckos are great for beginners as well.” 

Some commonly recommended first-time reptiles include bearded dragons and ball pythons, but Jordan admits they require more initial investment, supplies, and care.  

Reptile Health and Wellness Care  

Like all pets, reptiles require regular health and wellness checkups, a species-appropriate diet, and in-home care.  

Conditions such as irritated and dry skin, scale rot, and abnormal shedding are bound to appear in a reptile’s life.  

Fortunately, products like Zylafen from ZYMOX are easily stored in your reptile’s first aid and care kit. Both the topical and spray-on solutions of Zylafen contain no steroids or antibiotics; they are non-toxic and won’t sting.  

Jordan has rarely run into health issues with his reptiles, but he’s assisted with rescue over the years. He has seen metabolic bone disease, stuck sheds, and mites.  

While most skin and shedding issues can be prevented with proper husbandry, something to help loosen bad sheds or kill mites would be useful at times, especially on small extremities like tails and toes,” he shares. 

Reptiles can make great pets, but a lot of them should be treated kind of like fish keeping,” Jordan muses. “More for observation than for cuddling.” 

About the Author

Arden Moore

Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant as a “dog lover of the highest order” when she and her Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, appeared on Oprah Radio. Carol is well-known in the pet industry, having appeared on television, radio shows, and podcasts, as well as in articles from CNN and Yahoo to Dogster and She is the founder of the award-winning blog and is the Immediate Past President of the Dog Writers Association of America.

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