If you are one of the legions of people who have acquired, or are about to obtain a new pet snake, then you are also about to have a rewarding experience. Snakes have a lot to teach us. A properly maintained terrarium can be a work of art – many are prominently displayed in homes – so long as the snake keeper keeps some essential information in mind:

· Be sure you give your snake enough heat – that means enough for the snake, not you. A snake is best kept at warmer, summer temperatures of 85 – 100 degrees F, unless being cooled for hibernation. Temperate zone species may tolerate a 30 degree drop in temperature at night, but tropical species rarely do well with such fluctuations.

· Never, ever use your snake to scare somebody! Many people are afraid of snakes, some pathologically so. Using a snake to scare a person is irresponsible of you, may cause injury to another person, and is traumatic for the snake.

· Be sure to feed your snake an adequate diet at appropriate intervals. Snakes under 3 feet in length should generally be fed prey about the size of an adult mouse once or twice a week. Larger snakes take more or larger prey at less frequent intervals. Truly large snakes may eat only once per year, but these are not snakes for novices.

· Do not handle snakes after feeding, or until they have digested their meals. If a snake is handled too soon after eating, it is often likely to regurgitate the meal, and may refuse to feed for many days afterward.

· Snakes must shed their skins, but they do much better if you do not help them. If the snake has been fed and watered well, it will grow, and the old skin is carefully broken by the snake and shed in one piece. If a snake sheds in patches, it may be dehydrated or have a nutritional disorder.

· Do your homework! Buying a snake is not the same as knowing how to care for it properly. It is your responsibility to learn about your snake and any special needs it will have in captivity. For example, unless you carefully teach your snake otherwise, many have specialized diets: garter snakes eat fish and frogs, hognose snakes eat toads, and corn snakes eat small rodents and eggs.

· Get a snake veterinarian lined up now. Snakes have a slower metabolism than us mammals, so they may manifest symptoms long after contracting an illness. Waiting to find a qualified vet until the snake is ill may be too late.

· Clean the snake’s cage as it becomes dirty – don’t merely wait for Saturday morning. Only use appropriate disinfectants for a snake cage. You may use rubbing alcohol, soap, and specialty products available at your pet shop. Do not use chlorine bleaches or industrial cleansers such as Ajax or Comet, because their residues are often toxic to snakes. Lysol is particularly dangerous.

· Always wash your hands well with soap and water after handling your snake or the cage accessories. Snakes, like most animals, may harbor dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella.

· Okay, now go watch your snake and have some fun!

Are you interested in creating or adopting your very own virtual pet? You may have seen the new Webkinz plush toys that also come with a free virtual pet image of the plush animal. Many children are beginning to collect these pets as well as participating in the virtual world. Virtual desktop pets offer great advantages, especially if you have children who have an interest in getting a live indoor pet. They are completely maintenance free unlike real pets. If you do not want to have to worry about the hassle of cleaning after your indoor pets and ensuring that they are well taken care of, then a virtual pet may be the way to go.

In addition to the maintenance free aspect of having one, if you have a child interested in adopting a real pet, then by allowing them to experience caring for a virtual pet, they will learn how to better care for a pet overall. They will gain better responsibility and understand that pets require food, shelter, and love and cannot be neglected. Many of the virtual pet games will require that the owner feed the pet or take the pet for a walk so that they can do many of the same or similar tasks that would need to be done with a real pet. The owners can get additional points or rewards by doing these tasks or can see their pet’s health or abilities decline for failure to do their part.

If you worry about the expenses of caring for a real live pet like the vet bills, immunizations, or food, then this is something that is completely non-existent. Owning a pet can be very costly and if you do not have the money to invest in a pet, then you can consider a virtual pet. You can find many free pet sites to get you started.

If money is not a factor, but you do not want to deal with house training or cleaning after a pet, then this could also be considered to be an advantage as well. Maybe your kids have severe allergies and cannot live with the fleas and ticks that some animals may leave behind. Well, with virtual pets this is not a factor. As you begin to consider adoption, then you will see how convenient they are and how they can be great companions for all alike. Either way, you will not go wrong with your choice.