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Good Pet Snakes: African Ball Python

Updated on April 25, 2012
The inquisitive, sweet-tempered ball python makes an excellent reptilian pet.
The inquisitive, sweet-tempered ball python makes an excellent reptilian pet. | Source

I work at a museum as an animal educator. This means that I use various reptiles to teach both kids and adults about the world around them. I grew up handling frogs, turtles and fish, so the one animal I had to learn to handle for my job was a snake. I was nervous at first, but the first snake I was handed was a sweet little ball python named Cuddles.

It turned out that Cuddles' name was not only indicative of his personality, but it was indicative of the general temperament possessed by the entire species. Generally small snakes, ball pythons made me fall instantly in love with snakes (keep in mind I'm a somewhat ditzy blonde who had zero interest in snakes before meeting Cuddles).

If you're trying to overcome a fear of snakes, or you're getting one as a pet, I encourage you to consider the ball python. Maybe it was some sort of female maternal instinct kicking in, but when I held Cuddles for the first time, I was taken by his inquisitive little face peeking up into mine. As creepy as it sounds, I almost cooed at the little python when he curled his body against mine as he slithered down my shirt collar for warmth. They really are the perfect snake.

Ball Python Information

Ball pythons originate in savannah's and temperate forests in Central Africa, where they are the smallest species of snake. They are popular for the ease in which they are handled and for their calmness and even temperament.

When threatened, the ball python (also called the royal python) will curl up in a tight ball with their head in the center for protection. They may remain this way for several days, or until the threat has passed.

Adding to the generally sweet nature of the ball python is the strong maternal instinct female ball pythons possess. The most caring of snake species, female ball pythons will remain wrapped around their eggs until they hatch, providing protection and warmth to her young offspring. The female ball python will leave after the eggs hatch, but she far outlasts any other snake mother in regards to the amount of time spent with her offspring.

Ball pythons tend to nocturnal, and use their forked tongues to sense warm-blooded creatures around them. They also have small pits along their upper lip that have the same function.

Central Africa:
Central Africa

get directions

Home of the ball python.

Ball Python Care and Handling

Ball pythons can live for many decades in captivity if properly cared for. Captive-bred pythons respond best to different environments and food types.

Ball python cages should be about 40-50 US gallons and have a section kept warm with a heating pad or lamp at around 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit to help the python regulate its temperature. Tanks or cages should also provide several places for the python to comfortably hide. A 50% humidity level is desirable.

Ball pythons will eat mostly small mammals, which can be provided freshly killed, alive or thawed. The size of the food should not be much larger than the thickest part of the snake. Ball pythons may stop eating during winter months, which is normal as long as the snake doesn't lose too much weight, in which case parasites or disease could be affecting it.

When handling a ball python, think "tree". You are lifting the ball python far from safety on the ground, so you need to make it feel as comfortable as possible. Move slowly and make sure the snake feels supported, or has time to wrap its tail around your arm. At the museum, I often allow one of the pythons to wrap itself around my arm and then carry it around and show it to patrons.

Refrain from handling your ball python when it is shedding.


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    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Love Cuddles. Snakes are such fascinating creatures........from a distance. I love learning and studying about snakes.

    • DS Duby profile image

      DS Duby 

      8 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Great hub, I love my ball python, he lives in a 90 gallon aquarium with a 3D stone background I made that give,s it a natural feel and a place for him to bask under his lamp when he chooses.

    • endless sea profile image

      Akhand Pratap SIngh 

      8 years ago from Lucknow(U.P.) India

      WOW amazing!! I love snakes and this hub was incredible :)voted up and useful

    • Shanna11 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      ithabise- I have never had any bad instances with any of the three different ball pythons I work with. Once, a child slapped the head of the snake while I was carrying it around to be petted, and it got a little antsy afterward, slithering into my hair (even I have my limits!!) and trying to wrap around my shoulders. But he was easy to get control of and I just put him away. I don't have a pet snake myself (against apartment contract) and I wouldn't really consider it though.

      They get a little boring after a while, and I don't want to have to stock dead mice in my freezer!

      fpherj48- Haha, I thought the exact same before my job. I'm an animal person, so it didn't take much for reptiles to work their way in as well. The snakes aren't so bad as some of the lizards I handle-- they leave deep gouges along my wrists with their claws. I look like I self-harm!

    • fpherj48 profile image


      8 years ago from Carson City

      shanna....I have goose bumps. Nothing in this entire world could cause me to hold a snake, or even get close to one. Bless your heart....I guess someone has to do it! Snakes are not my form of entertainment and I hate to tell you this, but my husband and I both think that people who have any sort of REPTILE as a P E T (!) all need therapy and medication!!! lol a pet??!! Ridiculous! very good hub though, even though I hate snakes!! UP++

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S 

      8 years ago from Danville, VA

      Great hub here! I've taken a real interest in the ball python a possible pet, and this hub helps a lot. (Had no idea you do this kind work!) Have you ever had any bad instances with them? Do you own one as a pet yourself? Thanks-s for this information!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Oh you totally freaked me out!!!!!!!!!!


      I'm interested in snakes - and I envy you that job you have!!!!!!!!!!!! That sounds super cool, and very very worthy!!!!!!!!!

      But "Cuddles The Snake" - LOL!

      I've learned a lot of respect for snakes...and I certainly won't kill one ever again unless it is a viper too close to the house - there are my increasingly older parents, and ...I've even got great nieces that come over here sometimes too....very young kids.

      But other than that - snakes are cool with me, just so long as I don't get bit.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      8 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      I especially enjoy reading Hubs in which I can learn something new. Thanks for educating me about ball pythons.

    • collegedad profile image


      8 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      Good Hub! Reptiles can make wonderful pets and Ball Pythons are a great choice.


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