What kind of snakes can you have as a pet?

Snakes of all kinds are extremely popular in the exotic pet world, and for good reason. They are relatively low maintenance (with minimal feeding requirements compared to many other animals), come in a variety of beautiful colors/morphs, and don’t typically require the constant attention demanded by a dog or cat. With that being said, there can still be some confusion as to exactly what kind of snakes you can have as a pet. Not all have the same temperament or level of care needs, and understanding what will fit your experience level and lifestyle is essential for a positive reptile keeping experience.

While some snakes that are on the aggressive side or even venomous are occasionally kept by experienced, serious reptile collectors or researchers, it’s best to stick to easier to keep species for everyone’s safety. Before seeking out or purchasing any exotic animal, be sure to read up on your local laws. It is also essential that you have contact with a trustworthy exotic animal vet that is experienced in species-appropriate care before purchasing any sort of reptile.

To assist new reptile fanciers in their snake-keeping journey, here’s a guide to various commonly kept types of pet snakes.

Types of Pet Snakes From Tropical Environments

Pythons and Boas

A popular choice of companion animal for many reptile fanciers, pythons and boas are known for their relatively low energy, large size, and surpsrising variety of morphs bred into them over the decades. While every snake is different, most pythons are non-aggressive and tolerant of handling. This includes the very popular ball python which stays a very managable size topping out at 4-5 feet normally.

Additional facts:

There are 41 species of python.

They originate from the jungles of Southeast Asia, Australia and Africa.

Lifespan can extend to over 20 years.

Most pythons are capable of swimming.

Types of Pet Snakes From North America

Garter Snakes

Garter snakes are one of the most common types of snakes in the states, with their habitat extending to a variety of biomes and habitats from the swamps of Florida to the colder forests of Canada. They are widely kept as pets due to their small size (only around 23-30 inches) and variety of colors. They are relatively quick-moving and active compared to pythons, but are still docile in captivity.

Additional facts

Some species of garter snake may produce a mild venom that does not affect humans.

Mostly active during the day.

Produce a foul-smelling musk when threatened.

30 species of garter snake in all.

Corn Snakes

While their contrasting markings and red/white coloring may give this snake the appearance of the deadly copperhead, corn snakes are harmless and belong to the group known as rat snakes. While more aggressive than some other snakes on this list, they are capable of thriving in captivity. Due to their small size, they frequently fall prey to a variety of animals, including other snakes.

Additional facts

Most active at night and during spring/fall months.

Native to eastern North America.

Prefer habitats with a variety of hiding spaces.

Adult size can range from 2 to 6 feet.


While they may be referred to as kingsnakes due to their tendency to eat other snakes (even venomous ones), these reptiles are docile with humans and popular for petkeepers due to their exotic coloring. Their appearance is indicative of which region of North America they originate from. This is because they evolved different markings depending on the environment or to look like more threatening snakes in the area. They generally prefer to keep hidden within burrows, rocks, and other small, safe areas.

Additional facts

Members of the genus Lampropeltis. This translates to “shiny shields”.

Can not cohabitat with other snakes. Even other kingsnakes.

Primarily nocturnal.

Rat Snakes

When thinking about types of pet snakes, your mind probably doesn’t immediately turn to the humble and common rat snake. They inhabit the forest of North and Central America and are essential to a variety of ecosystems. When handled regularly, they are quite friendly and docile with human caregivers. They also happen to be excellent climbers. You must take care to keep the enclosure secure.

Additional facts

May vibrate tail in an attempt to mimic rattlesnakes. This is a valuable defense mechanism.

Adult size: 3 to 6 feet long.

Final Thoughts on What Kind of Snakes You Can Have as a Pet

While all of the snakes in this list are known to do well in captivity, there are certain factors you still want to keep in mind. This includes activity level, size, and diet. Behavior issues can also be caused by underlying health problems. This can range from unexplained lethargy to sudden aggression. If you see a sudden change in behavior with your snake, take it to a vet.

What kind of snakes can you have as a pet?

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