Starter Pets: Bearded Dragon
Bearded Dragons can make excellent pets for those who want a lizard that can be handled, but also have enough space for larger tank or enclosure.
So your child has expressed interested in a scaley friend or perhaps you are hoping to get into the reptile hobby yourself! Undoubtedly, you've heard someone mention "bearded dragons" as a good beginner pet. While they are very common in the pet trade, they have their own pros and cons.
One of the difficult aspects of the reptile-keeping hobby is maintaining the right environment for your pet. This is typically measured in terms of temperature and humidity. For example, an animal that is native to the rainforest would need to have that environment mimicked in its enclosure in captivity. For most people, recreating a rainforest inside their own home can present a daunting challenge. Since Bearded Dragons are native to the woodlands and deserts of Australia, new owners can focus on getting the correct temperatures for their pet without the added complication of higher humidity requirements.
Additionally, Bearded Dragons have a naturally more docile temperament. Active youngsters can become calm and mellow adults with regular handling. All young lizards will tend to be flighty, but hatchling bearded dragons are relatively calmer compared to young water dragons or iguanas. At a typical pet store, baby bearded dragons will be easier for a novice to handle than baby leopard geckos. However, leopard geckos may make better pets for those who want an animal that has less demanding space requirements or those who tend not to be home during the day.
You may have seen the cute baby lizards that look like the picture on the left. These pictures are of the same lizard! Most will reach adult size within the first year.
A Bearded Dragon's size can be a pro or a con depending on what someone is looking for in their pet. On one hand, their size makes them a more interactive pet. It's much easier to supervise a free roaming adult bearded dragon when they are easier to catch and cannot fit into impossibly small spaces like an anole or a gecko. They also are not as large as other lizards such as tegus and iguanas that could easily cause harm to people or other pets. Of course, these medium-sized lizards will need larger enclosures than other typical beginner species (such as the leopard gecko mentioned earlier). An enclosure that is four feet by two feet might be a good home for a bearded dragon that is also allowed time out of its enclosure for exercise. This is not the type of habitat that can be easily fit on top of a bookcase and blend in with the room's decor. While it is common practice to keep bearded dragons in a 40 gallon glass tank, this might not work for every lizard. Some will be too large or active and others may be stressed by their own reflection.
Bigger lizards also mean bigger appetites! Baby bearded dragons can certainly run up a feeding tab. Most of their diet will consist of crickets, mealworms, and roaches. As they get older, they may show more of an interest in fruits, carrots, and other leafy green vegetables. It's not uncommon for a baby bearded dragon to eat $20-$40 worth of food in one week! They will need to be fed daily and will need their meals to be dusted with calcium (with D3) to support their bone growth. Adult bearded dragons may only need to eat every few days, but you can still expect to spend about $5-$10 per week on food. Bearded Dragons are diurnal which means that they are only active during the day. It is best to feed them after they have had a chance to warm up in the morning, but not too late in the day that their bodies will not have the heat necessary to digest their food. Food that is not consumed should be removed. People who have busy schedules during daylight hours may find it difficult to find a good feeding time for their lizard.
A Bearded Dragon may be a great addition to your home, but make sure to do your research first! These lizards typically live 10-15 years, so they are no minor commitment. It is not uncommon for owners to become "bored" with their pet. Never release a pet into your surrounding environment. Not only is this harmful for your pet, but it can also be harmful for the local ecosystem. There are many methods for re-homing or surrendering a pet that is no longer wanted. Please research these options for your area. If you are considering a new reptile pet, make sure that you have the physical and financial resources to care for your new friend. As exciting as it may be to see a baby grow into an adult, consider contacting your local reptile rescue to find out if they have any bearded dragons that are up for adoption.
Pet lizards have become more popular in recent years and the Bearded Dragon may have had a significant contribution to this rise in popularity. Their unique appearance and calm temperament make for great handeable pets as long as they have owners that are willing to meet the requirements for their care.
Do ferrets make good pets?
People often ask us “do ferrets make good pets?” Like most subjective questions, the simplest answer is “well, it depends.” Ferrets can be great pets for people who value a small, quiet, and interactive pet. However, ferrets are not great for those who want a low cost pet that doesn’t require much time or energy.
Unlike many of the animals that we present in shows, ferrets are actually domesticated. As dogs are to wolves, ferrets are to their wild counterpart, European polecats. They have been domesticated for roughly 2,500 years. They were originally used to hunt rabbits and other small rodents. Their domestication process is more similar to dogs than to cats in that they were bred for their ability to cooperate with humans while hunting (Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-made World by Richard C. Francis). By nature, ferrets are more social than cats, but less social than dogs. Their body language tends to be more expressive than that of a cat, but they are still considerably more aloof than a dog.
Individual ferrets have a range of personalities and temperaments. Here, at Ferrets and Friends, we have a five year old male, Samson, who will frequently request to be held, get his back scratched, and his belly rubbed. Our four year old female, Ramona, will show curiosity about human activity, but she mostly prefers to seek out her own adventures which include hiding toys. Our newest addition, Riley, is about four months old and full of energy. She spends most of her time chasing after people, jumping and tackling their legs or feet, and playing with whoever finds her antics amusing. The level to which a ferret wants to engage with people varies greatly with each individual.
Even though ferrets are domesticated, an untrained ferret can be a bit too “wild”. Ferret skin is actually tougher than people skin, so young ferrets must be taught what level of biting is acceptable for their human friends. Ferrets naturally play very rough! Most kits can be taught to be gentle and to not nip faces, ears, or ankles. An adult ferret who was never taught good manners with people can be trained, but it may take more work as this behavior has likely been unintentionally reinforced throughout its life.
The Challenges of Ferret Ownership
Can ferrets be housebroken or litter-trained? Most ferrets can be trained to a certain extent. As they naturally prefer to go to the bathroom in corners, placing a litter pan in the corner may be sufficient for some ferrets to learn the desired behavior. Other ferrets will be very stubborn, even “faking it” when their owners place them in the litterbox so they can go eliminate where they originally wanted. Ferrets have a very fast metabolism and need to eat every 4-6 hours, which means they will eliminate just as frequently. That’s a lot of mess for a small animal! As a carnivorous mammal, their excrement is closer to a cat’s or dog’s, which means that it cannot easily be swept up as is the case with rodents such as rabbits, chinchillas, or guinea pigs.
While many stores will advertise ferrets as being a “caged” pet, cages do not allow ferrets adequate stimulation or exercise. Here, at Ferrets and Friends, our ferrets have their own room and are also allowed supervised play outside of their room for a few hours per day. If ferrets are kept in a cage, they should have at least four hours per day of out of cage time (preferably broken into two separate sessions). Providing ferrets with a safe play area can be one of the most difficult parts of ferret ownership as ferrets are able to get into EVERYTHING. Anywhere their skull can fit, their squirmy bodies can follow. This can mean under cabinets, inside furniture or appliances, under doors, into walls, and anywhere you could imagine. There are few commercial pet gates or baby gates that ferrets can’t either fit through or climb over. Some ferrets are known to chew cords or scratch carpet. Their intelligence can become a hazard as they learn to pull open sliding doors or unzip purses and bookbags. Ferret-proofing an area is an act of constant vigilance and creativity. The larger the area in your home that your ferrets have access to, the more you’ll have to factor in your ferrets’ penchant towards mischief in your decisions about furniture and furniture placement. In this way, ferret ownership can become a lifestyle.
The cost of ferret ownership will be similar to that of a dog or cat. They require annual vet visits and vaccines for rabies and distemper. There are also several diseases that are common as ferrets get older which will require costly treatments. With their unending curiosity, even in a ferret-proofed home there is still a risk for an emergency vet visit. A vet bill of $500-$1500 is not unheard of for pet ferrets and is likely to occur at some point in your ferret’s lifetime.
If you haven’t been dissuaded by these factors, chances are that you may be the kind of person who would enjoy sharing your life with a ferret. While their ability to create messes is outstanding, ferrets are generally very clean. Regular nail trimming is usually necessary about once per month and a bath may only be necessary every few months. Bathing your ferret too frequently can actually increase their smell as their bodies produce more oil to compensate. Ferrets only shed twice per year as they change their seasonal coats. Allergies to ferrets are very rare and are usually unrelated to a person’s allergies to cats or dogs.
Owning a ferret can be compared to having a puppy or kitten that doesn’t grow up. They tend to sleep most of the day, but when they are awake it’s time to play! Sometimes that play can involve digging up houseplants or stealing items from the laundry hamper. If you have a good sense of humor and you’re looking for a small pet to bring some excitement into your life, ferrets may be for you! Just be sure to put some money aside and stock up your cleaning supplies.
About the blog
Ferrets and Friends, LLC has four writers bringing you information on a variety of topics from pets to wildlife, education to conservation, and from new developments in our business to information about our industry. Learn something new each week!