Let me start by saying this: I do not own a snake. I believe certain creatures should be kept in their habitat, especially predators.
However, as someone who doesn’t eat meat and dairy, I’ve always questioned if you could have a snake and not feed it dead mice, for example.
The answer is not surprising, to be honest.
Snakes really can’t thrive on a vegan diet. They are what’s called an “obligate carnivore”, and need animal matter to survive. So if you plan on raising a vegan snake, don’t do it, as you might kill it.
What Do Snakes Eat?
Snakes have a unique digestive system designed to eat animals or animal products.
They have a long tube filled with stomach acid, designed to dissolve shells and bones. Just like lions have blade-shaped molars, claws, and a smaller digestive tract to better process meat, snakes are also biologically designed to consume meat, and in some cases eggs. Most snakes eat mammals as a part of their diet.
However, they may go beyond mammals and feast on what’s readily available. In fact, it’s not unusual to see snakes eating species other than mammals, as a means to survive.
Their animal-based diet usually includes:
- Amphibians (such as frogs, toads, and tadpoles)
You may also see snakes eat eggs in addition to meat, with a small number of snakes eating exclusively eggs. So if we consider the vegetarian diet, then some snakes are what is known as an Ovo vegetarian diet.
Why Can’t Snakes Eat Plants?
Snakes can’t successfully eat plants because they lack specific enzymes that break down the nutrients in plants. In fact, if you forced an eggplant down a snake’s throat, she wouldn’t be able to digest it.
Not only does a snake not have teeth capable of chewing vegetables, but just like other carnivores, its digestive tract is too short and incapable of breaking down plants.
If you place a carrot right in front of a snake, she will never identify it as food. On the other hand, if you place a mouse (or an egg) 20 meters away from it, you will find her predatorial instincts taking over.
Plants take a while to break down inside the gut, that’s why herbivores like us have long intestinal tracts. It allows our body to slowly extract nutrients from plant matter, and over time transfer them to our bloodstream.
If you force a snake to eat foods other than the ones it is designed to eat, she may die from starvation.
Should You Get A Snake, As A Vegan?
If you’re a vegan, I wouldn’t recommend you have a snake pet, because that means you would have to feed it food that goes against the things you dearly believe in.
Although snakes eat meat periodically, it doesn’t change the fact you still have to buy meat to feed it. And even though I understand the fascination with snakes, you would simply put its life in danger by forcing it to eat veggies, and other shenanigans.
This being said, there are other species of reptiles that closely resemble snakes but don’t eat animals.
#1 – Iguanas
While an iguana is far from being a beginner-friendly pet, they can actually thrive on a vegan diet. In fact, it is not recommended you feed them with animal protein. They’re strictly herbivorous and are said to accidentally consume an occasional insect as juveniles.
While what I’ve said remains true, there are also iguanas that are omnivores, but you can easily supplement their diet with protein-enriched foods.
Here are some of the things an iguana can eat:
- Bell pepper
- Green beans
- Strawberries and more.
Last but not least, look for iguanas that are most likely to behave well as pets. Iguanas like the green iguana and the rhinoceros iguana only eat plants. (Interesting fact: They can live as long as dogs)
#2 – Chuckwallas
Rest assured because the chuckwalla is purely vegan. However, chuckwallas are unique, and you may not be able to find one for sale. They can live over 25 years old and usually don’t grow beyond 30 inches.
Owning a chuckwalla comes with its challenges, mainly because they have physiological needs that require them to bath in the sun under a certain temperature. In fact, chuckwallas bath in the sun until their body temperature hits the 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit. In captivity, that is only possible through intense heat lamp that provides a basking area of at least 100 degrees.
Being xeric species, the chuckwallas get their water from the plants they eat, so a water dispenser is not needed. Since they live in a desert with numerous rocks and boulders, you have to try and create an identical environment. They’re very sensitive and may experience fright the first time you meet, so handle them with utmost care.
#3 – Uromastyx
There are at least 18 species of Uromatyx recognized by taxonomists, as well as many other subspecies and varieties. As such, their size can vary between 10 and 36 inches, and they can live on average 15 years.
Like the other two species, the Uromastyx mainly eats vegetation and plant matter. You can feed it collard greens, dandelion greens, mustard, turnip greens, and sometimes even lentils.
Vegetables like spinach and kale should be kept to a minimum due to the concentration of oxalate that reduces calcium absorption. In addition, an Uromastyx will not need water if you feed them accordingly.
Plus, you must allow it to thermoregulate its body temperature, as it’s crucial to its long-term health.
An Uromastyx basks in the morning to raise its body temperature because it helps with activity and digestion; and seeks shadow afterward to avoid overheating. In order to properly take care of an Uromastyx, you probably need a cage with different gradients of temperature. An area with a potent light source where the Uromastyx can bask in and increase its body temperature, and an area where the temperature is lower.
It’s important to meticulously set up the temperatures, and not just take guesses. For an Uromastyx and other reptiles, temperature is an essential element to their health.
There’s really no way around it. If you want a snake, you must feed it either meat or eggs. Yet, there are so many other creatures that closely resemble snakes and mainly eat plants.
As I’ve said before, I’m not in favor of removing these species from their natural habitat. They require meticulous treatment because they’ve grown to adapt to their hostile environments in ways only science can comprehend. And If you’re not careful, you may put their lives at risk. One simple setting up the wrong temperatures, or preventing these creatures from having their basking moment can truly endanger their lives.
Therefore, whatever you do, please do your best to really take care of them, just like you would with a child. If you want to learn more about treating and caring for reptiles, please visit this website for more in-depth information.