It is no secret that we love snakes. One of the favourite times during the week is the feeding time for the snakes. Snakes are great feeders because it is an interactive period. However, there are times when a snake stops eating. So if you’re asking, why is my snake not eating, then here are some reasons that you can fix (or sometimes wait out) for your snake.
1. Not Hungry
Sometimes your snake might not be hungry. The reason for this is that the snake is being fed on a routine that is too much for them. At a young age, some snakes will eat twice a week, but as they mature, they will go longer, about once a week.
Some snakes, like large boas and pythons, will sometimes wish to go on a fortnightly or monthly feeding schedule. For example, our Dumeril’s Boa prefers to feed every other week, and he’s been like that since he has reached maturity.
Therefore, if this is the case, then you can do nothing. But that might not be the right reason, so don’t rely on this.
2. Too Hot/Cold
Another reason is that the temperatures are incorrect in the enclosure. Snakes have to thermoregulate and need to be warm to eat. Therefore, you need to ensure that you have a basking or hot spot where the snake can feel comfortable and get the temperature that they need to digest its food.
So one of the first things that you should do to check is that any heating equipment is working as it should. You might have a problem with the heat mat, heat bulb, or thermostat.
3. Humidity Issues
Sometimes snakes feel uncomfortable with high or low levels of humidity. It is important to check humidity and make sure that they’re in a comfortable position for the snake. There are numerous ways that you can increase and reduce humidity within an environment.
For instance, if you need to reduce it, you can increase ventilation or reduce the surface area of the water bowl (or move it away from the heat source).
If you need to increase the humidity, then you can think of reducing ventilation.
There are many different ways that breeding will affect your snake’s eating. For example, some male snakes will not feed early in the breeding season. They’re looking for females and tend to therefore ignore food, even if you don’t have a female snake present.
Another way that snakes are affected by breeding is when they are carrying young or eggs. However, there are some things that you should be wary of with this. There are going to be some species that won’t eat regardless. However, most of our snakes that breed will continue to eat until about two weeks before laying/giving birth.
For instance, one of our corn snakes ate until the week before laying eggs. Our Kenyan Sand Boa ate until two weeks before giving birth. Though this is not always the case, one of our house snakes ate the day before laying eggs.
Normally as soon as the eggs have been laid or the young are born, the snake will feed.
Shedding is one of the common reasons why snakes will not feed. Generally speaking, this is because they’re feeling very vulnerable at the time. During the shedding process, they will tend to have their eyes go milky, this makes it harder for them to see.
Often the snake will feed after shedding, normally on the same day.
But that doesn’t mean that shedding will stop feeding. There are times when we’ve fed a snake and they’ve shed on the same night or the day after. However, we’ve also seen one of our Thayer’s King Snakes grab the prey item, then shed (with the mouse in the mouth) and then feed.
If a snake is feeling a little under the weather, then this will stop them from feeding. If your snake exhibits any signs of ill health (wheezy, foam around the mouse, being slower, being aggressive, etc.) then it is best to take them to a qualified reptile vet for a check.
Most illnesses can be cared for at your home. However, you might need to leave the snake with your vet. If your snake needs regular medication, we highly recommend that you ask your vet if they are willing to keep the snake at their premises. It often reduces the stress of the snake because regular movement can disrupt them.
Snakes live high-stress lives. They’re known to be predators, but they’re also a common prey item and therefore like to stay hidden. If they’re stressed they will often not feed. There are lots of reasons behind stress. They might be handled too often, not having enough cover/hides, the wrong environment, feeding too early after arriving or last meal, too loud in their environment, or more.
Look at their environment and see what you can do to improve the environment. For example, could you add in more hides? Could you add more clutter to the environment?
Another cause can be the size of the enclosure. Some snakes will not eat when their enclosure is too large. Therefore, you might need to reduce the size of the enclosure. Though sometimes it can be better to add clutter. You might need to experiment.
Sometimes snakes are just bored and this causes them to get a little down. There are ways that you can easily fix this. One of these is that you can add more decorations and items to the enclosure. Something to climb on, something to rest on, or new items every so often. Even changing the layout of their enclosure regularly can alleviate boredom for a snake.
However, you might want to consider changing how you feed a snake. One of the ways that we do this is known as nesting. Nesting is a type of feeding strategy where we create a ‘nest’ inside the enclosure for the snake to search out and feed. The nest will often contain a mouse as if it was in a nest.
Corn snakes, African House snakes, Western Hognose snakes, and Dumeril’s Boas are often those that like this little bit of enrichment. And sometimes snakes won’t take from the tongs, but using the nesting tactic will encourage feeding.
9. Quality of the Food
‘You are what you eat’ is something that snakes take seriously. Many people have reported that switching rodent suppliers can have a significant impact on feeding uptake within groups of snakes. There are numerous theories for this, but it could be because of the quality of the mice/rats from the supplier.
Therefore, if you’ve tried other methods on this list, then you can try this.
It should also be noted that your treatment of the rodents while in your freezer or defrosting can affect the quality. For instance, if your rodents have freezer burn or aren’t warmed up enough (most snakes will eat at room temperature, but others will need them slightly hotter) then some snakes will reject the food item. Therefore, check how you’re storing, defrosting, and warming up the prey item as well.
10. Time of Day
Another factor can be the time of the day. Some snakes are going to be ready to eat at any time of the day (looking at corn snakes and hognoses here). However, others are going to be more specific. For instance, Ball Pythons and Kenyan Sand Boas.
If you’re not feeding at Dawn or Dusk, you could be not getting the snake interested.
11. The Rodent is not the Right Size
The size of the prey item can be very important for the snake. Those rodents that are too big or too small might discourage the snake from feeding. Therefore, you need to choose a rodent that is of the right size. The size should be about 1.5 times the girth of the snake. Though ball pythons tend to prefer prey that is about 1.25 times their girth.
12. Rodent’s Don’t Smell Right
Hognoses, and sometimes other species, can sometimes become very picky and they don’t like the prey item because it doesn’t smell right. Hognoses when young are often problematic with this. To get around this, placing the rodent inside tuna or salmon (even using cat food to help) can convince the snake to feed. This is known as scenting.
However, saying that, many of the snakes that people think this is the cause can often find that changing the environment can improve feeding. Two times we’ve had hognoses that have not yet moved from scented items and within two weeks of being with us, they’ve moved away.
Another reason during the winter is that some snakes are looking to brumate. Some species will do this automatically. If this is the case, it is best to not feed the snake for about a month, reduce the temperature and give them a period of brumation.
This article will not go into detail about how to brumate a snake.
Some of the Weird Reasons why a Snake Does Not Eat
That said, the top ten reasons aren’t the only reasons why a snake won’t eat. Snakes are individuals and there are times when snakes won’t eat for random reasons. Here is a quick note of some of the other, more unusual reasons, why a snake hasn’t fed.
- The rodent is the wrong colour!
- Someone who the snake doesn’t know is in the room.
- The rodent is presented the wrong way round.
Final Word: Why is My Snake Not Eating?
If you’re asking why my snake is not eating, then above are the possible reasons and some solutions for you to think about. A happy snake must often be an eating snake but there are sometimes happy snakes that won’t feed because they’re shedding, in part of the breeding cycle, or because it is the wrong time of the year.