Updated April 12, 2022
We all love spoiling our animals. Decor can be a great way to cater to our animals' natural behaviours. Whether it is digging, hiding, climbing or exploring. Decor can also provide mental stimulation and entertainment for both you and your pet. There are many options to furnish your animals' enclosure, some are more expensive, while others can be wildcrafted or a matter of reusing household materials.
store-bought decor Nowadays there is a wide variety of reptile décor to choose from. Sadly, a lot of commercial decor that may look appealing or cool is not suitable or safe for your pet. Remember, just because there is a picture of a reptile on the packaging, does not mean that it is a safe item for that species or even any reptile. Sadly, many pet companies only care about your money. It can help to appraise items from your reptile’s perspective, instead of falling for gimmicks aimed at humans. It is important to fully inspect every piece of cage decor before adding it to your reptile’s enclosure. Here are some main points to keep in mind.
Function - Is the item good for hiding, climbing, exploring? Etc.
Cleaning - Will the item withstand long-term cleaning? Will it be easy to clean with no tiny holes to collect bacteria? Is dishwasher safe?
Risk - Is there even a small chance the animal can become caught on, stuck in, tip over, eat, or poke an eye on the object?
a list of things to avoid (These apply to the wildcrafting and reuse sections as well)
Avoid any kind of object with sharp or overly rough edges. A surprising amount of store-bought reptile decor has points that could cause eye damage or sharp/rough surfaces that may cause other types of injury. Rub your fingers over every part of the object. If it seems like a potential risk, don’t use it.
Avoid items that have small porous holes that can collect and hide poop/urates/bacteria, which may be hard to clean. Whether it is glass or plastic these objects can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Avoid decor that has hollowed center/s that your pet may be able to lodge itself into, and/or become hard to get out in case of emergency.
Avoid decor with small pieces that could break off and/or be eaten.
Avoid top-heavy décor that may fall and harm the animal.
Avoid decor that contains narrow V shapes as a tail can become wedged. (I sadly had this happen once with an Iguana, who became scared, and dropped his tail.)
Avoid decor that can’t withstand extensive cleaning practices. Such as silk plants. (You may also want your items to be dishwasher safe.)
Avoid over-crowding your reptiles’ enclosure with items that serve no purpose. Seriously, they don’t need 10 plastic Dino figures in there.
Avoid decor that may be used to climb too high and fall, or a way to reach dangerous items like a basking light, which could result in broken bulbs, and/or burns, or escapes.
Avoid too large of hides. Most reptiles prefer to feel secure in smaller hiding spaces. Just make sure the opening is at least twice the width of your animal.
Avoid decor with holes smaller than twice the width of your reptile. Often snakes and other reptiles double themselves when entering or exiting a hiding space. A helpful rule of thumb is to make sure everything in their cage containing holes have the openings be at least double the width of the animal. This includes, shed boxes, lay bins, and regular hides.
wildcrafting Always research what leaves, plants, etc. are non-toxic and safe to use in your reptile’s enclosure. Be sure to collect from areas that are not close to roads, or in places that may have been chemically sprayed. Please be mindful of how you take from nature. Find items that are not being used by wildlife, and or are still growing. Look for wood, leaves, etc. dropped naturally on the ground. Do not take too much from one area. 😊 Be sure to choose items that do not have small holes that your animal could become stuck in, or appear to have funguses or eggs growing on them. Also it may be illegal to wildcraft from certain areas, so do some research prior.
leaves Leaf litter can make for fantastic additions to enclosures, as it provides mental stimulation, allows for hiding, exploring, and moisture regulation. If you are doing a naturalistic set-up, it can also be food for your custodian bug friends!
leaf prep. Wash the leaves gently with warm water, soak them in a dilution of 10 % peroxide (not bleach as bleach will not kill parasites like Cryptosporidium) let them sit fully submerged in the mixture for 20 minutes. Rinse well, next choose one of the following methods.
baking spread out the leaves on baking sheets with your oven pre-heated for 140F/60C. Cook the leaves for 5-30 minutes. Some people want their leaves drier and brittle, while other’s want them still pliable. #Note the longer you cook them the more brittle they will become.) Once they have reached the cooking level you intend. Let fully dry on a paper towel before placing in your reptiles’ enclosure so they do not mould.
boiling Place fully rinsed leaves in a pot of water, be sure that they are fully submerged. Boil for 5-10 minutes. Let fully dry on a paper towel before placing in your reptiles’ enclosure so they do not mould.
microwave You can add a damp paper towel under and over the leaves in a bowl, cover the bowl with an upside-down bowl and then microwave for 2-3 minutes. Let fully dry on a paper towel before placing in your reptiles’ enclosure so they do not mould.
small wood pieces Pick pieces of wood that do not have sharp points or rough edges as they may injure your reptile. Also, be sure that the wood does not have any holes in it that are small enough for your animal to become stuck. If they have holes, be sure that they are at least double the width of your animal.
wood prep. Use a gentle cleaner such as liquid dawn dish soap to do the initial scrub, rinse, spray liberally with 10% peroxide. Let sit for a minimum of 20 minutes. Rinse again. Preheat your oven to 250 F/121 C. Bake the items for two hours, check on them every 10 minutes to make sure nothing is burning. Once complete, remove the items and allow them to fully cool before putting them into your reptile’s enclosure.
rocks Who doesn’t like finding neat rocks on a walk? Much like other items mentioned already, you want to choose rocks that will be safe for your pet. Avoid ones with tiny holes where bacteria and parasites may hide. Avoid sharp/pointy edges, ones that might fall over and harm your animal and taking from areas where the wildlife is using them.
rock prep. Scrub your found rocks first with dawn dish soap, rinse, and follow up with liberally spraying a dilution of 10% peroxide. (Bleach is not enough). Let items sit for 20 minutes. Rinse well, if you have a dishwasher, you can put them in on the deep pot setting. Let cool and dry before placing in your reptile’s enclosure. If you do not have a dishwasher, you can boil the rocks for 5-10 minutes. Let cool and dry before placing in your reptile’s enclosure.
recycled decor You don’t need to spend loads of money to provide your animal with mental and physical nourishment. Below are some recycled DIY items.
toilet paper tubes & paper rolls make for excellent hides and climbing structures. Boxes that are clean and fragrance-free can make for cozy homes. They can be easy to craft, and cut down to size.
boxes that are clean and fragrance-free can make for cozy homes. They can be easy to craft, and cut down to size.rgba(191, 224, 92, 1)We like to cut cardboard drink trays 4 ways so they can be used as upside-down huts. Just fold back all of the corners so no holes are too tight to get stuck in. (See top of pg. picture)