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Pet Snakes provides easy to understand, practical information and facts to help the new snake owner take care of their animals. At Pet Snakes we want to provide information that will help you enjoy your reptile more than ever.

Switching a pet snake from live to frozen food


Getting your snake to switch to frozen food is a fairly simple task. There are many reasons the feeding it frozen food is the best option.

Making the switch from live to frozen
There are a few items you’ll want to have handy.

  1. Rubber gloves (remember to avoid latex if you are allergic to it)
  2. Feeding tongs or hemostats (ask your local pet store)
  3. Zip lock bags, and a container that you can sacrifice for your snakes
  4. We’ve found the best method for getting our snakes to eat frozen as follows-

    • Make sure the snake is hungry. Skipping a feeding for a week will help out with this
    • Thaw out the frozen food by putting it in a zip lock bag and submerging that in hot water in a container. DO NOT use a microwave to thaw out the rodent as this will cook it internally which is not good for your snake (most won’t even go near cooked meat) and it stinks!
    • Place the thawed rodent in the thawing container after emptying the water and set it right next to the snake’s tank. Leave it there for about 30 to 45 minutes. This is called pre-scenting the room and it basically gets the snake’s attention
    • Wait about 20 to 30 minutes with the room being pre-scented and then hold the rodent up to a heat lamp for about 10 or 15 seconds. You don’t want to cook the rodent at all, only to heat it up a little bit. Snakes that hunt by heat detection will appreciate your efforts as well as those which hunt by smell
    • Present the rodent to the snake using tongs. Don’t jam it in its face let the snake come to the rodent. It can take several minutes before the snake investigates. All the while hold the rodent with the tongs don’t just throw it in the cage and leave.
    • Once the snake is interested in the rodent and is approaching move it around a little with the tongs. That will give it the appearance of life. Can’t honestly say if snakes care on way or another but it seems to help in most instances.
    • This is the part where the patience comes in. We’ve sat there for 2 hours playing “cat and mouse” with the snake and the rodents at the end of the tongs before the snake either ate or crawled off into its hide. If the snake strikes and eats great, but it might not happen the first time.
    • If the snake doesn’t eat simply put everything away and wash up and try again next week. Sometimes the snake just has to get hungry enough. You can reuse the same rodent just refreeze it. Pet-Snakes.com does not recommend using it more than twice. If after the 2nd week the snake isn’t taking it throw it out and start with a new rodent.

Why it is best to feed a snake frozen food
First and foremost is the health and safety of your snake there have been many cases of rodents killing a snake that was supposed to have eaten them. If the snake doesn’t want to eat it won’t kill the rodent. The rodent after it runs around the tank for a while will then start gnawing on the snake and the snake won’t defend itself, nor will it be able to get a way. A frozen rodent on the other hand obviously won’t be chewing on your snake. Never ever leave a live rodent in with a snake unless under direct supervision

You’ll need a place to care for the living rodents that aren’t eaten by the snake. Much easier to buy 50 or 100 frozen mice from some place like Big Cheese Rodents and store them in your freezer than to keep live mice. Besides mice stink, really badly.

A snake constricting a living creature is a pretty brutal way to die. It is not peaceful or pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. Take a look at the below video at about 3:15 when the snake gets ahold of the rabbit if you think it is just a “nice” passing for the prey.

Please note the video is NOT the property of Pet-Snakes.com we are just using it from YouTube per their Terms of Use



There are other reasons to feed frozen instead of live to your snakes such as less likelihood of transferring mites or ticks in with your snakes, avoids the need to travel if you have them shipped to your door, and generally frozen rodents are less expensive than their live counterparts.

Choosing where to get your snakes frozen food
There are three possibilities for getting your snake frozen food.

  1. The first and cheapest method is from an online source such as The Mouse Factory. There are dozens of other sources so just use your favorite search engine to look for “frozen snake food” and you’ll find plenty to choose from. We’ll leave the actual selection of your vendor of choice up to you.
  2. A local pet store. The prices generally aren’t all that great and sometimes the rodents they give you can look a little questionable, but they are generally more convenient and quicker in an emergency
  3. The final way is to make your own. You breed some rodents and then humanely euthanize their offspring using something like a homemade CO2 chamber. If you do decide to go this route we suggest you do some reading up on breeding snake food as it can become a full time job all by itself. This method is more often recommended for the keeper of numerous snakes.

Using the above method we’ve had over a 95% success rate with switching our snakes to frozen prey. It is inevitable that some will never make the switch but you’ll never know until you try.

  • Lumene

    Um, Hi…

    I would just like to point out one small detail…

    Snakes have been fed cooked meat before. As in, steak meat. It was a lab test to measure digestion. One adolescent burmese was given a rat and the other a cooked chunk of steak. Both were monitered for five days and the burm who ate the steak digested faster and easier than the snake given the rat.

    Also, when snakes need to be nursed back to health it is good to give them a smoothie, a mixture of barely cooked liver and yogurt and inserted through a feeding tube into the throat. (Trust me, I'm doing it every week until my rescue can eat again.)

    Other than that note, love your articles!

  • Koolpopjones

    good advice. i feed my ball python live all the time and i do supervise every feeding to make sure no harm comes to my snake.

  • Renwdmindz

    I feed my ball python live mice.  It’s funny to me that people say it’s inhumane to the prey animal.  So it’s ok that a snake eats live prey naturally (in the wild) but not ok to keep that process going when they’re captive.  Maybe it’s inhumane to have a pet and not keep it in as natural a setting as possible.  People must remember that although we want to be civilized, pets are still animals and deserved to be treated like animals:they are not human. Everything animals do is not going to make perfect sense to a human!

    With that said I’m not saying I disagree with the benefits of frozen prey, I just believe that people need to stop saying it’s inhumane to feed live prey. Let’s let the humans be humans and the animals be animals.

  • Well said! I personally feed frozen/thawed because it is easier but I have absolutely no qualms about feeding live when necessary.

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  • Ripster47

    I agree that humaneness on the part of the rodent isn’t the strongest reason for pushing for frozen food. And even though snakes do eat live food in the wild, it is our responsibility as pet owners to give the snakes a safer more healthy environment than they would have in the wild. Many wild snakes die during encounters with live prey in the wild, and all it takes is a well placed bite or scratch by a prey item to cripple your snake for life, or worse. I do my damnedest to feed all of my snakes F/T food items for the safety of the snake, as well as the convenience to me. Animals should always be treated with respect, but some animals eat other animals, to me that is the most humane way for a rodent to be killed. But I still do not advocate feeding live food to snakes if it can at all be avoided.

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