Feeding Habits of Ball Pythons - Picky Eaters

Ball Pythons

Ball pythons are one of the best beginner snakes in the pet trade today. They have earned this title because they are calm and docile with easy husbandry needs, not because of their feeding habits.

Ball pythons are VERY picky eaters. It is very hard to successfully get a ball python to eat F/T mice or F/T rats. But, not impossible. Many petstores feed live mice and rats to their ball pythons, so when you get them home, it become quite a challenge getting them on frozen foods.

I've tried. I've tried many methods. I haven't gotten one to work. I've attempted leaving the frozen mouse in the cage overnight, leaving it in his hide over night, covering the cage with towels, and dipping the mouse in tuna juice. The only thing I have not tried is putting the snake and thawed mouse in a pillow case-type bag.

For the past year my ball python has eaten live rats, except the 1 thawed pinkie and 1 thawed mouse that he has recently taken.

Feeding Ball Pythons

Not just looking at feeding ball pythons from a live or frozen standpoint, in general they are proven finicky feeders. It is not uncommon for a ball python to go without food for over a year. Not because he's not hungry, but it could be due to various reasons.

My ball python decided to go without food for five months this past winter. I had trouble keeping the tank temperatures up high enough for him, so he chose not to eat, which is not uncommon for ball pythons.

The slightest change in temperatures, too hot or too cold, upgrading enclosures, changing habitat d├ęcor, or even the placement of the tank, could all upset a ball python into not eating.

Sometimes you have to force feed them to get them started eating again. I have heard of times where a ball python will begin to loose substantial weight, even after just six months of not eating. And, a veterinarian told the customer to begin force feeding. In some cases, force feeding is the only option to getting a ball python to eat, but should NOT be attempted unless you know what you're doing. Force feeding a snake is not the best option, but if the snake starts to lose weight, and still refuses to eat, it may be something that you want to consider. It's best that you use smaller F/T than the snake could actually eat; it'll be easier for you to get it down the snake.

You can, also, look at what you're feeding him. If he's used to eating frozen and stops eating, you could try feeding him fresh killed. This way, the rat or mouse is still naturally hot, but it's dead or at least stunned so that it won't hurt the snake. This is a much better option than going straight to live when the snake starts to give you trouble eating, as in most cases the rat will still twitch and appear live to some extent.

I would wait several months before attempting live, and not do so until you've tried every option possible. Remember that it is VERY hard to get a ball python, much less any snake, to go back to frozen feeders after they have had a live feeder, so if your goal is to feed F/T, then I wouldn't suggest even trying live.

Before trying fresh killed or live, you can try dipping the F/T in tuna juice or even chicken broth (tuna juice works better), patting the F/T so that doesn't drip juice, and then offering it to the snake. In many cases, this is a good way to get the snake to start eating. Once the snake is eating regularly, you can start thawing out the frozen feeder regularly without the juice.

You can also bust the head of the F/T open after thawing so that it has the brainy smell. This may not be the most pleasant method, but it works in most cases.

Sometimes, ball pythons can get even more picky than frozen versus live. Sometimes, they will only take one color mouse or rat, if that's what they're used to. I've even heard it so bad, that a particular ball python would only eat white, female rats. It would NOT eat a male rat.

The biggest thing that you, or any ball python owner, must figure out, is your pet snake's tastes. I know it sounds funny, but some times that's the case.

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Comments 274 comments

Chris 4 years ago

For whom it concers, It is okay for ball pythons to go off feeding for months. My ball python hasn't eaten in 2 months and he's the same weight he was from last feeding. It's also not bad to feed them live or frozen food because al the nutrients are still their. Think bout all the frozen food we eat.


shay 4 years ago

for the question about leaving the live mouse in the cage with your snake.. you shouldn't do it, the mouse could bite the snake. we have 2 ball pythons and if they dont eat the mice we put them in a little cage until we get our snakes to eat them.


Dora 4 years ago

I have a ball python just about the size of my arms. It's been 3 weeks that she hasn't feed. Is this normal or is it not?


flickagirl 5 years ago

i bought a ball python on September 2, 2011 and they told me to feed him on that following Wednesday but nothing is exactly what happened and it has not eat since a while before i bought it i can not figure out why. I called the pet shop where i bought it at and they said they were feeding him/her live white feeder mice which that is exactly what i have been trying to feed him. I need some answers because he/she is starting to worry me a lot i do not want my snake to die because of starving to death and i could have prevented it.


Marci & HARLEY 5 years ago

all needa think its mistreating your ball python TO GIVE it killed or frozen mice think how do they eat in the wild there hunters they like to kill them their self y do u think there pythons they choke them their selves go to petco and get mice tell them your snakes size how many feet and they'll giv u the ryte size of rat think people it will increase your pythons health FACT its not creul its the way of nature


john 5 years ago

i tried feeding my ball python a hopper he wouldn't eat it so i tied a fuzzy he killed and burried it so i waited he didn't eat he died shortly after and it makes me mad because when i bought him the guy said he wa a great eater


kk143 5 years ago

i have been looking for an albino ball python i really want one anyone know of one for sale in the bakersfield area of cali?????


Rose 5 years ago

We just fed our Ball Python for the first time since we have had him. He has been moving non stop since we fed him over 10 hours ago. Is this common?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

I don't recommend feeding in the cage, not because of myths about them striking bc they think you're going to feed but just because I'd rather not have a rat walking throughout my snake's tank.

The tank may not be warm enough. You may not have given the snake time to adjust.


Jennifer 5 years ago

My husband and I just purchased a ball python from a local pet shop and with him came a feeding record and I noticed that our snake hasn't eating since November, and its now Feb. 9th, I noticed on here that its not uncommon for him to not eat in such a long time but it somewhat worries me, and he too has always fed on live rats, my husband brought one home to him today, and he will not eat it, so now im unsure of what to do with this rat until he does decide that he wants it, any ideas? A question, his tank is large, is it a good idea to just leave the rat roaming inside of it until the snake decides he is hungry and wants him?


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 5 years ago from Georgia Author

It's not so much a myth, but truth. Thanks for the comment though. It's good that you've not had any problems, but I know many who have with proper care of their snake, myself included.


TBP 5 years ago

There seems to be a myth out there that ball pythons are extremely finicky and it is normal for them to go off feed for months at a time. The truth is Ball Pythons if cared for properly, should feed fairly regularly with little resistance. It can be challenging switching from live to frozen thawed, however it is by no means impossible. There are just certain tricks to use when switching over... 1st you want to make sure that the prey item is fully thawed and nice and warm, you do not want to cook the item, just make sure that the snake is able to sense the prey is there. A lot of times I see people trying to feed prey items half frozen still. This is a big NO NO! 2nd you want to move the prey around, just throwing it in almost never works. 3rd you want to make sure that the humidity in the enclosure is nice and high prior to feeding, try misting a little extra the day before and day of feeding. 4th you want to make sure that you never force feed a snake, it will eat on it's own if you give it time. Force feeding a snake is absolutely one of the most stressful things you can do to a snake. Even if you get it force fed successfully, the next time you go to offer food the snake will be terrified. I have heard stories of snakes going over a year without food then all of a sudden starting to eat again and start packing back on the weight like you would not believe. One of the most common causes for snakes going off feed is power feeding... this is when you try to ram a rat down the snakes throat 2 times a week or more. Eventually the snake just can't do it anymore and needs time off food for a while to self regulate it's own weight. To put it simply, you should not have a 6 month old snake that weighs 700+ grams.

I hope this helps.

Thanks,

TBP


Night 5 years ago

The only reason why a ball python or any pet snake would strike at its owner is if you feed it in its tank or over feed them, so they are always use to eating when their tank is open or think its time to eat when their tank is open, what i do with mine is i have a cardboard box with breathing holes around it and when i put her in there she knows automatically that its feeding time, another thing is the snake would not matter of a fact refuses to eat the mouse (frozen) if it knows that's its dead, the illusion of it being alive is more of a successful strike at a frozen mouse so leaving a thawed mouse in its tank would be a bad idea, a way to do this is when you thaw out the mouse let it sit in warm water before patting it dry then with a thongs wave it around in the box and the snake is sure to bite, ive dropped it by accidents and she gets turned off and might not be interested in eating for the day...this method for me has been successful 95 percent of the time, and ive had mine for 8mnths now and has never strike at me once.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

You could have just caught him on a bad day. You could definitely bump him to small F/T rats instead of the F/T mice. You can feed prey as large as the widest girth of the snake. It could be that it was hungry, but it definitely wasn't the natural instinct, as he would have had that natural instinct to strike all along. It wouldn't have just started like that


Rick29 6 years ago

Temperatures are 90 hot side, 80 cool side. Ambient temp of whole tank is 82. He is eating like a champ, I fed him 2 mice 3 days ago, then he just ate another 3 mice last night. These are the small mice F/T. He seems a little at ease now. I will see how he acts later tonight when he comes out of his hide. Its just weird how now he is attacking us, but he never done it before. Im gonna go with him being "hungry" or as you said maybe stress related for some reason. Let me add he is about 2 feet long, 1-2 inches thick.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

He's not acting on instinct. Keep feeding F/T You can probably feed small rats once a week, instead of the two mice. He is probably stressed. Check your temperatures.


Rick 6 years ago

I have had a Ball Python for about a year now. I have been feeding him frozen mice 2 a week and upgraded to bigger sizes as he got bigger. I had gone away on vacation for a month or 2 recently. I come back and go back to his normal feeding habits, but now he is starting to snap at me and my girlfriend. He even tries to wrap tight amongst your fingers and snap at them to a point. He never has acted this way before. Is it because he is hungry or stressed to not being handled or the mixture of both? Is there something I can do to get him back to how he acted prior? My brother who is pretty good with snakes with snakes says, he is acting on instinct and is ready to be giving live mice now. Is this the case anyone can help me please? Thanks for any advice, appreciate it.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Look in warm, dark places. Other than that, it's hard to say, as he could be anywhere. Check the under the fridge, as there's warmth down there.


Baraa 6 years ago

I lost my last friday, it's almost abeen a full week now, and i still havn't found him, his last feeding day was supposed to be last friday but he was lost before i feed him so the last time he ate was almost 2 weeks ago. I'm getting more and more worried by the gay and none of the usual hiding places; dark, tight and warm seem to have intrested him yet. My schedule has me sleeping during the night so i can't be awake when he's active. I was wondering if you could give me some advice about catching him or at least getting a general idea if he's upstairs or down stairs or even a likely room he's in. Also, he was lost downstairs, but his cage is upstairs. He wouldn't have gotten lost if it wasn't for myy carelessness and now that it's starting to get kind of chilly in the night, i'm really scurrying to find him. It's all i've been doing in my spare time lately. Thanks


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 6 years ago from Georgia Author

You'll just have to keep at it. These guys can be quite stubborn. As long as the snake isn't losing weight, it should be fine.


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