All snakes are carnivores (Obviously.) However, their diet depends on the species. Some eat warm-blooded prey such as rodents, rabbits, birds, while others eat insects, amphibians (frogs or toads), eggs, other reptiles, fish, earthworms, or slugs. One thing for sure is that snakes swallow their food whole! The most popular pet snakes usually eat prey such as mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters. Larger pet snakes also eat whole rabbits. Occasionally snake owners encounter feeding problems with their pet snakes. Some snakes are known to not want to eat but feeding problems can occur with any kind of snake.
Feed Pet Snake With Pre-Killed Prey
The most common feeding problem owners have is when their snake doesn’t want to strike and eat pre-killed food like mice and rats. Feeding pre-killed prey, both the fresh or previously frozen kinds, is recommended for the safety of the snake but sometimes snakes are reluctant to take pre-killed prey.
Live prey should not be fed to snakes, as the prey will not only suffer psychological stress while being hunted by the snake, but also threaten to harm the snake by biting it before they are eaten. Even a small mouse can bite and severely injure a pet snake by inducing a severe potentially life-threatening infection from the bite.
It is more humane for the prey to be pre-killed and safer for the snake. Snakes can be offered either thawed, previously frozen prey, or freshly killed ones. You do not have to kill the prey yourself, as most pet stores will supply freshly killed or frozen rodents to feed.
How To Feed Your Pet Snake
Warm It First!
Make sure the frozen prey is warmed up until it is at least room temperature within 20–22 °C (68–72 °F). Thaw frozen prey in a bag in the refrigerator or by floating it in cold water and then placing it in warm water just before feeding it to your snake to warm it up.
Never use the microwave to thaw frozen prey. Burns to your snake may result due to uneven heating of the prey or your prey may explode in the microwave during the process of heating and no one wants to clean that up.
Dip it in Broth
Dip the thawed prey in sodium-free chicken broth. The scent of chicken broth appeals to some snakes and may encourage them to strike.
Feed It With Feeding Forceps
You must use feeding forceps and NOT your hand when trying to give the thawed and warmed prey to your snake. The forceps will help keep your snake from associating your hand with food. The forceps will also allow you to wiggle the prey item to mimic live motion which often elicits a strike from the snake.
What if It Didn’t Eat?!
There are many causes for a pet snake not wanting to eat, from benign causes such as:
- the stress of being in a new or disrupted environment,
- lack of privacy,
- improper environmental temperature,
- breeding season anorexia,
- serious causes, including cancer, kidney failure, parasites, or other health issues.
Your veterinarian can help determine the cause of your snake’s decreased appetite by performing a thorough physical examination and appropriate laboratory testing. There are several ways you can try to entice a reluctant snake to take a pre-killed prey item. Some tried and true methods to get your snake to eat include:
Make It Familiar
The familiar scent of a favorite food may trick the snake into taking the new item. If you are attempting to feed your snake a new kind of food, rub the new prey item with another favorite food that your snake is familiar with.
Try a Different Color
Try a multi-colored or dark-colored mouse since some snakes seem to balk at albino mice. You may want to try every different color of the prey item if there are some available for your pet snake since you don’t known which one can easily attract.
Try Different Sized Prey
Maybe your snake would prefer it’s prey to be slightly smaller or larger than what you are already offering. There are a lot of option at pet store such as pinkies and fuzzies. To make it easy, ask veterinarian or pet store for it’s dietary.
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