Python a sssensational pet

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Close bond: Suzie Sharp with Oatmeal the python. Photo by Rechelle Zammit

When Kyle Sharp went off to university eight years ago, he left his pet with his mum, Suzie Sharp.

While such an arrangement occurs in many households throughout the country, this instance was more unusual than most in that Kyle’s pet was a snake.

Initially “squeamish” about Oatmeal, the Murray Darling carpet python, Suzie now can’t imagine her life without him.

“He (Kyle) assures me that when he gets a house (of his own) he will take him,” Suzie said.

“I’ll be devastated.”

Suzie said a python was actually a perfect pet.

Oatmeal makes no noise, only eats once every 10 to 14 days at the most in warmer weather, and only poos every 10 to 14 days — and Suzie said she mainly just had to change his water.

Nine years ago when they first got Oatmeal he was only one year old and still quite small. Since then, he has certainly grown.

Now he is between 2.2m and 2.4m long and weighs 5kg.

Suzie said at his roundest part, Oatmeal was nearly as thick as her calf.

Despite his size, Oatmeal does not eat much.

He survives on frozen rats bought from the pet shop.

Before feeding Oatmeal, Suzie defrosts the rats in warm water.

Curious: Oatmeal the python weighs 5kg. Photo by Rechelle Zammit

And it is only in the warmer months that Oatmeal even eats at all.

Despite the fact he has a heat-regulated enclosure, Suzie said Oatmeal knows when the weather is colder and will not eat for about six months.

Last year Oatmeal did not eat between the end of May and the end of November.

This year, as the weather became cool quickly, Oatmeal stopped eating at the end of March.

“This time of year they are very inactive. He sits on his heat rock quite a lot,” Suzie said.

“Because snakes have a slow metabolism, he refuses to eat over winter.

“Because it’s so cold he can’t digest the food.”

The lack of food, however, does not make Oatmeal lose weight in the winter months, as he is so inactive.

Oatmeal joined the family as Kyle’s 17th birthday present, and was looked after by his teenage owner for the first year before Kyle went to university and then on to jobs in other houses where he hasn’t been able to have Oatmeal.

“Most people don’t want a python in their house,” Suzie said.

She admits not being a fan of snakes when Kyle first got Oatmeal, or even when she first started looking after him.

“At the start, when Kyle first got it, I was like ‘are you kidding me?’” Suzie said.

Quite a handful: Suzie Sharp does not pick up Oatmeal the python very often, as his size makes him hard to hold on to. Photo by Rechelle Zammit

However, early on while she was looking after him on her own, there was a power outage, taking out Oatmeal’s heat lamp, and it was then that Suzie overcame any fear she had of Oatmeal.

“Because Kyle loved him so much, I shoved my hand in (the enclosure) to make sure he was not dead,” Suzie said.

It was then that she discovered Oatmeal was not as scary as she thought, and she has been able to handle him — and even grown to love him — since.

She also has a licence to own him.

Suzie’s partner, Bill Evans, is still not a huge fan of Oatmeal, but gets roped in to help at times when she has to move the snake to clean his enclosure.

While Suzie said she patted Oatmeal a lot, she said he had days when he didn’t want to be touched — like for a few days after eating and just before or after he shed his skin.

“They’re just like any other animal. Some days he’ll come out and go over my shoulder and other days he doesn’t want to know me,” Suzie said.

Not much of an appetite: Oatmeal the python only eats every 10 to 14 days in the warmer months, but can go about six months without eating when the weather is cold. Photo by Rechelle Zammit

As Oatmeal is so large, Suzie said she did not carry him much because he was difficult to hold on to.

Overall, Suzie said she found Oatmeal fascinating.

“I like the surprise factor. Because he’s a snake he’s not freezing cold. He’s cool to touch,” she said.

“And the way they move — I find it fascinating.”

Suzie does acknowledge that not all people like snakes and she said she did not force him on anyone, instead keeping him in his own room in his locked enclosure.

“I’m not the sort of person to say ‘touch him, touch him’,” she said.

“He’s not a showpiece. He’s a very much-loved pet.”