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What makes a ball python stop eating

Updated on April 17, 2012
Jack the ball python
Jack the ball python | Source

Being a snake owner and self-proclaimed herpetologist for some time now, people always ask me questions about their reptiles, namely ball pythons. The biggest question I get asked is how to get a problem ball python to start feeding again. Once I answer that question, the next question I get asked is, "What made my ball python stop feeding in the first place?".

That is a question that can yield a broad range of answers. It's really hard to say, as ball pythons are THE MOST troublesome snakes when it comes to feeding. The ball python is a great beginner snake for it's temperament and not for it's feeding habits. Actually, if I was going to tell someone a great beginner snake, if you are wanting a python, go for the carpet python. They have relatively excellent temperaments but do grow a bit bigger.

But what made your ball python stop feeding? Let's find out!

'Tis the seasons...

The seasons play a big part of when and how your particular ball python feeds. A change of the seasons, especially daylight and temperature, can throw your ball python into a fasting mode where they will refuse to eat or even come out of their hide. Think of it as hibernation. There is nothing you can really do about this as the snakes internal clock will let it know when it's time to start feeding again. Me being in Canada, which has more winter than summer, makes my snake go into this mode. Many other people I know with ball pythons also have this issue. Just make sure they stay warm and with a good humidity. Make sure they have water also.

So winter will make a ball python go into fasting. Did yours stop eating right around October or November? If so, wait a couple months and see if it starts feeding again. If it goes longer than 5 or 6 months without food, you may want to consult a vet if it's losing a lot of weight.

Temperature and Humidity

You need to make sure your temperature and humidity is good. If your snake is to hot or to cold, it will probably not eat. This stresses the snake out and we should all know that a stressed snake is a non-eating snake. The same goes for humidity. Your humidity should be right around 60-75ish. If these are off, you should correct them. They can also affect your snakes immune system, which can cause worse complications than not eating regularly.

If you are looking for tips on how to create humidity in your enclosure, cover the top with cardboard or a towel to hold in humidity. Also, moisten the substrate to where it is damp but not swampy, if you get what I'm saying. You don't want to have the snake sitting in a soaking wet environment as this causes skin issues as well as respiratory problems.

To create more heat, use another heating pad/heating wire or put a heat lamp on a timer. Fine tune it to get the temperature within the proper range.

Other reasons...

The above reasons are often the most common and should be considered first. However, when you are dealing with ball pythons, you cannot rule out other scenarios that may be causing a snake to not eat. Below I list most of the other reasons that could throw a ball out of it's feeding pattern.

  • Changing where you feed the snake (in it's enclosure then moved it to a different enclosure for feeding or vice versa)
  • Changing feeders
  • Changing feeding times (day or night)
  • Upgrading enclosures
  • Changing enclosure décor
  • If you fed live and the feeder bit the snake
  • Frequent handling
  • Not giving enough time to acclimate
  • Wet rat from thawing
  • Changing feeder size
  • Going from rats to African Soft-Furs and back to rats
  • Changing feeder color (ridiculous I know, but hey, some people have had issues with this)
  • Feeder gender (again, see above ^^)
  • Changing where you buy the feeders (how does the snake know, but it does apparently)

Those are the most common and uncommon and downright rare situations that could throw a ball python out of it's feeding pattern. That list is by no means complete, but I would be here typing forever if I were to list every possible situation that could cause issues.

Another very serious problem that causes ball pythons to stop eating is internal parasites. If you try everything under the sun to try to get your snake to start eating again but it refuses and is starting to lose significant weight, I would suggest seeing a vet. Internal parasites can kill your snake if left untreated. This is most common in wild-caught snakes but has been known to happen in CBB snakes also. Make sure you keep the enclosure clean at all times to cut down on getting the snake sick.

I hope this shed some light on some of the reasons that a ball python would suddenly stop eating. It can be serious, but most of the time is not. Just tweak a couple things or just plain waiting will often fix the issue. Thanks for reading.


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    • profile image

      Pollen 21 months ago

      Mine has decided to fast in the summer. I've tried everything, different feeds, different enclosures, covered enclosure, uncovered enclosure, partial covered enclosure, different decorations, cleaning more often, cleaning less often, not handling, handling more, well you get the idea. His environment is perfect, he was just dewormed successfully a couple months before he decided to stop eating. He fed very well for months, even the week he moved here but now he wont eat. He has only lost a few grams in the month he hasn't been eating but I don't know when I should take him to the vet. He seems perfectly healthy, I am watching his weight. I think it might be a phase of some kind but only he knows. I find it strange he fed well all winter but now that summer is here he wont eat. My friend said maybe he is looking for lady snakes but he is only a year old. I will just keep trying.

    • mrpudgy profile image

      Clifford Beaver 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba

      Absolutely, the feeding problems are pretty much the same. Glad you solved the issue.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Agree with Melissa - one of my pythons stopped eating, and dropping the size of the food helped. They are now being brumated for Winter here in Australia, and we'll see what happens when they are warmed up again. My girls are much better feeders than the boys. NB - My snakes are all Australian pythons, not ball pythons, but I think feeding problems will be the same.

    • Melissa A Smith profile image

      Melissa A Smith 5 years ago from New York

      Good advice, I would add heat the prey with a heat lamp, as many heat them up in hot water but that doesn't nearly do the trick. Also, avoid live as long as possible. Some are picky about the types of prey, but also the size. If I had a non-feeder, I would go smaller, maybe even with a pinky.