A variety of carnivores exist in the reptile and amphibian world, and the specific feeding of each animal will vary based on the size and age of the animal, as well as what the animal is used to eating. Several things in common to the feeding of each reptile are detailed here.
Feeding Schedule and Time
One important consideration for feeding carnivores, or any reptile, is how to feed them and at what time of the day. Some reptiles are nocturnal, and their natural tendency is to be active and look for food at night so you will want to try to cater to that need and feed in the evening with the lights turned down low in the room. It is very important to read as much as possible about your type of reptile or amphibian before purchasing it so that you can be prepared for whatever extra care may be required when feeding time comes.
Establishing a feeding schedule is very important, so that you do not overfeed or underfeed your animal. Some reptiles, snakes for example, may only need to be fed once each week while lizards, tortoises, and turtles may need to be offered food several days each week. Once you establish a schedule with your animal, stick to it, and they will tend to eat more reliably for you. When learning about your animal, be certain to take note if the species is picky or if it normally isn’t a good reliable eater. Ball pythons have a reputation of being somewhat picky and unpredictable for example, but often once the snake is on a regular feeding schedule, it will often stick to the routine. Some animals, such as savannah monitors, have the opposite issue, and they will overeat if given the opportunity to do so.
- Feeding in the habitat
If you choose to feed your animal in the habitat it lives in and you are feeding crickets or live rodents, then be sure you are using a safe bedding that if accidentally ingested will not compact in the animal’s intestine and cause a blockage. If you are feeding live fish, use a small bowl with water and allow the animal to catch them as it would in nature. If you are feeding worms such as wax or meal worms, use a small shallow dish to keep the worms from escaping and burrowing into the substrate.
- Removing to a feeding area
If you are going to remove the animal to a different container to feed it (often a good idea for snakes), then you will need to make sure the temperature of the container matches the temperature of the animal’s usual habitat. You can do this by putting a small, plastic container inside of the animal’s habitat and then putting the animal in the plastic container. Or you can set up a separate enclosure without bedding in it, with a similar temperature to what the animal is used to. The benefit of feeding the snake in a habitat other than the one it lives in is that it is less likely to strike at you thinking food is coming into its normal habitat—when all you are doing is reaching in to take the snake out and hold it for a while. Establishing a separate container as the place where the animal is fed will help to keep it from mistaking feeding time with play and socialization time.
Appropriate Food Type and Size
Again, it is very important for you to do as much research as possible, to learn about the types of food your carnivore might enjoy eating. Try crickets, mealworms, wax worms, mice, and rats, or even some high-quality, commercially produced packaged carnivore foods that some animals will sometimes convert to. No less important to feeding your animal is to be certain the size of the food is appropriate. If something too large is fed to an animal, the animal may be able to get the object down, but more often than not it will come right back up again. This is especially true with snakes. If something too large is fed to a snake it will typically regurgitate it, causing the snake to become highly stressed and potentially leading to the snake’s demise.
What if the animal won’t eat?
When shopping for a reptile or amphibian, it is a good idea to do some research in your local area to find a veterinarian who handles exotic animals like reptiles. You’ll be prepared in case your animal becomes sick, or if you need help if it stops eating or refuses to eat long enough that you notice weight loss and lethargy in the animal. If the animal will not eat for you, or used to eat well but has stopped eating, then it might be best to contact your veterinarian. A vet will have high-calorie food supplements, vitamin injections, and appetite stimulants that some pet owners use to get a reptile going again. In extreme cases, an experienced vet who handles reptiles can force-feed the reptile if needed. Force-feeding should only be attempted by someone experienced at it, because if it is done incorrectly the animal could die during the attempt or burn off more calories resisting the force-feeding than it would be taking in if it successfully swallows its food.