It can be very stressful to figure out why a ball python won’t eat (especially for newer owners). These reptiles, unlike many other pets, don’t give you many clues.
To help you find out why your ball python is not eating, we have put together this helpful guide to walk you through the process to make things easier.
Reasons Why Your Ball Python isn’t Eating
Ball python doesn’t want to eat for a number of reasons. Some of the most common reasons a ball pythons fail to eat are listed below.
Stress can significantly impact a ball python’s appetite, causing them to refuse food. Common stressors for ball pythons include a new environment or an improper habitat.
If you have recently brought your pet home, changed their enclosure, or taken them on a trip, they may be feeling anxious. If you have just brought your ball python home or changed their enclosure, leave them alone for two weeks to allow them to adjust.
Picking up your snake too much can also cause them stress. Ball pythons are nocturnal creatures that prefer to be alone. Many of them don’t like being picked up that frequently. If your ball python stops eating, try to pick them up as little as possible until they start eating again.
Loud noises can also be stressful, causing a ball python to stop eating. This is due to the fact that a ball python hears differently than most other animals. These reptiles are highly sensitive to vibrations in their surroundings. The vibrations picked up by a snake help in them detect prey and predators.
If you play loud music on a regular basis, your snake may become stressed and feel unsafe in their environment. Try to keep the noise level in your home as low as possible, especially in the room where you sleep.
In order to eat, your ball python must feel secure in its surroundings. You can make your ball python feel more secure by providing at least two hides in their enclosure. Place one hide on the warm side and the other on the cool side of the enclosure. Read in detail on ball python stress.
Ball pythons, like any other living creatures, can become ill. If your ball python is sick, they may stop eating.
Common illnesses affecting ball pythons include respiratory infections, parasites, and mouth rot.
Signs that your ball python may be sick include:
- Lack of appetite
- Mucus discharge, or visible mouth sores.
- Wheezing, or clicking.
If you suspect your pet is unwell, consult a reptile veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
During the shedding process, ball pythons may refuse food due to the discomfort and vulnerability they experience. Their eyes may become cloudy, and their skin may lose its sheen before shedding.
To support your ball python during this time, ensure their humidity levels are adequate and provide a moist hide to help them shed more easily. Once the shedding process is complete, their appetite should return to normal.
4. Improper Feeding Techniques
Feeding issues such as prey size, type, or presentation can contribute to a ball python’s refusal to eat.
Ensure that you’re offering appropriately-sized prey items for your snake and try presenting the food in different ways, such as dangling the prey item with tongs.
Monitoring your ball python’s feeding behavior and adjusting your techniques as necessary can help improve their feeding response.
5. Seasonal Fasting
Some ball pythons may fast during certain times of the year, such as during the winter months. This is a natural behavior and usually not a cause for concern.
Ball pythons do not brumate (hibernate), but during the winter season they may not eat even if they have the correct environmental conditions and if they are not sick, shedding, or gravid.
To differentiate seasonal fasting from other appetite issues, keep an eye on your snake’s overall health and weight. If they remain active and don’t show signs of weight loss, it’s likely seasonal fasting.
6. Prey Pickiness
Ball pythons can sometimes become selective about their prey, refusing to eat certain items. If your snake is being picky, try offering different prey types, such as switching from rats to mice, or experiment with different prey colors.
Warming the prey item to mimic a living animal’s body temperature can also entice your ball python to eat.
Ball pythons prefer to eat in the dark, and many will refuse to eat if it is too bright outside. With some, the darkness of their hut is sufficient, but others require more darkness to feel comfortable eating.
If your ball python’s enclosure has a bright light that is always on because it is the only heat source, try switching to an infrared bulb or putting a heating pad underneath the enclosure instead. This lets you provide them with the heat they require while also allowing them to enjoy the darkness.
8. Their Enclosure is too Cold
The temperature of your ball python’s enclosure needs to be just right for them to feed, which is why it’s one of the most critical aspects of their treatment.
The temperature inside the enclosure should be between 75-80°F on the cool side and 80-85°F on the warm side.
Mount several thermometers to monitor the temperature in the enclosure.
Ball pythons, like all cold-blooded animals, need sufficient heat to properly digest their food. When a ball python’s enclosure is too cold, they won’t feed because they know they won’t be able to digest their food properly. If a snake can’t digest its food, the food they eat will rot inside its body, potentially causing severe health problems.
9. Breeding Time
It is normal for your ball python to stop eating during the breeding season. If a male snake detects an ovulating female, he may stop eating for three to six months.
A female snake may stop eating just before laying eggs. If you’re breeding females and this behaviour corresponds to the expected egg-laying timeline, this could be the culprit!
10. They are not Feeling Comfortable in Their Cage
Ball pythons in the wild hide in burrows and wait for their prey to come to them. This strategy works extremely well, but there’s a catch:
Rodents, the ball python’s primary prey, have a good sense of smell. That is why a ball python will seek out a new nest after shedding its skin or defecating. If your ball python is refusing to eat, try thoroughly cleaning their enclosure after each skin shed and defecation. The theory is that if your snake can’t smell himself, he’ll eat more readily.
How Long Can a Ball Python Go Without Eating?
Ball pythons are known for their ability to survive without food for extended periods. This is due to their slow metabolism, which allows them to efficiently utilize stored energy from their previous meals. In some cases, healthy adult ball pythons have been known to go without food for up to six months or even longer.
Several factors can influence the duration of a ball python’s fasting period, such as:
Age: Younger snakes typically require more frequent feedings, while adults can go longer without food.
Size: Larger snakes may have more energy reserves, allowing them to withstand fasting periods better than smaller ones.
Health: Healthy snakes are better equipped to handle fasting, whereas those with underlying health issues might struggle.
Environmental conditions: Proper temperature and humidity levels can help maintain a ball python’s overall health during fasting periods.
It’s essential to keep a close eye on your ball python’s weight during fasting periods. Here are some practical tips to track their condition:
- Weigh your snake regularly, noting any significant weight loss.
- Check for signs of dehydration or lethargy.
- Observe your snake’s behavior and activity levels, as unusual changes may indicate an issue.
While ball pythons are known for their ability to withstand prolonged fasting, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and when to seek professional advice. If you notice any of the following signs, it might be time to consult a veterinarian:
- Excessive weight loss.
- Signs of illness or distress.
- Unusual behavior, such as aggression or lethargy.
How to Get a Ball Python to Eat?
1. Reducing Stress
Creating a comfortable and stress-free environment for your ball python is crucial in encouraging them to eat. Here are some tips to ensure their habitat is optimal:
Provide appropriate hiding spots: Ball pythons appreciate a safe place to hide, so make sure you offer at least two hiding spots – one on the warm side and another on the cooler side of the enclosure.
Maintain proper temperature gradients: Ensure that the enclosure has a warm side (around 88-92°F) and a cool side (around 75-80°F). This will allow your ball python to thermoregulate as needed.
Minimize disturbances: Keep your ball python’s enclosure in a quiet area of your home and avoid excessive handling, especially when they are not eating. Give them time to acclimate to their surroundings and feel secure.
2. Addressing Illness
If you suspect your ball python is not eating due to illness, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian specializing in reptiles.
Seek professional help: A qualified veterinarian can diagnose any health issues your ball python might be experiencing and recommend appropriate treatments.
Provide proper care: Follow the vet’s instructions closely and ensure your ball python receives the necessary care, including medication and any adjustments to their habitat.
3. Managing Shedding
Ball pythons may not eat during the shedding process. Here’s how you can support your pet during this time:
Be patient: Allow your ball python to shed in peace, and avoid handling them during this period.
Maintain humidity levels: To facilitate healthy shedding, keep the humidity levels in the enclosure between 50-60%. You can achieve this by misting the enclosure or adding a humidity box.
4. Improving Feeding Techniques
Choosing the right prey and presenting it in an enticing manner can make a significant difference in your ball python’s feeding response.
Select the appropriate prey size and type: Offer a prey item that is approximately the same width as the widest part of your ball python’s body. Most ball pythons prefer rats, but some may prefer mice. You can try switching between the two to see which your pet prefers.
Make the prey more enticing: If your ball python is hesitant to eat, try warming the prey to body temperature, wiggling it with tongs to mimic live prey, or even braining the prey (making a small cut in the skull) to release the scent.
There are several reasons why a ball python may not eat, including stress, improper husbandry, illness, shedding, seasonal fasting, and prey pickiness.
As a ball python keeper, it’s essential to understand the causes behind these issues and implement the appropriate solutions to ensure your pet’s health and well-being.
Remember, monitoring your ball python’s behavior is crucial in identifying any potential problems early on. Patience and persistence are key when dealing with feeding issues, as it may take some time and effort to find the best approach for your individual snake.
Most of the time there is nothing to be worried about. But it’s always a good idea to play it safe! If you have any concerns about anything you’re seeing, contact your reptile veterinarian to find out what they recommend.