Ball Python Feeding Issues
So your ball python does not want to eat? Well, there may be multiple reasons why as you can see by glancing below at the long article. One of the first things to do in your situation is to take a deep breath and prepare to attack this issue as logically and intelligently as possible. Here are a few things to consider:
1. Consider the temperature. Ball pythons come from equatorial areas, meaning they need to be in warm temperatures of around 90 degrees. One side of their cage has to be warm and the other a little cooler (80-85 degrees). The cool side will generally be the temperature of the room the snake is in.
This temperature difference will not only help them regulate their temperature but also help them digest their food. If it is too cool for them they will rarely eat.
DO NOT USE HOT ROCKS!! They can and will eventually burn your ball python.
2. Consider the humidity. Aside from avoiding bad sheds that make their enclosure look messy, humidity can definitely help your ball python feel more comfortable and eager to eat. What’s a good humidity level? I find that 60-75 percent is best.
The substrate is important when it comes to maintaining a humidity level in the enclosure. There are several products that you can use, but after several trial and errors, I found Eco Earth and Coconut husk Chips (Compressed Coconut products) to be the best. Not saying that a coconut substrate is superior to all others, but it works well for me.
Another option to consider as a supplement to the enclosure setup is purchasing a small humidifier and placing it in the room the ball python will be in.
3. Consider their mental state. Ball pythons feel comfortable eating when they feel secure. This means providing your ball python with a hide box of some sort. You can use a fancy hide box or a used cardboard box. They don’t care, as long as they can hide.
4. Consider the temperature of the food. If you are feeding a pre-killed rodent, make sure that the rodent is warm when you offer it. Ball pythons use all of their senses when it is time to eat. They particularly rely on the innate behavior of striking at a heat source detected by their heat pits. If the food is cold and lying there in their cage, many times they will not go for it. If you feed them a live rodent, you obviously do not have to worry about warmth or movement. Feeding live rodents can be a good temporary option for those that prefer feeding pre-killed rodents. In both cases, you want to also make sure that the rodent is not too large (should be no thicker than the thickest part of their body – going smaller may be less intimidating).
5. Consider their feeding time. Unless you have conditioned your ball python to eat during the day, consider feeding them in the evening. This is the time that ball pythons are most active and usually when they feed.
6. Consider their hydration. It is important and I recommend changing their water out at least every other day. Believe it or not, ball pythons prefer fresh water just like every other creature. I have seen them drink right away when I replace their water with fresh water.
7. Consider how much they are handled. Do not handle them until they are back on a feeding routine! Handling them too much can actually stress them out and it goes back to what was stated in number 3. They want to feel secure.
8. Consider not staring. If you have followed numbers 1-7 for at least two weeks and they still have not eaten frozen-thawed or live when offered, consider leaving a warmed frozen-thawed rat or mouse in front of their hide box overnight. Sometimes they like to eat without someone staring at them or simply respond defensively to someone wiggling a dead rodent in their face. Lastly, do not attempt this with a live rodent. They will more than likely kill your ball python or seriously injure it.
9. Consider the presence of possible parasites. Parasites may affect the snake’s ability to eat so make sure that there are no parasites such as mites and ticks present. There are also internal parasites, which can be hard to detect. If you believe there may be parasites present or simply want to rule this possibility out, head to your local veterinarian to have that checked.
10. Consider their period of fasting. Ball pythons do fast at times and may be off feed for quite a while. This fasting period can last for weeks but don’t worry, it’s normal and it usually happens during the cooler months. It is also a common occurrence once they reach the sub-adult age. If 1-9 is in check and you have everything in place, yet they are still not eating, there is a good chance number 10 is what’s really going on.
Fasting is normal, but keep an eye out. If you start noticing that your ball python looks a little too skinny, you can see folds in their skin, and their bones are starting to show, take the ball python to the veterinarian. They may need to force feed your ball python with a small syringe as well as find any other possible reasons why they may not be eating.
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