Anthropomorphism: An unhealthy trend

Anthropomorphism:the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Something that’s extremely common, especially in our hobby. It’s something I’ve seen for many years at varying degrees, and always seems to annoy experienced keepers. The reality is there are a lot of negative unhealthy actions in the care of these animals that stem from this. I don’t want this blog to be perceived as negative by the many many folks who are guilty of it…but I do want you to have awareness of some of these things and realize the negative impacts it can have on your animals health(physical and psychological even).

I want to start off with one of the most unhealthy trends that stems from anthropomorphism in ways, and is very bad in our hobby. Over feeding. Obesity in reptiles is extremely common and unfortunately misinformation and even examples set by many well known people in the hobby really don’t help this fact. This is the number one reason why so many captive born specimens of most species, do not survive anywhere near their longevity. We all know how long it can take for reptile health issues to become visible to us, and this is a big one for that. Big snakes, big lizards, species with slower metabolisms, these examples in particular are commonly affected. There are many reptile groups where you see comments about how “chunky and cute” an animal is….but what you have to realize is this is not healthy and these animals bodies are not built to survive very long like that….and actually they are biologically designed to run lean. People are often amazed to find out how often I feed my scrub pythons, and my white lip pythons. Or rather I should say…how little I feed them. We’ve all seen the obese animals online…but think for a second what the same animal at a relative size looks like when you see film of them in the wild. The health of your keep is the number one priority you have, but also realize your breeding success(if that’s your goal) is also directly connected to the health of your animal’s weight and size. I promise you…even if your animal is acting hungry, it’s ok to say no haha. My scrub pythons try every single day. But if i fed them even weekly, they would be dead with in a few years.

Another aspect I see anthropomorphism affect the care of our animals in a big way, is people setting up their enclosures. We all to often think about what WE want it to look like. Or what we think the animal would “want”, but often we are not thinking realistically or with awareness of how these animals act in the wild. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen over the years, is security for your animal. The good ol hide. If we take for example many species of snakes, and think about how we find them in the wild….do you think it really wants a hide that is much larger then the animal takes up space wise? Most times you find snakes, especially young ones, under structure or cramped in tight spots. This is how they feel secure. So that’s why you will see a snake squeeze itself into a hide, often lifting the hide up when the snake is to big for it….and it will choose that spot over any other options, because that’s what IT wants. So when your creating an enclosure for a reptile, keep these things in mind. You can absolutely make them look good…but do not sacrifice what your animal needs and wants, for your own desires. Don’t make a cage for a bearded dragon with a whole theme and multi colored….but fail to provide the animal with what IT needs.

Please don’t take this blog as being negative. Quite the contrary, it’s meant to bring awareness to a very serious health issue that is directly a result of us as the keeper. It’s meant to educate and help improve your skills and understanding of the animal. Become a student of your species. Way to many times I see people in discussions get defensive and say how their animal obviously is not stressed, and likes what ever the action may be. But to be very blunt…all to often these folks don’t have the understanding or education of their species biology or behaviors and are usually incorrect. Giving reptiles a bath is a good example of that. What you have to realize, is there is not a reason to give your animal regular baths…if your husbandry is up to par. In fact, it can be extremely stressful and net negative. If you want to clean the animal off a bit, or occasionally your husbandry is off and you have to, then that’s understandable. But your reptile does not like the bath your making it take. Conversely…those reading this who hate the people who are guilty of this, also need to have a bit more awareness and realize the way you approach people in these discussions. Insulting and degrading is not going to work. You must come from a place of positive intent and educate…not demean. After all, we were all there at some point.

This blog should not be perceived as finger pointing, or anything of that nature. I just wanted to bring awareness of something we naturally do as humans, and can have negative affects on our keeps if we don’t pay better attention. There is a huge percentage of keepers who are guilty. But it’s not their fault…when you think about it. I urge you to really think about it, and realistically evaluate the care of your animal. It’s ok to have an open mind to those trying to better educate you. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m guilty of this at times. We all are. Every single keeper is at some time or another even if it’s something small. The secret is to realize it….and see what ever the animal is telling you and adjusting. For those trying to educate…also you need to take a hard look at how you approach the issue. This is a very abrasive topic in our community, but that’s only because humans hate being told…anything. We need to bring more positivity to the hobby…and make sure we are doing the best job we possibly can for our animals. After all….they deserve us to provide them with the absolute best!