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Starting off, I’d like to say I’ve never been fond of snakes. Though I was never scared of them, they did make me anxious. So when my husband brought up the idea of having one as a pet, naturally, my first reaction was “not no, but hell no!”
But, that didn’t last long.
One night we went to PetSmart in search of a Betta fish, and my sneaky husband decided to walk down the aisle with all the reptiles. After mooning over the tortoises and baby geckos we arrived at the terrarium he loved- the snakes. And we stood there for a while looking at it- curled into a neat little ring resting atop a branch, and reading a pamphlet about them. The baby python wasn’t as menacing as I thought. Dare I say, it was even a little cute.
I refused to purchase him that night. I wanted to be well-informed about every aspect of the animal’s care before actually buying one.
The next week was filled with research. We read pamphlets, web reviews, and books on the python’s care and behavior. Some of our findings are detailed later (along with our own experiences).
One day a girl at work told me about an exotic pet shop up north and from every review I read online it sounded like a great place- knowledgeable staff, big selection, animals bred in house, and cheaper prices. I decided to go.
I’ll admit, this place was a little creepy. I think mainly because I practically ran through all the cute fluffy bunnies and birds to a dim backroom filled with reptiles in search of a baby snake, and the first thing I saw was a huge anaconda. Right. By. My. Feet. After my heart nearly stopped and my eyes bugged out of my skull I saw a ridiculously clean layer of glass between the beast and I.
On the opposite wall was an eye-level terrarium with “Baby Ball Pythons” written in blue and pink marker on the glass. I peered inside and saw a mess of tangled baby snakes just laying there, none of them really moving. I stared at them for a while, noticing their coloring, markings, size. Then one mocha colored one slowly lifted its little triangle head and flicked its tongue out at me. We studied one another for a while. I tell my husband we had a connection.
I purchased the curious baby python, and now Truffles lives in the yellow room of our house.
Ball Pythons are said to be wonderful pets, and so far Truffles lives up to that reputation. Ball Pythons are very docile, so that trait alone makes them agreat “starter” snake. Below are some of the other reasons that, in my opinion, Ball Pythons make a wonderful exotic pet:
They’re low maintenance:
After the initial start up investment for the terrarium and supplies these snakes are remarkably easy to care for. I love that you only have to feed this animal once a week; it’s cheap and easy. As far as cleaning and care you do need to find an exotic animal vet, but the animal only requires a visit when ill. No vaccines or check-ups to worry about. We only have to clean the tank weekly- whenever he sheds or relieves himself (which isn’t all that often). Simple.
They’re noctural and lazy, so even when they’re awake don’t expect much action out of them. These are attractive traits for me since I’m home in the evening and when I get him out of his tank I don’t have to worry about him taking off and being too fast for me to catch.
You can handle them easily:
In the pet shop I was apprehensive about touching a baby snake. So, even when I half-heartedly asked if I could hold him, and even when the girl helping me said “oh yeah, sure” in such a nonchalant way, jerked open the terrarium door and simply plucked him up, I still felt awkward holding the soft little ball. I calmed down after a minute though, especially when the girl told me that even if he decided to bite me it would feel like Velcro. But he never did. He curled around my thumb and looked around. And, that was about it. As I was told, the more you handle your snake the better. They get used to it, to you, and don’t mind it. When they’re smaller they’re more skittish and need time to adjust to being handled so play with you’re snake often. A word of caution, though, avoid touching your snake-friend’s head. From what the pet shop girl told me that don’t like it unless they know and trust you, so refrain until you know each other well.
Now, some other things that you need to consider:
They eat mice:
Pre-killed or live they need to munch on some mice. If your snake eat live food and you have a problem with buying a live mouse only to bring it home to its imminent death you should seriously reconsider having a Ball Python. Likewise, if your snake eats frozen food and you have a problem devoting space in your freezer to the pre-killed mice you should seriously reconsider this animal as a pet.
Decide if you want your snake to eat live or frozen food. This will factor into where you buy the snake from. Petco feeds their snakes live food, while Petsmart uses frozen. This is a heavily debated topic, and while I see both sides the the live vs. frozen argument I will say that my snake eats live food. The primary reason is because he’s been eating live food since birth and I wanted to continue to do things as the pet shop had done them. Less stress for Truffles that way, especially since Ball Pythons are known for fasting at times anyway. Had I purchased my snake from somewhere that fed him frozen food I would have likewise continued with frozen.
Start-up can be expensive:
That initial start-up investment I mentioned above, yeah, it can get a little steep. First, the snake itself will cost anywhere from $45.00-$120.00 depending on where and when you buy. Most pet shops will run them on sale, especially after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. I’ve found that larger pet stores like Petco and PetSmart tend to have higher prices on the Ball Python than a local dealer like where I bought mine. They require a heat lamp, undertank heater & liner, thermometer, locking terrarium (10 gallon for babies and 45 gallon for adult), and a place to hide/climb and water bowl. For the complete setup with the snake and 10 gallon tank I paid close to $165.
Where you buy:
You can find these animals at a variety of pet shops, local and chain stores. As I said before Petco and Petsmart were more expensive. I looked around and got reviews of places and their care of animals before purchasing my Ball Python. I decided to buy mine at a local shop that bred all of their own snakes. My thought was that the snakes would have been better cared for- no shipping them between stores, the staff would know more about them, and I could get a look at the parents. I’m sure, though that a chain store would be fine as well if that was your only option.
They’re talented escape artists:
Everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to have said these snakes are smart. They’re very adept at getting where they want to be and will squeeze through even the smallest of holes. Trust me. Truffles squeezed himself through a small slit in his log covering that was so tiny I was sure he was going to get stuck and I was going to have to cut him out of it. But he didn’t get lodged in there. He just took his sweet time wriggling out. Point is, if there’s a hole anywhere at the top of the tank the snake will find it and fit through it. So, be prepared to at some point find your pet outside his container.
-Feed once a week, though Ball Pythons have been known to fast and may not want to eat every week. Don’t worry about it unless they go a couple months without eating.
-Select a mouse roughly 3 times the size of the snakes mouth, and that should keep him full for the week.
-If you can see a lump where the mouse is inside for a couple days after feeding you did it right.
-Buy a reptile tank, not a fish tank. More specifically, buy a reptile tank with a locking lid. Some even have an overhang where you can attach an extra lock, or in my case a zip tie. A 10 gallon tank will work for about the first year of the snakes life, but an adult will require a 40-50 gallon tank. Snakes are full grown at 2 years.
-Place a nice layer (1-2 inches thick) of snake bedding in the bottom of the terrarium. I use aspen snake bedding. Since they occasionally burrow they like something fluffy they can get underneath.
-If you choose to buy an undertank heater, which I do recommend, be sure to use a tank liner as well. If you use the undertank heater without a liner your python can burn itself if he burrows under the tank bedding.
-Buy 2 thermometers and place them on either side of the tank about an inch above the floor or bedding. One side should be a warm basking area with the heat lamp positioned directly over top of it, and the other side, the “cool” side, should contain a water bowl. The heated area should measure between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cool side should be between 70 and 75.
-Give your python somewhere to hide and climb. A branch or a cave works well. They need somewhere to curl up and chill.
-Shedding happens. And it happens a lot with babies because they’re growing so fast. Every 4-6 weeks a baby snake peels. The best way to help your snake shed is by keeping it hydrated. Soak it in the water bowl or mist it with a squirt bottle. Give your python something rough to rub up against like tree bark, it will speed up the process if he can loosen the dead skin and rub it off. The Ball Python can get more irritable when peeling, and may not accept a meal so readily either.
-Never rub a snake backwards- always rub from head to tail, never the other way around. If you rub backward you can damage their scales. Not to mention- they don’t like it.
-Watch for discharge out of the nostrils- it’s a sign of illness/ infection.
I’ll add more to this hub as I go along. We’ve had Truffles for a month now and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more as I go along.
The longest living snake in captivity is a python at The Edge of Hell haunted house in Kansas City, MO.