Are you the new owner of a snake? We've been there, and made a thousand mistakes along the way. But it doesn't have to be that way for you. In this article, we are going to share with you the most common mistakes that owners make, and how you can avoid them.
Here are the top 5:
- Improper heating
- Improper humidity
- Lack of handling
- Lack of acclimation to new environment
- Improper feeding
Because snakes are ectothermic (aka: cold-blooded) they require an environment where they are able to regulate their body heat. New snake owners often don’t realize how vital this is for their well being. It’s more than simply being hot or cold it has to do with their normal bodily functions.
For instance they need extra heat after a meal to digest it.With a little effort getting the temperatures right isn’t hard to do. In the simplest terms find out what high and low temperatures your kind of snake likes and then set up the tank so it can move between those temperatures at will. This allows the snake to thermoregulate its body temperature.
- After heat humidity is the biggest culprit that causes problems for new snake owners. Especially when you have sub-tropical and tropical species.
- Poor appetite
- Respiratory infections
On the other hand humidity that is too high can be just as damaging, if not more so to a snake.
- Fungal infections
- Bacterial growth
- Mold problem with the substrate (try a mold resistant bedding like cypress mulch)
Finding the right balance for your humidity is important. In general once you figure out how to reach the optimal level you shouldn’t mess with it EXCEPT when the snake is going through the shedding process. At that point you’ll need to bump it up a little bit above normal to help it fully shed its skin.
Lack of handling
Reptiles aren’t like your dog or cat. They are never truly tamed. What happens is they become acclimated to being handled. They also become un-acclimated due to not being handled very quickly.
I’ve seen a snake that was puppy dog tame turn into a raving beast after just 2 weeks of not being handled. It tamed back down over the course of a month, but consistent handling is very important for snakes.There are times when handling is not appropriate.
- The first 48 hours after a feeding your snake should be left alone to digest its meal
- After it has been moved to a new environment it should be left alone for 5 to 7 days
- While it is shedding you shouldn’t handle the snake
Aside from the times mentioned above it is a good idea to try and handle the snake on a regular basis. By that I mean for a few minutes every other day at least.
Remember that snakes tolerate handling they don’t necessarily enjoy it so don’t abuse the privilege. When they’ve had enough they will let you know. Sometimes by squirming and putting up a fuss and sometimes by striking at you.
Lack of acclimation to new environment
- A snake needs time to settle in and get used to its new home.Leave it alone for 5 to 7 days except to spot clean and change water
- When you do start handling it do so in short 3 to 5 minute sessions a couple of times a day
- Ensure the temperature and humidity levels are correct before you ever put the snake into the tank
- Locate the snake’s tank in a low traffic area so it isn’t disturbed
All of those things will help to encourage the snake to acclimate itself to its new home.
- As a new owner getting the hang of feeding a snake can be frustrating. A few of the challenges I remember having to overcome as a new owner were-They can eat much large prey than you think they can
- They don’t need to be offered food every day
- They need about 48 hours to digest their food after eating it
- They don’t stop eating once they start unless you take the food supply away
An accepted method of telling how large of a prey item a snake can safely eat is to compare the widest girth of the snake with the widest girth of the prey to be eaten. If the prey is the same size or slightly larger it is fine. Much larger it can cause issues and much smaller it is a waste of time and will require multiple prey items.
Since it takes a snake a few days to digest a meal offering it food once every 5 to 7 days is plenty. I try to consistently feed my animals on Thursday nights. If I miss the day it’s not a big deal, and for snakes even if I miss their feeding for a couple of weeks in a row it isn’t a big deal (as long as it doesn’t become a regular habit).
While the food isn’t fully digested in 48 hours it has been digest enough that handling the reptile won’t usually cause any problems. One of the problems with handling a snake after it has ate is that they “feel” vulnerable to attack and will often regurgitate their food.
Because snakes are purely instinctual creatures they don’t think about things. When they start doing something they don’t stop because they should. Eating is a prime example. As long as you keep tossing food to them they will keep eating it. I’ve never seen a snake gorge itself to death but I’ve heard stories of it happening. Either way they don’t store fat for the winter so they aren’t in any need of extra helpings.