How to Feed a Snake—It’s Really Not That Hard

Snake Mouth Wide Open to Eat

We’ve all got to eat, some of us are just a little more graceful at it than others. Case in point—the snake.

One of the things that scares potential snake owners away from becoming a member of the slither society is feeding time.

However, there are also plenty of snake lovers and science geeks like myself who find the process extremely fascinating.

Regardless of where you’re at on the spectrum, if you’ve ever wondered how to feed a snake—you’re in luck!

Vegetarian Snake?

So what exactly do snakes eat? Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t people!

Well, not often anyways.

While a lot of animals can eat a mixture of both meat and plant matter, the snake is purely a meat eater. The type of meat depends on the breed of snake, but common meals include:

  • rodents
  • insects
  • frogs
  • eggs
  • fish
  • worms

Snakes are able to acquire all of their dietary needs from their prey, and there is no such thing as a vegetarian snake. So if you’re squeamish you might want to consider a different companion.

Mice On Ice

Assuming your snake’s diet consists of rodents, you’ll need to make the decision on whether to feed him live or frozen prey.

Freshly killed or frozen snake food is considered to be the safest and most humane choice.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to get your hands dirty, most pet supply stores sell already prepared snake snacks.

While feeding your friend something pre-killed might sound like it’s straight out of The Walking Dead, Pet Place explains that giving your snake already deceased rodents is best for your pet.

Most people don’t realize that live mice can actually bite and injure your snake.

If the snake isn’t hungry enough to eat the mouse, the mouse can even potentially kill him.

Not to mention, it is obviously the most humane choice for the prey as opposed to the terror it will face being hunted and eaten alive.

A photo posted by Ashlie Cullen (@quinny.0) on

Water Water Everywhere

To wash everything down, make sure to have water accessible for your fanged friend. Fresh clean water should be present at all times in a heavy bowl that will not easily be spilled.

Other than a refreshing thirst quencher, the water will serve to help maintain proper humidity in your snake’s habitat as well as providing a snake sized kiddie pool.

Keep in mind, however, that your snake will also be eliminating in this bowl (gross, but true) so make sure to keep it clean and change the water often.

Jaws

Chances are, you’ve seen what it looks like when a snake eats. But do you know what is actually happening? Since they don’t have any fingers to cut up their food into bite sized pieces, they are forced to swallow it whole.

Reptilis explains that the first thing they do is locate the head of their prey. Snakes will always eat their food head first. This makes swallowing their limbs much easier.

In addition, snakes have a pretty remarkable physical makeup. They are able to move one mandible (jaw bone) at a time, and their jaws can dislocate and expand to accommodate extremely large prey.

The snake also has help from incredibly strong throat muscles, tiny teeth on the roof of the mouth and special glands that help to lubricate the rodent.

Also, the snake is lacking a sternum and only has one lung.

These factors mean much more room inside the snake. I could’ve used that anatomy for Thanksgiving dinner!

A photo posted by Mahdi (@m_alhaideri) on

Hunger Games: Snake Edition

Since snakes swallow their food whole, it takes longer for them to digest their meals. Because of this, snakes don’t eat as often as other pets do. The frequency will depend largely on your snake’s size and age.

Smaller and/or younger snakes can eat up to two time a week while larger snakes typically only eat once every one to three weeks.

It is important to do some research on your specific breed of snake to have an exact idea of how often to feed him. And don’t worry, your snake will let you know when he is hungry.

It might take you a little while to become familiar with your pet’s specific hunger cues, but the typical signs are prowling their habitat and an increase in tongue flicks.

If your snake ever refuses to eat make sure to check with your veterinarian as the cause could be something as simple as stress or as serious as kidney failure.

A photo posted by Jessica ♐ (@renegadegeckos) on

Feeding Time!
Ok, so now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s feeding time! This quick list is going to focus on how to feed your snake a rodent such as a mouse.

Mice and rats are sold according to their size, so you will need to determine what size your snake will need. A good general rule to go by is to choose a mouse who is as big around as the widest part of your snake’s body.

You’ll probably want to do a little research though to make sure you aren’t giving him too much or too little.

Most rodents will be sold frozen.

You will need to thaw and properly heat the food for your snake by first placing the snake in a ziplock bag and submerging the bag in warm water to thaw and warm it.

You can also use a blowdryer to warm the mouse once it has thawed. Just make sure to never use a microwave. That can get real messy real quick.

Offer the prey to your snake either by placing it on a dish inside his habitat or by dangling it inside with a pair of forceps.

Some snakes will have a preference for one method or the other, so you’ll have to try both in order to find out which one your snake likes best.

Give your snake some time to eat. Some snakes will eat right away whereas other breeds might let the food sit for awhile first.

Tips: If your snake seems to be a little picky, here are some tips you can try to make his meal a little more appetizing.

Also, make sure his food is warm enough.

You can place it back in the bag in warm water or use the blow dryer method. You could even hold it against a warm light bulb.

While it isn’t for the faint of heart, the “braining” technique can prove to be successful as the scents released make it more appealing to your snake.

You’ll need to pierce the top of the head, insert a toothpick to draw out its brain matter, and smear the brain matter on the rodent’s nose.

If you love reptiles but would rather pass on the snake’s freaky feedings, check out our article on other reptilian pet options. Or, “Why do Snakes Shed their Skin.”


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