Feeding Ball Pythons – Feeding Issues
Feeding Ball Pythons – Feeding Issues
Feeding ball pythons can have its moments of heartache and worries. There may be times where a ball python does not want to eat after consistently eating week after week. Suddenly, they are refusing food and weeks, maybe months, go by with no success. You are not alone! In fact, there may be multiple reasons why feeding ball pythons can seem like a struggle. To begin, one of the first things to do in your situation is to take a deep breath and realize that It happens to the best of us. Lastly, here are a few things to consider when figuring out why all of a sudden feeding ball pythons have taken a turn for the worse:
1. When feeding ball pythons, 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. When feeding ball pythons, consider the humidity.
Aside from avoiding bad sheds that make their enclosure look messy, humidity is part of the overall success towards feeding ball pythons. Your ball python will feel more comfortable ultimately minimizing environmental stressors. 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 coconut peat, such as Eco Earth, and coconut husk chips, such as ReptiChip, to be the best. I’m 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.
Allowing a ball python to feel secure is an important component towards successfully feeding ball pythons. 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. As long as they can hide they are happy.
4. When feeding ball pythons, consider the temperature of the food.
The temperature of the food is a very important component towards successfully feeding ball pythons. 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. When feeding ball pythons, 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. When feeding ball pythons, consider their hydration.
It is important and I recommend changing their water out at least every few days. 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. It is important to note that after successfully feeding ball pythons, you should not hold them for several days or you risk the ball python regurgitating their meal.
8. When feeding ball pythons, 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 for a few hours. 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. When feeding ball pythons, consider introducing a new rodent smell.
There are times when ball pythons are strictly fed a certain rodent and they become so picky that its the only rodent they will entertain as a food item. Other times, it is just a matter of finding out what gets a ball python going. With that being said, if you have tried feeding a rat then try feeding a mouse. If a rat nor a mouse worked for you, try offering an African soft fur rat.
We use African soft fur (ASF) rats as an option to reignite a ball python’s appetite and it has worked for us in the past. Once an ASF has been eaten, we wait a week and offer a live rat or mouse that has been rubbed or allowed to be together with an ASF in order to mix their smells. A bucket or something where they can climb over each other works well. We then offer the rat with a mixed smell to the ball python. If the rat is not eaten, remove the rat and offer the ASF again. Wait another week and try the smell mixing technique again. If you cannot obtain an ASF at your local pet store or reptile show, using a gerbil may work as well.
10. 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.
11. 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 everything is in check, yet they are still not eating, there is a good chance number 11 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.
In conclusion, I wish you the best of luck and if there is a question you have that was not answered, feel free to contact us via our website.
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