Pet Lizards Die. They Just Die.

Three out of four reptiles don't live more than a year as pets. It's pretty much owners' faults.

by Ben Marx

Whatever the reasoning, preventable neglect is having a serious toll on reptile pets. According to a new article, 75 percent die during their first year in the home. Remember how, after only a week away at summer camp, your parents had given your gecko a quick and dirty burial? Well, that’s happening on the scale of millions a year

That statistic accompanied a series of articles this week in the journal Veterinary Record that made back-and-forth cases for and against owning reptiles. Reptiles and amphibians are becoming increasingly popular to keep as pets, so much so that they’ve already outpaced dogs in popularity in the U.K. Many owners assume that a lizard or gecko is a substantially low maintenance commitment, which can be an attractive prospect when picking out a pet, but that could be wishful thinking.

Reptiles require proper care, nutrition, and socialization just like any dog or cat, but so many don’t receive these necessities that it’s no wonder three out of four don’t make it living past a year. That’s pretty unacceptable considering that many lizards can usually live to be between 10 and 15 years old.

Depriving a lizard of sufficient mobility and infrequently feeding it are surefire ingredients for a premature death. And while plenty of owners take praise-worthy care of their reptile companions, the common misconception seems to be that they’re more self-sufficient than in reality.

The authors of one article voiced concerns that increasing popularity may provoke spikes in illegal trade, too, placing endangered exotic species at risk. Another team argued that we know so little about reptile’s biological needs that we can barely properly keep them at zoos, let alone private homes. Attempts to provide captive reptile health are “unsustainable,” they wrote.

The general consensus of what’s sure to be an ongoing and heated discussion is that owners need to take greater care of reptiles and devote appropriate attention to their needs. The issue could be helped with better education for owners tailored to their individual reptiles, who might realize, much to their surprise, that their tortoise is fairly social.

If you’re looking to get a reptile just for the sake of a low-commitment companion, devote earnest research to their needs. And please, please remember to feed them.