Skip to main content

Lizard vs. snake: Which pet is right for you?

Reptiles aren’t just a niche pet anymore: Hordes of people have adopted these playful creatures as companions. Your heart is set on a scaly beast, but you still have a big decision ahead of you: What kind? If you’ve determined that it’s down to lizard versus snake, figuring out which is right for you might still be tricky. To help you choose, here’s a guide to the primary differences between lizards and snakes.

Lizard being held by owner
TL Strot/

Both come in all shapes and sizes

Before selecting your animal, you’ll want to narrow down your options. Chameleons, geckos, anoles, bearded dragons — lizards run the gamut. Some prefer dry, some wet. Some like to be alone, some need a friend. Each species will bring something a little bit different to pet ownership.

Snakes aren’t far off in this regard either. Although we may think of them as all the same thing, there’s a wide range of temperament in these creatures. If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably look at corn and garter snakes (maybe leave pythons for more advanced handlers).

Lizard rests on branch in tank
Tony Sugathan/

Lizards are less creepy (mostly)

While your chameleon might have shifty eyes, there’s less of a creep factor with most lizards. Some people can’t look past snakes’ slithering, and anyone squeamish about live feeding should stick with certain lizard species. A few types of iguanas and geckos eat only or mostly veggies and will make a good pet for a nervous human. But if you can overlook the no legs, snakes aren’t quite as scary as they seem.

Snakes don’t need as much work

Many common pet snakes, surprisingly, will present less of an upkeep challenge. While every pet needs specific care, snakes live well mostly at room temperature (though you might add a small heat lamp for sunning) and don’t like too much moisture. You’ll still want to monitor both, but your house might provide the right levels already.

Most lizard species, like chameleons and bearded dragons, require distinct heat and humidity levels. Additionally, some get pretty big, though littler ones such as geckos can do well in smaller enclosures. Others also require live plants in their homes, which adds to caretaking responsibilities. 

Corn snake being held by owner
Joshua J. Cotten/

Feeding snakes can be a challenge

Your pet snake will typically eat rodents. It’s not terribly pleasant to watch or handle, and pet owners should think carefully before committing to a snake. Some hatchlings need live prey as well, which requires an even stronger stomach. On the plus side, these snakes eat only once per week or so, meaning you don’t have to do this all the time. 

Some lizards are vegetarian, but most are omnivores. Live feedings for these guys involve insects like crickets — much more tolerable to those watching. They make up the rest of their diet with leafy greens and fruits. It can be fun to treat your lizard and watch him enjoy his snack. Don’t do this too often, but a piece of melon once a week will be a welcome change to a chameleon or other pet.

Many lizards are less affectionate

You read that right! Lots of lizards, like the gargoyle gecko, anole, and chameleons, don’t often enjoy being handled and should be considered a predominantly hands-off pet. Corn snakes, on the other hand, get used to their humans quickly and make great companions. Kids may have an easier time holding a snake than a very small lizard, such as a leopard gecko, as well. If you want an eyes-only pet, you should consider a shy lizard. As long as he has plenty of room to move about and trees or rocks to live in, he’s happy just to be observed from afar.

While life span varies in both species, you can find reptile pets living into their 20s. Always determine that you’ll be able to manage an animal for his full life before bringing him home. A few lizards prefer to come in pairs or more, and you’ll need to take that into account as well when planning enclosures, feedings, and decor. We don’t recommend keeping snakes and lizards anywhere near each other either. Even if no one’s in danger, the threat of a predator can cause stress. When you find the right reptile for you, you’ll have a great friend for decades to come.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
7 telltale signs of a dying hamster (and what you should do)
Here's how to figure out if your pet hamster is dying (or possibly just hibernating)
Vet checks out small hamster

It's one of the saddest parts of owning a pet: We know that someday we'll have to say goodbye. Our pets never live long enough for us, and preparing for the end can be painful (though important). Your pet hamster will be with you for between two and three years of happy life — full of spinning wheels and treats. Once they're getting close to the end, though, you'll want to help ease their passing, keeping them warm and comfortable.

By paying close attention to the signs of a dying hamster, you can be ready to step in as a pet parent and help them finish the end of their life well. Watch out for any of these symptoms, which should be accompanied by a visit to the vet, since they can have a few different causes.

Read more
Is my rabbit pregnant? 5 telltale signs you should know
Look for these signs to confirm your rabbit will soon have babies
Baby rabbit being held by owner

What's better than one pet rabbit? An entire litter of bunnies (as long as you're prepared for them, of course). If you've been wondering, "Is my rabbit pregnant?" now is the time to find out for sure. After all, you don't want to be caught unaware and suddenly have a whole new colony of animals in your hutch.

Sometimes, lady bunnies can take on the behaviors of expectant mamas, but it's actually a false pregnancy. The best way to find out if your rabbit is pregnant is to take her to the vet and have them confirm it. However, when you're figuring it out yourself, you should look for the signs that a rabbit is pregnant. If you spot these behaviors, be sure to call your animal doctor.

Read more
What you need to know about sugar gliders before you get an exotic pet
Follow these steps to set your sugar glider up for success
Sugar glider clings to their owner's thumb

Choosing a small pet involves almost as much deliberation as selecting a breed of dog. While there are a lot of factors to take into account, a sugar glider might turn out to be the perfect fit with their curious personality, attachment to your family, and fondness for pockets.

Like any exotic pet, gliders require expert care plus some dedicated research to choose the right breeder or pet store. But with the right prep, your new mammal will fit in perfectly and bond with the whole family. Keep reading to find out if sugar gliders are good pets.
What are sugar gliders?
Unlike most little pets, sugar gliders aren't rodents but marsupials. This gives you a few distinct advantages, as they behave differently from hamsters, guinea pigs, or gerbils. For starters, these are highly social creatures and they will bond with every member of the family and even other pets in the house. Because gliders don't smell like the animals your cats and dogs like to chase — rats, gophers, and bunnies, to name a few — many bigger pets can get along with your new friend. You'll need to introduce them carefully, but they can form lifelong attachments to each other.

Read more