Most first-time snake keepers usually choose a ball python as it is advantageous in many ways. A ball python, unlike other snake pets, is uncommonly docile and welcoming to human handling. Nonetheless, ball pythons are notoriously known as picky eaters.
For an inexperienced snake keeper, such behavior or occurrence can be immensely frustrating and worrisome if you don’t know it is common.
How often do ball pythons eat?
Generally, young ball pythons feed after about 7 to 14 days while ball pythons that are hatchling feed after every 5 days. Adult ball pythons eat single meals after about 10 to 14 days, with the duration between one meal to another increasing with age since the slowing of metabolism abates appetite.
A ball python has a slow digestive system and conserves body heat and energy. As a result, there is no need for the pet to be fed every day. If you feed the pet regularly, it will suffer from obesity. And, if the snake is not fed enough, it may starve and get sick or die.
Why is my ball python not eating?
Usually, if your ball python is not eating frequently as it should, it is of utmost importance that you understand the issue and address it appropriately. Some of the common reasons why your ball python may be on a hunger strike include:
This is one of the leading reasons why a snake pet may refuse to eat. Illnesses that tend to suppress the appetite of a ball python are:
- Respiratory infections often courtesy of improper humidity and an unhygienic living environment.
- Metabolic bone disease, caused by insufficient dietary calcium.
- Eating disorder (also known as anorexia), which may be a result of a viral infection.
- Internal parasites such as tapeworms and hookworms.
Apart from lack of appetite, other common signs of poor health include unexpected weight loss, lethargy, discolored scales, unusual breathing, and eyes or nasal discharge.
Generally, for ball pythons, the breeding season occurs from September to November. However, the breeding season for pythons kept at home runs throughout the year. Expect that a male ball python may refuse to eat or eat less for a couple of months as the mating and breeding process requires lower temperatures.
A female snake may refuse to eat when ovulation starts and or before eggs are laid. Once the egg-laying process is done, the pet’s appetite will resume normally.
Even if you try your best to warm up the home during winter, still, because of the cold, most snake pets including ball pythons will feel uncomfortable and lose appetite. For instance, too low temperatures are known to increase the risk of poor health and make proper food digestion a challenge because of slowed down metabolism.
A ball python refuses to eat during winter since any undigested food may rot in its stomach leading to sickness and poor health. It is only high temperatures that are favourable for food digestion.
READ MORE: Ball Python Heating Guide: Does the Snake Need a Heating Lamp?
If a ball python is either getting ready for shedding or is currently shedding, it is a common occurrence to refuse to eat temporarily, for days or weeks The task of shedding is not easy and thus energy and focus are solely focused on safe shedding.
Some of the signs, apart from the loss of appetite, indicating that a snake is preparing for shedding include:
- Gray-blue eye caps
- Discolored or dull scales
- Unusual anxiety and fear
- Cloudy or dull eyes
A ball python is a shy and sensitive pet that needs to be housed in a place that feels secure and comfortable. A stressed-out snake pet is guaranteed to go on a hunger strike. The stress may be a result of a new environment, too much activity within its habitat, and new smells.
Some potential stress-inducing activities near the enclosure of a ball python are bright lights, sudden/incessant movements, and loud sounds. Other pets like cats and dogs can also stress out and frighten your snake pet to reduce appetite.
Improper Enclosure Setup
Though ball pythons are sensitive pets, accommodating their needs is a simple task. Make sure that the enclosure of your pet is comfortable, has sufficient clean, warm water for soaking in, and is of the right size. For instance, a tiny enclosure, even for humans, may cause depression and reduced appetite.
Without a proper habitat for a ball python, expect to experience issues with feeding.
READ ALSO: Ball Python Temperament
How do I get my ball python to eat?
Finding the right approach to feed your ball python that refuses to eat because of different reasons is always a challenging task, especially when you are a new pet snake keeper. The good news though is that below you are provided with the different ways to get your snake pet to eat normally.
Take a Trip to a Veterinarian
This solution to the eating problem is most recommended when your pet is ill. The poor health of a ball python may be caused by different issues such as a broken tooth causing oral infection. That can only be better handled by a veterinarian.
Wait for Resumption of Eating After Shedding and Breeding/Egg Laying
Often, when the breeding and the egg-laying season is over, your pet will resume feeding normally, so there is no need to worry. Only try offering a meal a day or two after a successful shed.
Give Frozen Prey
Avoid giving your snake a live rodent or prey since it may be subjected to more stress and risk. The prey can cause injuries to your pet.
Only give your snake frozen prey for consumption as it is not only enjoyable but also safer. However, remember that the frozen food should be removed from the freezer 24 hours before consumption to safeguard the animal against bacterial infection.
Feed Snake at Night
Pythons are nocturnal animals, unlike humans and most reptiles which are most active during the day. Pythons in the wild are used to hunting and eating at night. For a captive ball python, you can encourage eating during the day by making its environment dark.
Assist During The Shedding Process
The shedding process is usually annoying and stressful to your snake pet leading to a refusal to eat. Since pythons are sensitive animals, the process becomes even more annoying to them.
You can help your snake remove the dead skin completely by employing the use of a shedding product. Such products can be purchased from online stores and pet shops.
Construct The Enclosure In a Quiter Location
Because a ball python is sensitive to the happenings around its enclosure, avoid exposing it to anything that may stress and make it refuse to eat. The location of the enclosure should safeguard the pet against external stressors such as noise, dogs, and cats.
Your pet may also refuse to eat since the prey offered is frozen and not moving. Experts recommend that to solve such a problem, employ the use of a technique called tease feeding. The feeding technique involves dangling the food in front of your snake pet giving the illusion that it is moving.
Also, you can try rubbing the frozen food across the nose of the pet to enable it to notice and gain interest in what is being offered.
Understand that this feeding technique has its danger, hence you should always be careful and only employ it when there is a necessity.
Provide Extra Spots for Hiding
Since the pet is shy and withdrawn, you must make it feel comfortable and safe. That is possible by providing it with extra and comfortable spots for hiding. Without offering such vital spots, the snake will be prone to feel uncomfortable and avoid eating.
Offer Dietary Variations
Even to humans, eating the same type of food day, again and again, can be very boring and lead to loss of appetite. Avoid offering the same type or size of prey every day without trying different diets and prey sizes. For instance, try giving your pet a variety of preys including gerbils, rats, and mice.
The sizes of the preys offered should also be different as this can entice the pet to be interested in the meal. Avoid offering a large prey, which can be intimidating to the snake and inflict injuries.
This method, like tease feeding, can also assist in getting your snake pet interested in devouring its frozen meal. You can scent the prey to achieve a better smell using a thing like chicken broth or gerbils
How long can a ball python go without eating?
For healthy babies and adults, they can take 10 and 17 days respectively without eating. Still, a healthy ball python can survive for weeks or months without eating, especially when they go into brumation, which is uncommon for pet snakes. For some ball pythons, it has been shown that they can take more than a year without starving.
Thus, the duration it can take for a ball python to go without eating still is a subject of fierce debate among snake owners.
In case a healthy snake pet skips a few meals, that should not be a cause for concern. Only get concerned when the duration of eating extends beyond 10-17 days.
READ NEXT: Why Is My Ball Python So Active?