Snake Facts

Articles that relate to facts about snakes in general, or ball pythons in specific. Articles include facts about: ball python length and size, the shedding process of snakes, salmonella in relation to snakes, differences between male and female ball pythons, and normal ball python behaviour.

The Ultimate Ball Python Feeding Troubleshooting Guide

Ball pythons are quite notorious for refusing to eat. In fact, feeding problems are by far the most common amongst ball python owners. More often than not, there is absolutely no problem with the care a ball python owner is giving to their pet. Rather, the ball python simply doesn’t feel like eating at the moment. Yet of course, this is far from comforting, and in no way stops an owner from feeling concern over their pet’s lack of appetite.

Adult ball pythons have been reported to go without food for over a year, so if your adult ball python has not eaten in a couple of months, but still looks healthy and isn’t overly thin, try not to worry too much, as he or she will likely not starve any time soon. Young baby ball pythons, however, should not go many months without eating, because they do not have the body fat of an adult ball python to spare. That being said, it is only in very, very rare cases that ball pythons have ever starved themselves to death, so while it isn’t ideal that a ball python is not eating regularly, this is very unlikely to be fatal to your pet.

I’ve written this troubleshooting guide to help ball python owners figure out if there is something within their power they can try to help their ball python feel more comfortable eating. It may be easiest to print the list of questions below and check off each one to make sure there isn’t anything you haven’t forgotten to try. Please note that I will continue to update this page with any other possible explanations for ball pythons going off their feedings that I can find, so check back every now and again if your ball python still has still not begun to eat. Also do let me know if you have found another explanation for a ball python refusing to eat, or if any of these solutions helped you fix your ball python’s eating problem. That’s all for now. Good luck!

python regius not eating rat

Feeding Variables

Is your ball python eating the right sized prey (width of the prey should be just slightly larger than the widest part of your ball python)?
Yes: This is not the problem. Keep trying.
No: Get a larger or smaller prey for your ball python and try again.

(For frozen/thawed feeders:) Is your ball python defrosted and warmed thoroughly enough?
Yes: If you’re absolutely sure it is, this is not the problem. Keep trying.
No: After placing your ball python’s prey in a plastic bag, then running the bag under warm water and leaving it to thaw for one hour, upon taking out the prey, try warming it with a hair dryer for a few minutes before feeding it to your ball python. If this is the problem, the blow dryer trick should resolve the eating issue.

Impeding Shed

Is it possible that your ball python is going to shed soon?
Yes: Ball pythons don’t normally eat before they go into shed. Wait until your ball python has finished shedding, then offer him/her food again.
No: This doesn’t explain why your ball python won’t eat. Keep trying.

Environmental Conditions

Is the temperature inside your ball python’s enclosure between 80-85°F/26-29°C?
Yes: The temperature in your ball python’s enclosure is fine. Keep trying.
No: If the temperature is too low or too high, this may explain why your ball python is not eating. Fix the temperature, wait a few days, then try again.

(If you’ve confirmed your ball python is not shedding soon:) Is the humidity inside your ball python’s enclosure maintained between 50-60% (no lower than 50%)?
Yes: The humidity inside your ball python’s enclosure is maintained where it should be. This doesn’t explain why your ball python isn’t eating. Keep trying.
No: Increase or decrease the humidity until it is just right, then wait a few days and try to feed your ball python again.

Stress Factors

Has your ball python travelled recently?
Yes: Your ball python may still be stressed out from the trip. Give it 7-10 days, then try feeding it again.
No: This is not the explanation for your ball python refusing to eat. Keep trying.

Have you been handling your ball python a lot recently?
Yes: Your ball python may be stressed from having been held too much. Give it 3-4 days without handling, then try to feed it again.
No: This doesn’t provide an explanation for your ball python not eating. Keep trying.

Does your ball python have a dark hide which it sleeps in comfortably (not too tight and not too roomy)?
Yes: This is not the problem. Keep trying.
No: If your ball python isn’t satisfied with his or her hide and isn’t sleeping in it regularly, this is likely stressing him or her out. If the hide isn’t the right size, it’s time to get a new hide, and then after a good nights sleep in the new hide, try feeding your ball python again.

Illness

Does your ball python appear to have parasites?
Yes: Ball pythons with parasites often loose their appetites. Get rid of the parasites as quickly as possible, then try feeding your ball python again.
No: This does not explain why your ball python hasn’t eaten recently. Keep trying.

Does your ball python wheeze or have mucous in its mouth?
Yes: Your ball python may have a respiratory infection that is affecting his or her appetite. Take your ball python to the vet (they are the only ones who can cure a respiratory infection) and try feeding again as the vet suggests.
No: Congratulations on your ball python not having respiratory infection, but unfortunately, this does not explain your ball python’s hunger strike. Keep trying.

Desire to Breed

If your ball python is an adult, is it breeding season (usually starts around November and can last until May; breeding season often occurs during the colder months)?
Yes: Your ball python may be in heat, and so may have lost its appetite due to a desire to breed. No need to breed your pet if you don’t want to, it will likely start eating again once breeding season has passed.
No: This does not explain why your ball python is not eating. Keep trying.

royal python refusing to eat

Do Ball Pythons Sleep?

Ball pythons have no eyelids, so unlike humans and animals that close their eyes while they sleep, it can be difficult to tell when a ball python is really asleep. That being said, ball pythons do sleep, and normally for quite a long time. It’s not unusual for a ball python to sleep for 22 or 23 hours a day, and wake up only for an evening stroll. When ball pythons are shedding, since they conserve their energy for about a week before they finally shed, they can sleep straight through for up to two weeks on end, possibly only waking up for a few minutes here and there to get into a more comfortable position.

Ball pythons are fairly lazy creatures, which makes sense since they only really eat about once a week. They conserve their energy most of the time by resting and sleeping, hence why they are normally only up for a couple of hours a day. Digesting their food takes a lot of energy, and so while they will sleep a lot when they are gearing up for a shed, they will also sleep a lot when they’ve just eaten and are digesting their food. Therefore, although it’s difficult to ascertain whether or not a ball python is currently sleeping because they do not have eyelids that they close while sleeping and open while awake, they do sleep, and quite often really.

ball python fallen asleep in hide

Can I Pet My Ball Python?

Yes, you most certainly can pet your ball python. Snake scales go in one direction, and you should always pet with and not against the grain of their scales. This means that you should be petting in a downward motion from the direction of their head to the direction of their tail.

Many, though not all, ball pythons are head-shy, meaning they do not like to be stroked on their head, and will recoil or potentially even become aggressive if they are touched on their head because of the amount they dislike it. Many head-shy ball pythons will also not like to be stroked on their necks. Other ball pythons will be perfectly fine letting a human stroke them on their heads and necks, but be careful around a new ball python in case it is in fact head-shy. Sometimes, with increased handling, a ball python is able to go from being head shy to being perfectly fine with a human stroking its head. Yet this takes a lot of effort, patience, and increased handling time on the part of the owner (not too much! maybe 30-40 minutes a day, though it has to be consistent and nearly every day or else the ball python may become unaccustomed to you again). This does not happen with all ball pythons, however, so if you have a head shy ball python, there is no guarantee that it will ever be okay with you touching its head.

royal python affectionate stroking and petting

Ball python skin may deceptively look slimy like a frog’s skin, but it most definitely is not. Ball pythons have extremely smooth skin that is very nice to the touch. The vast majority of ball pythons are indifferent to whether you pet them or not, so long as they are being petted below the neck. Although they won’t necessarily enjoy it, they also will certainly not be displeased with you for petting them, or feel uncomfortable with it, so you can confidently pet your ball python if they seem to be fine with that kind of handling (as the vast majority will be).

As much as is physically possible, do not handle or try to pet a ball python that has recently eaten. It may regurgitate if it is moved or becomes too anxious, so keep your distance for some time while your pet digests. Once it becomes active again, you can take this as a sign that it has digested enough and is fine with being held and petted.

On Ball Pythons Losing Teeth

If your ball python has recently lost teeth, don’t worry in the least. Ball pythons frequently lose their teeth when biting, certainly more frequently than one notices, and they do grow back. New teeth are always waiting and ready to come in when old teeth have fallen out.

As ball python owners, it’s more obvious that a ball python has lost teeth when they have lost them biting us, namely because it’s hard not to see the tooth that has fallen out. But ball pythons actually lose teeth quite frequently when eating. The only time you’ll need to worry about a lost tooth is in the case that the tooth gets stuck on the lip of your ball python. In these cases, sometimes an infection can result, so be sure to watch your pet carefully to make sure all looks fine. If your ball python is having problems eating, take him or her to a vet. Otherwise, there is no problem with a ball python having lost teeth, so you shouldn’t be concerned.

python regius what if tooth fell out while eating rat