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People & Pets

Snakes and cats coexist

8/31/2022

Charlotte Triplett’s household includes herself, husband, daughter, three rescue cats and two python snakes. Photos by Jackie Wilson

As Hades pounces on Shade, he seems mildly annoyed at the kitten’s antics. Meanwhile, Dresden avoids the spectacle, as he’s had his own tussles with Shade in the past.

Regardless of whether the three cats are getting along, they tend to avoid the other two pets in the home: two ball python snakes, Taneth and Kari.

Pet owner Charlotte Triplett of Waukee had cats since she was young, but she always wanted a snake.

“My cousin had a snake, but my mom always said no,” she said.

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She finally got two snakes six years ago at a reptile show. The pair are sisters, and each lives in its own terrarium. The top of the cage is covered, and a heating pad ensures a constant temperature.

Triplett takes the snakes out every few days to socialize. They feed every two weeks on medium-sized rats, thawed out after being kept frozen. Occasionally, she’ll take Taneth to the pet store or out in public.

“Taneth is better socialized and tends to sit still. She hangs on my neck,” she said. “I love the feel of them.” 

Dresden was found in a live raccoon trap.

Ball python snakes can grow up to 6 feet long and are called ball snakes because they curl up in a ball to protect themselves. They’ll wrap themselves around an object as a defense mechanism by constricting and tightening, so prey can’t pull them apart or attack their head. In the wild, their tails wrap on a branch, which allows them to feel safe. 

Triplett’s arm serves as a “branch,” and Taneth continues to coil and wrap her way around it.

“They are constrictors who like to give big huggies,” she said.

As friends come to visit, the snakes have admirers, but some folks are petrified. 

“Some people are afraid and can’t even look at a snake, so we’ll cover up the cage. A majority of people will hold snakes. We try to make people as comfortable as possible,” she said, later adding: “My 5-and-a-half-year-old daughter will help feed the snakes and hold them on her lap.” 

Triplett likes the feel of the snakes and dispels a myth. 

Hades was adopted from the Animal Rescue League.

“A lot of people think snakes are slimy. They aren’t. They have scales, and you can feel the muscles more. Everyone should like a snake or try petting one.”

(Author’s note: I hesitantly touched Taneth, which felt like a soft leather purse. One five-second touch was enough for an admitted snake-avoider).

The snakes are not poisonous; however, they may strike if feeding or if they feel threatened. Triplett’s husband was feeding a snake a rat when it struck and accidently hit his hand. The cats typically avoid the snakes.

“Sometimes the cats get interested, because it looks like a big moving string,” Triplett said. 

Triplett’s three cats are rescues. The family found Shade abandoned as a kitten. Dresden was discovered in a live racoon trap. The veterinarian thinks Dresden was abandoned because he appears cross-eyed. Hades was adopted from the Animal Rescue League. Her family will take the cats in public, putting Hades on a leash, which makes folks do a double take. 

Shade and Hades are both black, a color of cats she loves. 

“A lot of black cats are left abandoned because they are void. I wish more people would give black cats a chance,” she said.

In the past, the Triplett family has owned fish, rats and other unique pets. The three cats and two snakes are great companions for their family, Triplett said.

“This is enough pets for me — for now.” ♦

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