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How Long Can A Ball Python Go Without Eating? What To Do If Your Ball Python Won’t Eat

Like many other animals, a ball python won’t eat if it is under stress or something is wrong with its environment. If your snake isn’t eating, there might be something wrong with its enclosure. Your snake could also be sick.

A ball python needs warmth, light, and a proper cage to live in. If it is too cold or not bright enough, the python may stop eating. You need to set the cage up properly with a hot area, a cool area, and a dark place for the snake to hide.

Pythons Stop Eating for Many Different Reasons

The more you know about your pet ball python, the better you can take care of it. There are many reasons why a snake might stop eating for a long time, some of which are nothing to worry about. At worst, your python may be sick and may need to go to the vet. Possibly, it could have a serious illness.

Usually, things are not so bad, so don’t get worried if your snake refuses food. At best, your snake will return to eating on its own without you having to change anything. Other times, you might need to improve conditions in your snake’s enclosure to keep your snake calm and willing to eat.

You need to keep the python’s enclosure clean, or else it may lose its appetite. You may need to clean the cage every time your snake sheds or defecates.This is one of the first things to check for if your snake refuses food.

Stress Can Kill Your Snake’s Appetite

Animals, including snakes, can be just as vulnerable to stress as humans. Sudden changes can stress humans and animals. If something stresses your snake out, it might not calm down for a long time. If you just bought your snake, it is probably under stress.

Suddenly moving a ball python from one place to another will frighten it. If you leave your snake alone for a while after you buy it, the snake may calm down. Snakes are solitary animals that prefer to be left alone most of the time. They don’t want to be picked up and handled very often. Frequently handling a snake will make it nervous and ruin the snake’s appetite.

Ball Python resting in hide
Ball Python resting in hide

A Snake Will Get Stressed if it Doesn’t Have a Place to Hide

In the wild, a snake will hide under a rock or log. It needs boxes or bags to hide in or else its cage will be too different from its natural environment. The snake will get nervous if it doesn’t have a dark place to hide in. Snakes like to hide in small, tight spaces. Give a ball python at least two appropriately sized hides to go into.

The hides should be big enough for the snake to fit all of its body into but not much bigger. A smaller hiding place is more calming for the python than an unnecessarily large one. The snake’s sides should touch the edges of the box it hides in.

Noise and Vibrations can Stress your Ball Python

While snakes do not have ears, they can still hear. A snake has no external ears, but it does have an internal ear structure. The snake’s jawbone can pick up vibrations, allowing the snake to sense sound without an ear.

Loud music will bother a snake, especially if it is near to your snake’s enclosure. The noise will make the snake worried about predators. The louder and more frequent the music is, the more it will stress your ball python.

The Temperature Needs to be Right

Reptiles, including snakes, have a lower tolerance for changes in temperature than mammals do. A mammal can regulate its body temperature, but a reptile cannot. Reptiles are cold-blooded and vulnerable to cool weather. A reptile gets all of its heat from the environment and will die in somewhat cold weather.

If a snake is a bit cold, it cannot digest its food, which can cause serious health problems. The undigested food could decompose inside of the snake, which could kill it.

If your snake hasn’t been eating for longer than usual, check the temperature and make sure it is very close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the hot part of the enclosure. Keep the temperature within two degrees of 90 in the warmest part of the cage.

The cool part of the enclosure can be much cooler but must still be above 75 degrees. Again, cold-blooded animals are vulnerable to small changes in temperature. A small change in temperature can make a large difference to a snake, so make sure the temperature stays in the right range. All ball pythons need to have a hot part and a cool part of the cage.

How to Raise the Temperature in Your Snake’s Enclosure

You can use light, heating pads, and heaters to keep the temperature in your snake’s enclosure just right. You need to use a thermometer that you check on. When the temperature isn’t right, you need to adjust your heating methods promptly. Be particularly careful if you live in a cold house. The cold can harm or kill a snake much faster than it can harm or kill another animal.

Heating pads are one of the most popular methods for keeping the temperature right in your snake’s enclosure. Some heating pads go underneath the cage. There are also ceramic heating elements. You can also use a heat lamp to provide warmth. Heat lamps simply use a bright light to heat up the snake’s cage.

To create a hot side of the cage and a cool side of it, keep the room temperature lower than you want the hot side of the cage to be. Then, heat only one side of the cage. You can make the cool side of the enclosure about 80 degrees not much more than the temperature in the room and the hot side of the cage more like 90 degrees.

It is not a big deal if the temperature drops by a few degrees during the night, but don’t let the temperature swing too much.

Snakes Eat What They are Used to Eating

When you buy a pet python, you should find out what the snake is used to eating. If it is used to live prey, it might not eat a dead animal, and it might not go after live prey if it is used for pre-killed meals. Since it is difficult for a snake to adjust to new feeding habits, it is best to continue feeding your snake what the previous owner fed it.

Even small changes in the food your snake eats can cause problems. The snake might object to food from a different supplier if it smells different. If the snake is used to eating rats, it might not eat a mouse. It is normal for ball pythons to be picky eaters.

Snakes Cannot Tolerate Continuous Bright Light
Snakes Cannot Tolerate Continuous Bright Light

Snakes Cannot Tolerate Continuous Bright Light

If a snake’s enclosure is too different from its natural environment, it may stop eating. This includes being in an enclosure that is always brightly lit. A snake needs some time in the dark, especially before feeding.

In the wild, a snake won’t feed when it is light out which would put the snake in danger from predators. Ball pythons are nocturnal and prefer to be active when it is dark out. Sometimes, a ball python is comfortable with feeding during the day. The python might go into its hide, where it is dark, and feed there.

However, this is not good enough for all snakes, it may need a dark room. If you use a heating lamp, find another heat source, use heating pads instead. Snakes like the darkness, so don’t deprive them of it. You can also use infrared lights to heat the snake’s enclosure up. Infrared light is invisible to snakes as well as humans.

The infrared light will heat up the snake’s enclosure just as well as visible light will.

Snakes Hibernate in the Colder Months

During colder weather, snakes minimize their activity and may not feed at all. This is called brumation and is similar to hibernation in some mammals. Your ball python will minimize activity and avoid eating. Not every snake enters this state in captivity, sometimes, the warm weather prevents the snake from entering this state.

However, a snake has a biological clock that will tell it to hibernate regardless of the temperature. Sometimes, your snake will enter this state even if there is no temperature change. Take your snake to the vet if you aren’t sure whether the snake is hibernating. Sometimes, it could be refusing food for a more serious reason.

Your Ball Python Maybe Sick

Sometimes, a ball python may stop eating for a more serious reason. It is not always that the season isn’t right for eating or that there is something wrong with the snake’s living space. Your ball python might be sick.

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can all affect snakes. Respiratory infections, mouth infections, and parasites such as snake mites are all common causes of sickness.

If your snake is sick, there will usually be some signs of sickness other than a loss of appetite. Signs of sickness in ball pythons include:

  • Discharge from the mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Odd sounds when breathing
  • Discoloration

Don’t hesitate to take your ball python to the vet if you notice any of these signs. Illnesses are easier to treat if you start early.

How Long Can A Ball Python Go Without Eating
How Long Can A Ball Python Go Without Eating

How Long Can A Ball Python Go Without Eating?

It is not always a problem if your ball python hasn’t eaten in longer than usual. There are many reasons why a python might not be eating, many of which are harmless and will correct themselves. First off, a ball python doesn’t need to eat very often. Like many other snakes, a ball python can go for months without eating without starving.

A ball python may not eat for longer than usual if it is about to shed. Male ball pythons may stop eating during the breeding season. In these cases, the python is fine and healthy and will go back to eating when the time is right.

In other cases, there is something wrong with the snake or its environment. You may need to do something to help the snake feel comfortable enough to eat. Sometimes, you may need to take the snake to the vet for treatment.

Snakes are Easy to Take Care of, but You Still Have Responsibilities

A pet snake doesn’t take nearly as much time to take care of properly as a pet dog. However, a pet owner can still neglect a snake. A pet ball python needs a proper enclosure where it will feel comfortable. This won’t take up much of your time but you can still hurt your python if you don’t set up the enclosure the right way.

Your snake’s enclosure needs a warm area and a cool area. Make sure your snake has a dark, small space to hide in. Keep the cage clean, and don’t keep the lights on all the time. Don’t compromise with any of these steps, or you will make your snake unhealthy and unhappy.

How Often Should You Feed a Ball Python?

Daily feeding is not a good idea. They don’t want or need to eat every day. Every other day is also far too much for any ball python. You might feed a very young ball python as much as twice a week. As a python grows and gets bigger, it needs to eat less frequently. After a while, it will only need to eat once every week or once every two weeks.

Pet snakes (like pet tarantulas) do not need live prey. If it is used to live prey, it might have difficulty adjusting to pre-killed meals. However, a python does not naturally prefer live prey, it prefers what it is used to eating. Dead prey is better than live prey because a rodent will fight back and can hurt your snake. Small rodent bites can become serious if they get infected.

A ball python can easily live for six months without food and usually, it can survive for much longer. There have been cases of ball pythons going for more than 20 months without food, though that is not normal and would kill many ball pythons.

Don’t Worry Right Away

If your snake hasn’t eaten in months rather than weeks, you need to figure out what is wrong. Is the cage clean, warm, not always brightly lit? Does the snake appear to be sick? If you aren’t sure about something, leave a comment, and we will be able to help you.

Snakes can lose interest in food because they are stressed cold, not provided with a hiding place, hibernating or sick. Don’t worry right away, but find out what is wrong if the snake continues to refuse food.

What do I do if my ball python won’t eat?

A ball python is a fun pet to have at home. They are docile and will often eat from the hand. But sometimes, the ball python won’t eat for some odd reason. The owner might feel worried because the ball python isn’t eating. Recognize that the ball python often fasts for several months. They do that in the wild and while they are domesticated pets.

Fasting behavior is common and has been documented with the animal as well. There might be a solution if prolonged fasting does occur. Use a pair of tongs or forceps to offer some good food. The animal is going to appreciate the special feeding routine. They might be willing to eat if the food is presented correctly.

The owner can learn which types of food are preferred by the ball python. Keep track of the feedings and note any successes that tend to occur too.

About Rencel Leyran