The Dos and Don’ts of Feeding Your Pet Snake

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    snake feeding

    Have you thought about bringing a pet snake home? Are you feeling intimidated by everything that goes into taking care of them – like feeding them?

    That’s understandable. Feeding snakes can be a lot of work, especially if you’re new to snake care.

    So how do you ensure your new pet snake is properly fed? We’ve got the 411.

    Let’s go through the do’s and don’t of snake feeding.

    What Do Snakes Eat?

    Pet snakes have dietary needs similar to their wild counterparts, but the type and size of prey can vary based on the species, size, and age of the snake.

    Feeding your snake can get kind of messy, so it’s important to be prepared if you’re a first-time snake owner.

    Mice and rats are the most common and appropriate prey for pet snakes. The size of the rodent will depend on the size of the snake.

    Many pet snake owners prefer to feed their snakes’ frozen rodents that have been thawed. This helps prevent injuries to the snake and eliminates the risk associated with live prey.

    Some snakes may not accept frozen/thawed prey and require pre-killed rodents. It’s important to ensure the prey is freshly killed to simulate natural hunting behavior.

    Some smaller snake species, such as corn snakes or garter snakes, may eat insects like crickets, mealworms, or appropriately-sized roaches.

    Depending on the snake’s diet and health, occasional supplementation with calcium and other vitamins may be recommended.

    Snake Dietary Restrictions

    When it comes to feeding pet snakes, it’s crucial to follow proper dietary guidelines to ensure their health and well-being.

    Snakes are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a diet primarily consisting of animal matter. Plant-based foods are not suitable for snakes. They can lead to malnutrition or health issues. So, don’t try and put your snake on a vegan diet!

    The size and type of prey should be appropriate for the size and age of the snake. Offer prey that is approximately the same width as the snake’s body to prevent choking or regurgitation.

    How Do You Know When Your Snake Is Hungry? 

    Understanding when your snake is hungry involves observing its behavior, appetite patterns, and other subtle signs.

    If your snake is more active than usual, exploring its enclosure, it could be in search of food. Restless behavior, pacing, or trying to escape the enclosure could indicate hunger or a desire to hunt for food.

    Snakes use their tongue to sense the environment, including scents related to potential prey. If your snake is frequently flicking its tongue, it may be in search of food.

    Snakes may rub their noses against the enclosure’s walls or actively explore in search of food.

    Feeding Your Snake For The First Time

    Feeding your snake for the first time, especially if it’s a new pet, requires careful attention to ensure a smooth and stress-free feeding experience.

    Choose a quiet, comfortable, and secure feeding area for your snake. Minimize disturbances to reduce stress during feeding.

    Using tongs, present the thawed prey to your snake. Gently move the prey in front of the snake to attract its attention.

    Snake Feeding Techniques

    If you’re struggling to get your snake fed, there are different techniques you might want to try out.

    To entice reluctant feeders or when using live prey, the wiggle and dangle method is commonly employed.

    By gently moving or dangling the prey, this technique mimics the movement of live prey, triggering the snake’s hunting response and encouraging it to strike and consume the prey.

    Another approach is the bump-feed method, which involves gently tapping the prey against the snake’s body, particularly near the head. This action can provoke a feeding response, especially in snakes that may be hesitant to eat.

    Observe Your Snake

    Observing and monitoring your snake during feeding is a critical aspect of ensuring a safe and successful feeding experience.

    Watch for a feeding response from your snake. This can include your snake becoming alert, showing interest in the prey, and potentially striking at or approaching the prey.

    If your snake is a constrictor, observe how it captures the prey. Constrictors will strike at the prey, latch on with their teeth, and then wrap their bodies around the prey to constrict and suffocate it.

    Once the snake has successfully captured the prey, observe the swallowing process. Snakes will typically use muscular contractions to move the prey down their body and into their digestive tract.

    Ensure the prey is swallowed properly and is moving down the snake’s body. If the prey appears to be stuck or the snake is struggling to swallow, monitor carefully and be prepared to intervene if necessary.

    Avoid disturbing the snake during the swallowing process to prevent regurgitation.

    Observe your snake’s behavior after it has consumed its meal. Some snakes may become less active or seek a hiding place to digest their meal in peace. Allow them to rest undisturbed.

    Monitor Your Snake Over Time

    Over time, familiarize yourself with your snake’s typical feeding response and behavior during and after feeding. Any significant changes should be noted and, if concerning, addressed with a veterinarian.

    Keep a feeding log where you record the date, prey size, feeding response, and any observations related to your snake’s feeding habits. This can help track their feeding patterns and identify any abnormalities.

    How Often Do Snakes Eat?

    Different types of snakes will have to eat more or less often. One of the primary determinants is the snake’s species, as different species exhibit distinct feeding patterns.

    Smaller snakes typically feed more frequently. They usually need to eat every 5-7 days. They have faster metabolisms and higher growth rates.

    Larger snakes like boa constrictors and burmese pythons may feed less frequently, often once every 2-4 weeks, due to their slower metabolism and larger prey consumption.

    Age and growth stage also influence how often you have to feed a snake. Juveniles and young snakes require more frequent feedings, usually every 3-7 days. This helps support their rapid growth and development.

    As snakes mature into adulthood, their metabolism slows, necessitating a decrease in feeding frequency. Adult snakes typically consume meals less often to accommodate their lower metabolic rate.

    Snake Food Costs

    The cost of snake food can significantly impact the overall care and maintenance expenses for snake owners. 

    Typically, the prices of frozen prey items vary based on size, with smaller prey like pinky mice being more affordable compared to larger rats. Prices can range anywhere from approximately $1 to $5 or more per prey item, depending on the size and type of the prey.

    The price of live prey varies based on the type and size of the prey, ranging from about $1 to $10 or more per prey item. Insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and roaches, are generally more cost-effective, often priced at just a few cents to a few dollars per dozen, depending on the insect type and quantity.

    Saving on Snake Food

    For those seeking to save on long-term feeding costs, buying prey items in bulk is a viable option. Bulk purchases often result in a lower cost per item, making it a more economical choice, especially for snake owners with multiple snakes or those looking to stock up on feeders.

    Additionally, some snake owners choose to breed their own feeder animals, such as rodents or insects, to reduce long-term food costs. While setting up a breeding system involves an initial investment, it can lead to significant savings over time.

    It’s important to consider the specific dietary needs of your snake species and ensure the chosen food options align with those requirements. While cost is a factor, prioritizing a balanced and nutritionally appropriate diet is crucial to maintain your snake’s health and overall well-being.

    Consulting with a veterinarian or a knowledgeable reptile expert can help guide your decisions to provide the best care for your pet snake within your budget constraints.

    Do Snakes Drink Water?

    Pet snakes do drink water. While snakes can obtain a lot of their moisture from their prey (especially for wild snakes), providing a source of fresh, clean water is essential for maintaining proper hydration and overall health in pet snakes.

    In captivity, it’s crucial to have a shallow water dish available within the snake’s enclosure.

    The water dish should be cleaned and refilled regularly to ensure the water remains fresh and free from contaminants. The size of the water dish should be appropriate for the snake’s size, allowing easy access for drinking and soaking.

    Some snake species may also enjoy soaking in their water dish, especially during shedding or when they need to regulate their body temperature. Soaking can help with hydration and aid in the shedding process by softening the old skin.

    It’s important to keep the water dish clean, providing a safe and healthy environment for your pet snake. Always prioritize your snake’s access to fresh water to support proper hydration and overall well-being.

    Snake Feeding: Start Today

    Snake feeding isn’t as hard as you might think – it just takes a little bit of practice. Now that you have this guide, you should be all ready to start caring for your new friend.

    Do you want to learn more about snake care? Some of the other great posts on PetMarvelous can help. For example, if you haven’t brought home a pet snake, you might want to read about the best options for beginners.

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