Earlier this year, I decided to obtain a new addition to my home: a pet bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). It’s been awhile since I’ve wanted a pet and finally made the move. While most people think that the pets of choice in america is either a cat or a dog, most don’t think that a lizard is actually a reasonable choice. For me, it was rather clear that cats and dogs were an inferior choice. Here, I’ll outline a variety of criteria that made me decide to get a lizard, despite it appearing unconventional.

Personality is probably one of the most important things in deciding what type of pet to get. Dogs are most known for being energetic and active, while cats are more known for being a lot more independent. Both are very social to their owners as they build the relationship over their life. In fact, if you are looking for the most social pet, birds are probably the route to go. Reptiles can be just as social as cats and dogs, with the argentine tegu (Salvator merianae) known for being just as affectionate as dogs. Some argue that reptiles generally aren’t aware of their surroundings except for finding food and surviving. As most reptile owners will tell you, this is clearly not the case. In fact, some research has been done on bearded dragons showing that they are capable of imitation learning (Kis, Anna, Ludwig Huber, and Anna Wilkinson. “Social learning by imitation in a reptile (Pogona vitticeps).” Animal cognition 18.1 (2015): 325-331.). Pretty much all animals are very much aware of their surroundings. Most lizards will be just as interested in things as cats are, watching them when they are in the same room. Bearded dragons, in particular, will be happy lounging on your shoulder while you watch a movie.

Care requirements is the second most important topic used in deciding on a pet. The time requirement for caring for a dog is very high, needing at least a daily walk among many other daily interactions. Quite a bit higher than what I am willing to commit to. On the other side of things, there are pets that you also don’t want to interact with much but want a magnificent living creature present. Fish and other aquatic creatures are much more common on this line, but there are a wide variety of geckos that also fit this bill. I was looking more for something that I could interact with some of the time but they wouldn’t be too disappointed if I didn’t have the time, like cats and most lizards.

Every pet needs a space to call their own. Cats and dogs pretty much acquire the entire house as their living space, to the benefit or detriment of their owners. Fish get their own separated area. Reptiles, birds, and other small mammals get a mix of the two – a smaller space of their own with some time spent outside their enclosure. In my opinion, this limits the destruction power of the pet. There are reasons that renting agreements and home insurance premiums take into account if a cat or dog lives at the location. I very much prefer having a pet in a container with the option to take them out.

Diet is a big part of care, since you have to be able to acquire and feed the pet what it needs to survive. If you’re not okay feeding a snake mice, then that snake is probably not the best pet for you. Fortunately for most cat and dog owners, a kibble diet is available at pretty much any convenience store. If you do your research correctly, lizards actually have a wide variety of dietary needs. Crested geckos are probably the easiest, essentially requiring something similar to a protein powder that you mix with water. Bearded dragons are a bit more difficult, requiring both live insects (crickets) and a salad.

Now that it’s been almost 6 months since I got my little bearded dragon, I can definitely say that I made a good choice. It’s definitely different than having a dog or cat. I’m sure as the years pass with this little dragon, I’ll probably end up finding more scaly friends to join my home. The one in the nearer future may be starting a colony of mourning geckos. The one in the farther future might be a tree monitor. I’ll leave the cats and dogs to someone else.