Frequently Asked Questions
Although the purpose of this website is not to discuss husbandry, I do tend to get a lot of questions regarding the husbandry of exotics in captivity. Therefore, I included a few of the most frequently asked questions - as well as a some questions that had me really, really worried for the poor animal being kept by the human who asked said questions. If you'd like to ask me something, just drop me a line or use the form below.
1) Wasn't this website called 'Dooferette'?
Yes, it was. When I first started my science blog, I named it Dooferette Herpetology. Dooferette was the username I used on many different accounts including *cough* steam. However, the purpose of the website has since changed. I started showcasing more of my work and studies and so I decided to just use my name as an easier point of reference. Also, most people kept spelling Dooferette wrong...bla bla. You get it.
2) Is it true that you can get warts from handling toads?
No. That is an old wives' tale. Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and not from contact with any amphibian species. This may sound like a silly questions to some but you would be surprised at the amount of people that still believe this non-sense.
3) I want to get a Bearded Dragon but bugs creep me out. Could I use any substitute food sources or only feed it vegetables?
No. If you are not prepared to deal with insects, then either look for a different kind of lizard or pet altogether. Having said that, the reality is that looking after any animal takes a huge amount of time, commitment and patience. If you can come up with even one good reason why you shouldn't keep an animal, you probably shouldn't.
4) My friend said that it's ok to keep my Bearded Dragon on sand but I found on the internet that it can cause impaction. What do you use as substrate and what should I use.
Substrate is one of the hottest topics in internet forums. The reality is that there is a lack of scientific studies regarding the impact of different substrates used for animals in captivity. The best source of accurate information regarding any aspect of housing and caring for your pet will be a specialised vet. Therefore, I cannot tell you what you should use. I could tell you my opinion but that would be just that – my opinion. Once you've done some research and decided on what you believe would be the best option for your bearded dragon, it is important that you observe their behaviour. I tried a variety of different types of substrates and some worked better than others. For instance, I've seen lizards that absolutely hate reptile carpet. So much so that they would jump from rocks to logs just so that they wouldn't have to touch the carpet. It was almost as though though they were playing a game of 'the floor is made of lava'.
5) Can I feed my snake on insects?
No! You should feed your snake whatever the appropriate diet for that particular snake is – don’t be a slob! (I cannot tell you just how hopeless I felt for that snake when I got this question...)
6) I am thinking of getting an exotic pet. Where should I buy them?
First of all, ensure you do the 'thinking' part very well. An exotic pet requires a lot of work and commitment - they are definitely not for everyone. If after you've done your thinking, you decide that you would definitely be able to care for them, why don’t you consider adopting? Like many other pets, there is a huge number of exotics up for adoption. If, however, you decide that you would still like to buy, look for places that only buy, sell and breed captive bred animals. If you’re in the south of England, I would definitely recommend Global Geckos. If you’re in the north, Reptile Centre is also a responsible reptile shop.
7) What do I need to do before I get my exotic pet?
The answer to this question will greatly depend on the type of exotic. However, there are a few things that I believe should always be done prior to getting any kind of pet, not just exotics. For instance, research the appropriate care of your pet of choice. Google it, read books, read blogs and forums. Have a good idea of what you are in for – you may find that you are not able to care for the animal properly. Sleep on it. Do not get an animal on impulse. These vulnerable creatures depend on you for survival. Don’t make them suffer and don’t make their lives miserable.Find a vet that can look after your pet. Again, do your research. You may need to find a specialised vet. This is the case with many exotics. Have everything ready and set up before your pet arrives. For most pets, this transition period is very stressful so make sure you make it as easy as you can for them. Prepare yourself to have a lot less free time in your hands. If this is a problem, do not get a pet! Prepare yourself to spend money. Yes, you will spend more money than you thought. Prepare yourself to be amazed. Keeping a pet is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Make life good for both of you!
8) What are your top tips for people getting a new exotic pet?
Register your pet with the vet and take them for a check-up as soon as you get them – even if they look ‘healthy’. Your pet is likely to live a long time and having a track record could really help out should something go wrong in the future. Remember, prey animals are often masters at hiding illnesses. Let a specialist check them and give yourself some peace of mind. Take out an exotic pet insurance! Seriously, you never know when you'll need it. Insure your pets and I maybe set aside a little bit every month into a 'pet emergency' savings account. You never want to be in a position where you simply cannot afford a treatment because you weren't prepared. Keeping a pet is as much as a financial commitment as it is an emotional one. Keep a record of your pet’s weight, behaviour, feeding, defecation, shedding (if applicable) and anything else you think may help. It may sound too methodical or silly to some but it really helps you notice any problems they may be hiding. If like me you too are a numbers person, it is also extremely rewarding to see the patterns in their life-cycle. It is pretty fun to analyse the data you collected over the years. There is specifically designed software available but an excel spreadsheet will be more than enough for what you need. If excel is not for you, nothing stops you from keeping records in a simple notebook.
9) What do you take with you when you go herping?
It really depends on the circumstances. If I'm in the UK and/or go out with this purpose I will take a lot more with me. If I'm hiking and travelling, I will pack a lot less just in case I come across any reptiles or amphibians. I would say, however, that the items I always have with me (the bare minimum) are a pair of disposable gloves: they can fit in any small pockets and come in handy when you're not sure what you are dealing with. In the case of amphibians, it also protects them from any chemicals I might have on my skin, such as sun screen, insect repellent, etc. I also take a small sketching pad and a pencil. I am absolutely awful at drawing but I use it to draw rough sketches and make notes on any characteristics or anything unusual I notice. It helps me remember things later on when I'm researching what I found. I also try and write down where I found the animal in case I don't have a map or GPS to mark it. Lastly, I always take a camera with me. Even if just my phone's camera, although I tend to take a good camera with me. It helps as, like I said before, I'm terrible at drawing. Do bear in mind that depending on where you are and how serious the field herping is, there's a lot more to consider. Have a look at this list, for example.