The role of the canine species as man's best friend is underhreat – from reptiles. Research has found that snakes, lizards, geckos and iguanas have overtaken dogs in the pet popularity stakes.
The findings from the Federation of British Herpetologists indicate there are as many as eight million reptiles being kept as pets in Britain. This compares to the estimated pet dog population of 6.5million.
Four-legged friend: More people are choosing reptiles like this gecko
Chris Newman, chairman of the federation, said: "Reptiles have moved from being niche to mainstream.
"They are far more suitable as pets than animals which are perceived as traditional pets, such as cats, dogs and small mammals.
"Reptiles fit today's modern lifestyles as they are less time-consuming and can be easier to keep than pet species."
Reptiles are, in comparison to many other pets, cheap to buy and maintain. They stay in heated tanks for all or part of the day and require less upkeep than even caged animals.
The most popular species are leopard geckos, bearded dragons, corn snakes, royal or ball pythons and Hermann's tortoises.
Sebastian Moore, of Paul's Reptile Den in Potter's Bar, Herts, said reptiles were popular because they liked to be played with. He said: "Leopard geckos for instance love to be taken out and enjoy being handled.
"Once you got them out of their cage they will climb all the way up your arm, which is not something I see your average hamster doing.
Snakes are an exotic alternative
"Reptiles are like nothing else and for kids who want to be different they're perfect."
Reptiles, or Reptilla, are cold-blooded vertebrates, or animals with spines. The have scaly skin, have four limbs and inhabit every continent in the world except Antarctica.
The class Reptilla covers a wide range of creatures including terrapins, alligators and crocodiles, although these are not thought to be behind the increase in pet ownership.
Corn snakes, one of the most popular reptiles, typically cost £50 and live for 20 years. They eat one mouse a week and will sit on their owner's laps without biting - although they do spend 95 per cent of their time asleep.
The increase in the pet reptile population has been estimated through analysis of reptile food sales.
In 2004 there were five million reptile pets and the number of crickets sold was 10million. Now that figure has doubled to 20million.
Over the same period the number of locusts sold has quadrupled to a million a week and sales of frozen rodents have risen dramatically.
Despite the rising in reptile ownership, dogs still make wonderful pets, according to Sara Wilde of the Kennel Club.
She said: "They are man's best friend and they're a loving companion to everyone. A dog will always be there for you no matter what: it won't have a go at you if you come home late, it won't snap if you've not done the washing up.
"Some snake owners may disagree, but dogs are more cuddly. A dog will look you in the eyes, it wags its tail and greets you when you come in."
Mrs Wilde admitted dogs take more looking after but said it was worth it. She said: "The love you put in with a dog you are more than repaid."
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