Should You Buy the Kids a Reptile for Christmas?

Christmas is in T-minus 16 days, and that means crunch time is upon us! Parents are scrambling to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones. And you know what makes a great gift? Getting them a reptile for Christmas!




Stop right there.

A while back I found myself chatting with a woman about her pet bird. Birds aren’t my kind of pet, but I am curious about what others see in them, so I asked, “What made you want to get it?” Her response? “Oh, whenever I run out of ideas for Christmas and birthday presents, I just get the kids a new pet.”

*record scratch*

I fantasize about what I would have said to her had she not been a friend of a friend and had we not been in the middle of a civilized brunch party.

We all know what happens to Christmas presents, especially the ones we give to kids. They’re fun for 2 weeks—maybe a month—but then they always get set aside for something else “more exciting.” If you’re thinking, “Maybe something alive will hold their interest for longer,” do you really want to gamble on a living creature?

Because it’s a Bad Investment

Reasons not to buy a reptile for Christmas - this baby bearded dragon with severe MBD

One of Sarah’s rescues, a juvenile bearded dragon with severe MBD, a disease of neglect.

Let’s imagine a well-meaning mom who wants to get her boys a reptile for Christmas. After all, there’s nothing like a new pet to teach kids the value of responsibility, right? And how hard can it be

to take care of a lizard? She goes to Petco/Petsmart, talks to a employee who actually works there because they like dogs/cats/rabbits/fish (not reptiles), who in turn hands her a care sheet and points her down the reptile aisle. She finds a “bearded dragon kit,” and thinks, Hooray! They did the work for me! She walks out of the store with the kit, an overpriced normal bearded dragon (or two, because lizards obviously need friends!), a Kricket Keeper full of noisy crickets, and a credit card bill for $275.

Within months, the bearded dragons have died of “unknown” causes and she will be lucky to sell the kit for $100 on the local classifieds.

Disclaimer: This is a worst-case scenario. Not every Petco or Petsmart sells unhealthy animals. Not every pet store employee doesn’t care. And not every mom is this ignorant. But these things do happen in real life.

Because it’s Unethical

Reasons not to get a reptile for Christmas - this deformed red footed tortoise

Another one of Sarah’s rescues, a red-footed tortoise with a severely deformed shell due to malnutrition.

Reptiles feel hunger, thirst, pain, and illness just like any other animal. When they are gifted to an unprepared keeper—child or adult—their needs are almost certain not to be met. Reptiles pose an average 10-15 year commitment. During that time, they will need food, health care, a clean environment, and larger habitats as they grow—and that’s stating it simply. Most people who receive reptiles as gifts are unable (or unwilling) to provide for those needs. The result is animal neglect. According to my friend Sarah, who runs Sarah’s Bearded Dragon Rescue, “Honestly, most Christmas pets never survive long enough to be rescued.”

Please, don’t be *that* person.

Because if You Think it Will Be Just Your Kids’ Pet…You’re Wrong

Many parents buy their kids pets assuming that the child will keep their promise to take care of it all by themself. Unfortunately, that phase only lasts for a couple weeks to a couple months, depending on the child’s age. It takes effort on your part as the parent to remind the child to do their chores, and when the kid gives up, it because the parent’s responsibility to keep that reptile clean, fed, and healthy. If you know you’ll end up selling the animal when that day comes, do yourself and the reptile a favor by choosing a different Christmas present.


Still determined to get a reptile for Christmas? Please shoot me an email at reptifiles@gmail.com!!! I will work with you to help your new pet transition safely to its new home, so your family can have the positive experience you’re dreaming of.