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Live or Pre-killed Food for Ball Pythons

Updated on January 25, 2011

In many cases, a ball python that has an aggressive feeding response can be trained to eat thawed or freshly killed rodents. Whenever possible, it is best to feed your ball python dead food. Feeding dead food items not only reduces the risk of injury to your ball python from rodent bites, but it also provides for a consistent availability of food in areas where live rodents maybe very difficult to purchase on a regular basis. Rodent bites can be very dangerous and even lethal to a ball python. There have been numer­ous instances in which a live rodent has been left in a cage too long and has done serious and sometimes even fatal damage to a ball python. Feeding prekilled prey ensures your python will never be attacked by its food. If your ball python will only eat live rodents, do not leave the rodent in the cage for more than five minutes.

Different stimuli are required to elicit a feeding response in a ball python: heat, movement, and scent. Keep this in mind when switching your ball python over to pre-killed or thawed rodents. It is rec­ommended that you use tongs or hemostats to present the thawed or prekilled rodent to your ball python. If you choose to offer it by hand, you may be bitten. Remember, your ball python has heat pits that are able to discern rela­tively small changes in temperature. If your hand is emitting more heat than the rodent, there is a good chance that you will be bitten.

Rodents are easily thawed using warm water or the sun on a warm summer day. If you choose to thaw your mouse or rat out in the sun, make sure that it is not accessible to crows, ravens, dogs, or the neighborhood cat. Also, when thawing a rodent outside in the sun, check it regularly. It is amazing how quickly a rodent can begin to "cook" out in the sun.

Keep in mind that once the rodent is thawed, you should feed it to the snake immediately. This will reduce the growth of harmful bacteria. When rodents are frozen, they still contain all the con­tents of their stomachs and intestines. The longer they sit at room temperature, the greater the chances are that some nasty lit­tle bug will take advantage of this ideal environment and multiply rapidly. Some of these bacteria can reach such large num­bers that they may cause problems for your snake. When thawing your rodent using warm water, make sure that no cold spots remain in the rodent when you pick it up. After determining that the food item has been completely thawed and is at an appropriate temperature for feeding to your snake, make sure that you dry the rodent thoroughly before offering it. This will reduce the amount of substrate that may adhere to the rodent's fur. Very wet fur attracts large amounts of substrate, and too much substrate attached to the rodent may discourage your snake from eating its meal.

Do not use a microwave to thaw out rodents of any size. Microwaves cook from the inside out, and snakes are not capable of digesting cooked food. There is also the possibility of the inside of the rodent being too hot and burning your snake's insides.

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