Home | Snakes | Non-venomous Snakes | “Help! My Ball Python Won’t Eat” – The Troublesome Habits of a Popular Snake – Part 1

“Help! My Ball Python Won’t Eat” – The Troublesome Habits of a Popular Snake – Part 1

Pet Ball Python, LucyAlso known as the Royal Python (Python regius), this smallest of Africa’s pythons is also the one best suited for captivity…one Ball Python lived at the Philadelphia Zoo for a record 47.6 years.  However, even long-term captives often exhibit the disturbing habit of refusing food for long periods.  This tendency is the source of a great many questions that I receive from both neophyte and well-experienced snake keepers.

Fasting as a Survival Mechanism


Ball Pythons inhabit some of the most hostile habitats in Africa and, due to cold temperatures or drought-induced shortages of prey, must sometimes fast for extended periods – much longer than other snakes.  From experience with other reptiles, it is becoming clear that circadian rhythms (“internal clocks”, in a sense) often govern behavior of captive animals many generations removed from the wild.  Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules.   Unlike some reptiles, which cease feeding in winter even if kept warm, Ball Pythons go on and off feed according to a schedule that only they understand!

Another point to bear in mind is that captives generally eat far more than wild snakes, and expend little energy in hunting, and so may eventually need to eat at less frequent intervals.

Judging Your Snake’s Condition

A fast of 3-4 months, or in some cases even longer, will do no harm if your Ball Python is in good weight – they are very effective at matching their metabolisms to food intake (Please see article below).  A good way to tell if a snake is too thin is to check for a protruding backbone.  This will appear as a distinct ridge along the back – quite visible and different from just the outline of the bone.  If this ridge is not evident, then try offering food every 10 days to 2 weeks, or consider using some of the techniques covered in Part II of this article.

There are a few tricks that sometimes induce reluctant snakes to feed. In Part II of this article we’ll discuss “scenting”, novel prey items, hiding food and other techniques that you can try.

Further Reading

An understanding of the Ball Python’s life in the wild is critical if one is to keep these fascinating creatures properly.  Please see my 2 part article, Ball Python Natural History, for more information.

Please see How Snakes Grow Despite Food Deprivation for the story behind snakes’ amazing abilities to survive and thrive during prolonged fasts.

Pet Ball Python image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mokele


  1. avatar

    Frank – do you have an opinion on the live feed vs. frozen thawed? Are any potential benefits of providing a live mouse (because that would be more “natural”) be outweighed by the chance of injury to the snake?

    • avatar

      Hello Brett, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interesting question; nice to hear from you again.

      Live rodents are almost never necessary; in several decades of work with large zoo collections, I can recall a mere handful of times when they were used, and these involved species not available in the pet trade. In those cases, I used pink or fuzzy mice, which cannot bite.

      Toothed rodents will cause injury in time; most of the anacondas I tagged in the wild bore evidence of wounds, and several deaths (infection) were documented in our study. In captivity, the snake’s inability to hunt and kill it’s prey in natural surroundings, with ample space, increases the chance of injury. Often, live prey thrust into a cage will actually stress a reluctant feeder. Many wild snakes take carrion (even the fat from a road-killed pig, in the case of water moccasins!), so it really is not a stretch; scent is far more important than movement in initiating feeding in the vast majority of species.

      I don’t know of any studies that have compared the nutritional value of frozen vs. fresh rodents, but many have been done re human food; most I know of show no problems (there are some concerns with frozen fish, which are easily addressed, please let me know if you need more info) unless perhaps if food is stored for an unusually long time. Most zoos buy live rodents and euthanize them prior to feeding, which may be an option for private keepers who are concerned. However, I have used frozen rodents in zoo collections without incident, but do not have long-term studies at hand.

      Good luck and please let me know if you need more info on this,

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    My name is Wendy and I am writing about my loving, wonderful baby named Boaz. Boaz is our family snake, is about a year old, and the most wonderful pet we have. Just so you understand my passion for Boaz, when we first bought him (from AZ Reptile), I wanted him to feel so much at home, I defrosted his pinkie in beef broth, LOL, needless to say, he would not touch it. We have talked, sang, and treat Boaz as any other pet of ours, and this has resulted in a very docile wonderful pet (I like to think he really knows us). But we have a problem, he has not eaten in about two months (reptile agent says he looks healthy, it is mating season, and your blog mentions it is normal), the big problem is the caps on his eyes, we cannot get them off. We have tried soaking and misting his bedding, and we are to nervous to try to pull them off ourselves. Please give us suggestions. Also, through your research of reptiles, can a snake eventually know their name and its owners? If not, I really would like for you to meet boaz 🙂 Thank you……………………..Wendy

    • avatar

      Hello Wendy, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog…and the broth story! Yes, they will shun all food except rodents – no supplements needed either. Please check out my article on their natural history for more info.
      A 2 month fast is not at all unusual assuming it is otherwise in good health and that your temperatures are appropriate; likely not tied to mating season, as your animal is young, but we do not understand much about their “biological clocks”; individuals several generations removed from the wild still seem to respond to seasonal changes and such that are occurring in their natural habitat.

      Did the snake shed its skin, except for the eye caps? If that is the case, then you’ll need veterinary assistance; do not attempt to remove them yourself. Please let me if you need help in locating an experienced vet. If the snake has not yet shed, the opaqueness you see is normal; it will clear just before shedding occurs.

      Snakes do not recognize people as might a dog or cat; they will adjust to handling, but cannot be regarded as “domesticated”. Snakes respond to the world differently than mammals…snakes that have been “tame” for decades can suddenly bite, keyed by vibrations, scents, internal disorders, hormonal surges and other conditions that we cannot detect.

      Therefore, it is very important that you not place the snake near your face, and that the head always be restrained around children (who are often eye-level with the snake). The bite from even a tiny snake can cause a severe infection, and of course bites to the face are a major concern. Snakes cannot hear (except for low-pitched sounds below our range of hearing) so it’s not possible to train them to respond to names, commands. However, when kept in a manner that suits their true natures, they are extremely interesting and make fine, long-lived (to 50+ years for ball pythons!) pets.

      Good luck, enjoy and please let me know if you need further info.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hello, i have a question i just bought a ball python juvenile male around 3 or 4 days ago, hes kind and loving but he wont eat, petsmart said he hasent eatin in about 3 weeks, and know its going on a month…, help?

    • avatar

      Hello Chad, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest. A month long fast is nothing to be concerned over, especially as the snake was at a pet store (often a very stressful environment) and has now been moved to a new home. Please let me know some details as to temperature, basking site, tank size and shelter, just to make sure all is as it should be. From what you write, I’m guessing that you are handling the snake often? While ball pythons generally calm down in time, please understand that they really do not benefit from this at all; if handled before they have adjusted to captivity, most will refuse to eat for quite some time. Best to disturb the snake as little as possible for now.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Hey how are you? I bought three snakes from a neighbor now I have two ball pythons and one boa.. One is a male and one is a female, they were caged together when I got them… I have seperated them now, and the male has adapt real well in his cage… But my female hasn’t ate since I got her about three weeks ago, my other two snakes have eaten…. She has started shedding and hasn’t finished the skin is just now starting to peel off.. When I offer her the small rat she will come up to it, then she turns away from it… I am just worried about her… She is a very beautiful snake, she also laid one single egg about two weeks ago it was no good.. The vet told me to seperate her and the male, to stop that from happening…

    • avatar

      Hello Juan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Best to soak the snake in a few inches of water overnight so that she will finish shedding…please see this article for more info.

      Three weeks is generally not a concern at all; you can try mice in the future if she rejects small rat. However, if she has produced only 1 egg there are almost certainly others developing. If these are not expelled they may decay and cause a bacterial infection which is usually fatal (commonly termed egg yolk peritonitis). Provide her with a cave or other shelter provisioned with dam sphagnum moss to encourage her to deposit the eggs. Producing only 1 is not, however, a good sign, as the entire clutch should be deposited at once; Is it possible that perhaps she laid a clutch earlier, and the egg you saw was an infertile one expelled afterwards…this is normal. In any case, gravid snakes rarely feed. Splitting the pair is a good idea if you plan to breed in the future. In any event, if she does not deposit eggs in 1-2 weeks, a radiograph should be taken; an experienced reptile vet can advise you on treatment if eggs are found.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hey sorry to bother you again.. And thank you for your help last time and I am very happy to tell you my female ball finally ate last Friday… But my question today is she has shed her entire body except her head and it seems like she isn’t trying to get it off, is there anything i should do, or should i just leave her be… Just asking cause I was reading on the internet that if the eye caps don’t come off, it could be bad for the snake… And I just don’t know what else to do, I mist her cage for humidity she has a log with bark on it to rub against…. And once again thank you so much….

    • avatar

      Hello Juan, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words and glad to hear the news. Soaking the snake overnight usually helps…please see this article for details, and be sure to write back if you have any questions about the process. Unshed eye caps (brille) are a concern…you should be able to see the old caps within the skin once it is shed.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    My husband and I have a 6 year old ball python, very loving snake! We enjoy her! We bought her from a family about 1 year ago that had her in a 10 gallon tank and sand and no place for her to hide. So we got a bigger cage so she would feel more comfortable. We figure she was not treated well? The questions that we have are when we give her a bath she seems she does not like the water and we know we have the right temp. for her before we put her in. We found out for her to calm down in the bath to soak is to pet her. Also, it has been 3 1/2 weeks since she has ate and we are worried, she would give us her usual signs that she is hungry and we also make sure that the tank temp. and etc. is where it is suppose too be. We are concerned, my husband thinks that she may have mouth rot? She has been making wheezing noises lately and she even made these noises the first week we bought her, we don’t know what to do? Should we take her to get checked? Please we would really like to hear your advice…
    Thank you,

    • avatar

      Hello Michelle, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest. It is not wise to place the snake in water unless it is having difficulty shedding; even then, confining it to damp moss overnight is preferable. Ball pythons are native to very arid habitats; some populations rarely if even encounter standing water. Forcibly bathing it is quite stressful, and can exacerbate other health problems; please also bear in mind that they will bite in self defense, and snake bite wounds often become infected.

      Best to just provide a bowl of water – the snake will use it as needed. Fill the bowl to a point where it will not overflow if the snake curls up within.

      You might find this 2 Part article on Ball Python Natural History and Care of interest.

      Fasts are not at all unusual. However, wheezing usually signifies a lung infection or related problem. You didn’t mention what symptoms o mouth rot were present, but in any case a vet can check for that as well. Infections spread rapidly so it would be best to see a vet in the near future. Please let me know if you need assistance in locating a reptile-experienced vet.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck , and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Hi Frank; We need some help;
    my boyfriend and I have two snakes (we think) a male and a female. Our female “Jewels” is about 4 years old, when we bought her from a family friend, she did not eat, we researched our hearts out before purchasing her to be the best snake owners we could be. We assumed it was because of a new enviornment, and aloud her to settle in. after about a month and a half, we started to get worried, so we tried many different kinds, live, dead,white,black,big,small – you name it! We called the vet and they ensured us it was fine, and said to call back if she continued for longer than 4 months. ANYWAYS- she ended up being very sick when we got her, and had to give her topical medication for a very bad infection on her stomach , we kept her , because we had already fell in love with her, and the previous owners had not kept good care of her.
    Our other snake “drake” is only about 11/2-2years. we got him as a baby, and have raised him.
    He is a very healthy ,happy snake. Our only issue is he will not touch a dead mouse. He will only eat live, and we have no idea why. He will go up to frozen/thawed Mice, and turn away from them. Any suggestions that might help? He has been great so far, and we always supervise the feeding to ensure the mice do not bite or scratch him- but it would be nicer to not have to watch the mice die.
    My second question is – Would you recommend us getting the smakes sexed to be 100% sure? I hear probbing hurts, but that’s street talk, and I’d like a professional opinion. Our snakes are too old to be popped, and I feel this process would be better left to professionals anyways.
    My last question is- Jewels has started to not eat again, it’s been roughly 5 weeks, and we’ve tried on 3 seperate occaions to feed her. a week or so apart.
    I know it is normal for them to fast, but she has been sluggish latley; and she has a big lump by her “hole” that leds us to believe she has to have a bowel movment, but it has been 5 weeks since she ate last, and she usually has a bowel movment within a week or so of eating . Any help you have would be so much help.
    Also- We have become VERY attached to these snakes, and they are treated as one of the family, so we really hope this is nothing very serious, and if it is, We really hope it can be treated quickly!
    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hello Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your interest.

      Best not to feed the younger snake live food; even if you watch, there will be no way for you to prevent a bite, and it will happen eventually. If moving a dead mouse with a long-handled tong does not work, try leaving a dead mouse overnight. Placing it within a small cave or other shelter, sometimes works (all sorts of theories as to why, but it is worth trying). Since the snake has been feeding regularly, a long fast will do no harm (some species even continue to grow when fasting…different process than most vertebrates); far better to keep it hungry than risk live rodents.

      Probing should only be done by an experienced person, as it’s easy to pierce the wall of the cloaca. No real need to sex professionally, unless you plan on breeding. The sexes differ visually, but your younger animal may be difficult until it gets older. In males, the hemipenes are located just below the cloaca. The body will taper gradually in width right after the cloaca, then taper more noticeably as one looks towards tail tip. In females, the body becomes narrow immediately after the cloaca. You should be able to find photos on the net, or in a good snake husbandry book (writer back if you need help locating any).

      The lump can mean that feces are impacted. Having the snake swim in warm water, in a large enclosure, sometimes helps but a vet visit is preferable. Females may also become egg-bound, but this can only be determined via radiograph.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, and please keep me posted.

      A happy and healthy new year to you and yours, Frank Indiviglio

  8. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Great site, I have learned a lot reading through all the blogs.

    We have a ball python that will not eat, and has gone several months with out eating. This started when we had a severe mite infestation that arrived with new coco bedding. We have had several appointments with the veterinarian, and the snake is loosing weight rapidly, showing signs of severe dehydration. The veterinarian is treating the snake with antibiotics, and has provided it IV fluids. We will be making another return visit again on Monday for antibiotic treatments. We have a very sick snake on our hands and want to provide him the best possible chances for recovery.

    Do you have any experience with issues such as this, and can you offer any suggestions to ensure hydration? We keep plenty of fresh water in the habitat however he is reluctant to visit it.

    We will appreciate any pointers you can provide.

    • avatar

      Hello Chris,

      Thanks for your interest and the kind words. Mites and many medications can add to a dehydration problem; fluids supplied by vet would be best at this point. If the snake is ill, it may not, as you report, drink on its own; they also often cease drinking during their normal fasts. Keeping the tank moist is not an option as fungal skin disorders often develop.

      Please let me know if you need any further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Hello Frank!
    I have a very healthy 11 year old ball python. He typically eats every 7 or 8 weeks. It has now been 12 weeks. Should I be worried? He eats live rats, he always has (since he was big enough) I got him that way. But I have tried feeding him twice now (once at 9 weeks, then again today), and it’s not happening. I know they eat less frequently during the winter because of the cold. Should I maybe get a second heat lamp on him to make it warmer in his cage? He is decent sized around still, so I’m not worried that he is losing weight, just yet. I would approximate him to be about 2.5″ around (at the widest portion), 4ft long (at the most). Is it too soon to worry? How should I gauge when to try and feed him again, if he is fasting? It would help if he barked and kicked around a food bowl like dogs do…haha..
    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hello Katy,

      Thanks for your interest. Yes…snakes do make it difficult for us; at some points in my career I had several hundred under my care; checking all took longer than the actual work involved in feeding and cleaning!

      Ball Pythons will change their feeding routine even after many years. Sometimes it has to do with age, changing metabolism, etc. Temperature could be a factor..again snake’s cold tolerance may have changed, or perhaps night temps are lower this year; please let me know your day/ night temperatures when you have a moment.

      If otherwise in good health, the snake will likely lose little if any weight even after several months; they adjust their metabolism to food availability. Several species have even been found to grom in length despite fasts of several months duration.

      The tricky part is distinguishing a fast from an illness, or an intestinal blockage. A snake 11 years without prior history is probably just fasting, but a vet exam/radiographs etc. is the only way to be absolutely sure. I wouldn’t do that just yet, however.

      Ball Pythons will wander, nose about if very hungry, but it takes some time for them to get to this point. You might try keeping a dead rat on hand – thaw out and place on screening to see if scent arouses him.

      You’ve beaten the odds by feeding live rats for so long; I’ve rarely seen any that have not been injured by then, especially in captivity, where ambush options, space etc. are limited. Very few of the several hundred wild anacondas and other constrictors I’ve handled have been unmarked by prey. If the snake is on a long fast, the end of it would be a good time to try dead prey. Moving the rat via long handled tongs may induce it; also some snakes respond instinctively with a strike when touched with a rodent on head or mid body.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted… always useful for me to have feedback re fasts, thanks.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  10. avatar

    Thank you so much! This has been very helpful.

    My apartment is usually kept in the upper 60s, both during the day and at night. I have his heat lamp on constantly, but the thermometer in the tank broken so I am not sure how warm it is in there. There is a window near by, and now that I am thinking of it, it would probably be a good idea to wrap it with plastic to make sure there is no draft, now that Chicago is finally starting to change to winter weather.

    If I attempt to feed him dead prey once his fast is over, would he switch to always eating dead prey, you think? The last rat I tried feeding him, that he did not eat, bit him after it was in there for a little while. so I took it out, I don’t ever leave him alone with live prey, but seeing how he was bit and did not fight back worried me. His previous owners said he would only eat live. But if switching is possible, I think it would be safest.

    How long is too long?

    • avatar

      Hello Katy,

      Thanks for the feedback; would be good to seal window (esp. in Chicago!) and to take temperatures. 24 hrs of light is not the best situation; some animals do fine long term, but it tends to disturb their normal circadian rhythms, which can affect feeding and activity levels. A black/red bulb would be better for nighttime use, as the snake will not sense the light.

      3-4 month fasts are not uncommon and cause no problems assuming no underlying health concerns. Has the snake defecated since last meal (blockages will cause a loss of appetite; low temps inhibit digestion).

      They all go onto dead food eventually; bites most often occur while snake is constricting rat, which you would not be able to prevent, so yes, switching would be safest.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    The light I am using is the nocturnal infrared spot lamp, 75 watts. the same one that is listed 3rd on that page. Would you suggest a light specific for night as well? He has defecated, so hopefully it’s not blockage.

    • avatar

      Hello Katy,

      Thanks; that lamp is fine for day and night use; a 75 wt should provide enough heat at the room temps you mentioned, but would be good to check.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  12. avatar

    My ball python hasn’t eaten in over a month I have tried several different things. Like feeding at night with the heat light off. As well as putting him in a small dark bag. He has a good source of water for soaking. His tank is 95 on the hot end and in the middle 70s on the side with his hide. This concerns me because he was eating on a regular basis untill I moved his tank into a different room 1 that the temperature is better regulated. I am just affraid he is going to starve to death he was eating every 5 days or so before he stopped I have have several snakes over the years and have never had 1 refuse to eat this long he doesn’t appear to be losing weight but it stll concerns me any tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated

    • avatar

      Hello Alan,

      Thanks for your interest. A month long fast is quite normal; it’s common for snakes to eat heavily when first received and then to slack off after a time. Also, concerning the points made in the article…ball pythons have a wide natural range, and different populations have different internal “clocks”…those with origins in 1 area may periodically fast, while others will not. The 47+ year old specimen mentioned in this article would routinely fast for 2-3 months w/o ill effect.

      Feeding every 5 days is not necessary; the snake probably took advantage of the food supply but is now leveling off. Please see this article, and those linked there, for more info, and feel free to write back.

      You might lower the basking temperature to 88-90 F, 95F is a bit too warm on a long term basis. Check the cool side frequently – in small terrariums, the entire tank tends to take on the basking temperature. Please send more info on cage size and snake size when you have a moment.

      The snake will not lose weight unless otherwise ill. Most reptiles can adjust their metabolisms to food supply; some species even continue to grow during long fasts; please see this article for details.

      You can try some of the techniques mentioned in Part II of this article, but wait a week or so; overly disturbing the snake can also put it off feed. The bag technique is not ideal for ball pythons, tends to be stressful for most.

      Only a vet exam can determine if a medical problem is present, but with ball pythons food refusal is almost always a natural behavior, and not cause for concern.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  13. avatar

    He is in a 20 gallon tank and the cool end stat in

    • avatar

      Hello Alan

      Thanks for the feedback; your note seems to have been cut off, but I suggest you re-check cool end throughout the day and night; in a 20 gallon, a 95 F basking spot usually overheats the whole tank. You may need to use a weaker bulb, or perhaps a very small bulb (25-40 wt, depending on house temps) along with a heat pad (below, not in, the tank).

      Allowing temps to drop into high 70’s at night is also useful. Since the animal was feeding well earlier, it might be useful to re-establish conditions that were in place at former location.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  14. avatar

    He is in a 20 gallon tank and the cool end stays between 75 with light on and about 70 with it off I will have to buy a smaller watt heat lamp bulb to lower the basking tempature on the other end of the tank he looks very healthy and doesn’t appear to be losing weight I know snakes can stop feeding from time to time I was just concerned I was doing something wrong. How often do you suggest feeding the pet store I bought him through said they feed him every 5 days. I know from past exsperiences with other balls I have owned every 7 to 14 days always seemed to be adequate. Is their any specific bulb or wattage you would suggest. The tank also has a retile heating pad under the tank any further advice would be greatly appreciated. I have always owned exotic pets at one time I had 3 ball pythons and a green iguana that was about 6 foot long moving into a different home I had to get rid of them any further advice on the care of my snake would be greatly appreciated

    • avatar

      Hello Alan,

      Thanks for the feedback. A meal every 7-14 days is the right way to go when the snake is in feeding mode. Specific wattage depends on room temperature over a 24 hr period…unfortunately, you need to experiment which sometimes results in extra expenses for bulbs. The heat pad is adding to the snake’s body temp, and so is likely too much when used with a bulb that raises air temps to 95. Small hand-held temperature “guns” (readers) are very useful, as they give a pinpoint reading; available online. You can point at the snake and learn what it’s actual skin temperature is…very useful; I’ve taken readings from basking painted turtles and found that shell temps were 75 F, despite an air temp of 55 F (outdoors); heat builds up in a basking animal. Again, as your snake did well previously, it might be good to re-establish the situation you used at that time.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  15. avatar

    we have a year and a half old male ball pyton,chuckles.he has a 40 gal tank with good hiding spots and proper humidity and temp.he hasn’t eaten in 3 monthes and is healthy and active.he stays on the cooles side under his log,but does come out in the evening.i understand this is normal,but i’m getting cconserned.he started on med rats about 6 monthes ago.was eating well.hes is about 42inches long and aout 2 inch in diameter.am i doing something wrong?

    • avatar


      Thanks for your interest. It’s most likely fine…although fasting time varies, it does often occur at this time of the year, and 3 months is not unusual. If otherwise in good health, the snake will not even show much weight loss…a few species can even add length while on prolonged fasts. Males sometimes go off feed when in breeding condition as well. Without a vet exam, there’s no way to be sure that an underlying medical condition is not present, but given that his behavior is otherwise normal I would just continue offering food every 10 days or so until the fast ends.
      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  16. avatar

    thank you,we were just concered because this is our 1st ball and we are quite attached to him.we have had him since he was 18 in long and have really enjoyed watching him grow.we will keep you posted,thank you again

    • avatar

      Hello Chuck

      Thanks for the feedback. They can suddenly begin fasting after years, but given the length of time you’ve had him, it’s likely related to breeding readiness; keep an eye out that he doesn’t rub his snout on the screening overnight.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  17. avatar

    Hi! me again- I emailed earlier about my pet snale Jewels and her not eating. it’s been about a month or so longer, and she still hasn’t made a bowel movement or eaten. i’ve started tp notice she is looking thinner around the head/neck area. My boyfriend and I are hacong am arguement- I want to bring her to the house we are currently living and he doesn’t. he thinks the move will be too stressful on her and I feel she’d be better takin care of woth us (his family takes care of her right now) . when we got her a few years ago she was very ill and almost died. My boyfriend thinks this could be what is causing her issues now; we are debating taking her to the vet ; but we thought about this first- Do you think she’s sick? if she is suffering we don’t want to put her through that and would rather her (no matter hpw hard it will be) be put out of her misery. PLEASE HELP. we are very concerned , she means a great deal to us

    • avatar

      Hello Elizabeth

      Thanks for the update. A month-long fast is not out of the ordinary. However, a medical problem is likely if the snake ate a meal 1 month ago and has not passed stool since. In that case the animal should be seen by a vet…unfortunately, there is no way to diagnose what if any problems are present without an exam.

      Please let me know if you need any further information.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  18. avatar

    Ok frank i got one for you. Ive had a pinstripe ball python since May of last year. Since ive had her she has not eattin. She has only lost 56 grams, which i know isnt alot, but im starting to worry. Ive got quite a few more that are housed in the same area of the room and in the same type enclosure that are all eatting just fine. She is not impacted because she pooped about 3 weeks ago. Ive tried every trick i know of, f/t, live, fed in day and night time, seperate box to feed, hamster scented. I will asist feed if its my last option. And sugestions?

    • avatar

      Hello Jeff,

      Thanks for the interesting post. Genetics of the parents can affect fasting; i.e. so that 1 animal fast while others feed at same time/same conditions. However, something else may be going on given the time involved. Passing feces 3 weeks ago despite not having fed since May or earlier is likely an indication of a problem; not possible to hazard a guess as to cause, based on that, but I think a vet exam/radiographs would be a good idea before force-feeding.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  19. avatar

    hello,well he finally ate today after 4 monthes.we had to get a rat and put bedding from the mouse enclosure on him to make him smell like a mouse.viola,he ate and agressively i might add.we are just glad he finally ate.he also shed about 2 weeks ago.and now is about 40 inches long,give or take.i understand he will bulk up,what about length?thank you,Chuck Tice

    • avatar

      Hello Chuck

      Thanks for the update and glad to hear the good news…at least he didn’t “insist” on gerbils or other more expensive rodents!

      Ball pythons have a very wide natural range, and various populations seem to differ widely in average /maximum size. Most in the trade reach 3-5 feet in length. In various herpetological journals, I’ve read of several 6 footers (most recorded 40+ years ago, in the field, as I recall). There are also a few reports of individuals nearing 7 feet, I’m told, but I have seen the articles/notes firsthand.

      Perhaps you’ll enjoy this article on Ball Python Natural History.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  20. avatar

    hello,i have an update and a queastion.well he is eating about every two weeks.his last meal was a gerbil.will gerbils upset his system?they are the right size for him,he is very active and gaining weight.we are waiting for the next shed to see if he starts gaining bulk and length.this blog is very helpful.i thought i did enough research,maybe i should do more.all the info is very helpful.thank you.

    • avatar

      Hello Chuck

      Thanks for the kind words. Gerbils are fine, either on occasion or as the sole diet. Gerbils favor the same habitat as ball pythons, and several species occur within their range (although not the pet trade species, which hails from NE Asia)…but just about any rodent will meet their needs. The snake may refuse other foods, however; but if gerbils are hard to come by you can freeze a dead one and use it to scent mice or small rats.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

  21. avatar

    i recently got my wife a female het g stripe ball hd 6/11.we were told she was eating rat pups,would it be ok to give her small gerbils?she is alrready 23 in long,and so pretty.i know we can’t breed them for a couple years.but we can wait.what about sharing an enclosure,since he is so much bigger than she is right now.just making sure.when we breed them i understabd we could get a cluth of normals since he is a normal.maybe a morph?thank you for taking the time to read this,your info has been very helpful.chuck tice

    • avatar

      Hello Chuck

      Thanks for your interest and kind words. Pre-killed gerbils are fine a s a food item, but it may be difficult to switch the snake to mice or small rats in time; some refuse all but certain food.

      It’s best to house the sexes separately, and to introduce them during the breeding season. This may not matter, as concerns future breeding, if one is immature, but in general they are solitary animals; close confinement with another, long term, could be stressful.

      Most ball pythons have a variety of different color patterns/morphs in their ancestry; unless careful records have been kept for several generations, it’s difficult to predict what the hatchlings will look like…some interesting surprises could be in store…

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  22. avatar

    thank you,that was very helpful

  23. avatar

    hi there,chuck again with an update.well,both of our balls ate .they are taking african soft furs,which we are going to start breeding.plus they are kinda cute and fun to watch.just thought i would give you an update.thanks for all the info.

  24. avatar

    Although I know in my head that it’s very normal for a ball python to fast, it’s very troubling even with this knowledge when a pet does refrain from eating. I suppose it’s normal to worry about a human not eating, so we instinctively feel the same about pets that don’t eat, even though we should be thinking of their eating habits in a very different way from human eating habits of course.

    • avatar


      Yes, that’s a good point that reptile keepers (and, to a greater degree, dog and cat owners!) often forget. There’s absolutely no connection between our needs and theirs, and trying to draw parallels does more harm than good. best to research and understand the animals natural history (please see article linked in my earlier response). Best, Frank

  25. avatar

    So I got a ball python from a breeder, who by the way us a really cool guy. He said to feed her live hopper rats but there are no rat breeders where I live, so I have been trying to feed her mice that are the same size as hopper rats and she will not eat them, so I asked the breeder if he had problems in the past with mice and he said that she refused to eat them with him as well. Do you think if I keep offering her the mice she will eventually eat them or do you think I could switch her to frozen rats? All the temps and humidity in her cage are perfect, an U have had her for about 3 weeks but its been a month since she has eaten.

    • avatar


      Never necessary to feed live, and dangerous with mice, small rats..a bite will occur in time. Keep offering dead mice or frozen small rats, and the snake will eat in time. A month fast is of no consequence to a healthy snake, so don’t worry about that. Best, Frank

  26. avatar

    Thank you Frank, I’m planning on ordering some frozen rats because Crow may like the rats more than the mice. My 9 month old baby thanks you and I will update you on her adventures of frozen food.

  27. avatar

    I have a few questions Frank my wifes Royal python Wessly was making some noises and we took him to a vet had to give him antibiotics and a breathing treatment for 2 weeks.
    He is still making noises and we tried to feed him and it seemed like the rat was too big but it was the normal size she ussualy feeds Wessly.
    Should we try with a smaller rat and should we be worried about the nosies he is still making?

    • avatar

      Hi Brian,

      Noise while breathing is often a sign of respiratory infection; cam be difficult to clear, ideally, the pathogen responsible should be Id’d so that an appropriate medication can be prescribed. Best to have the animal checked again before feeding, as digestion can be affected if an infection is present. long fasts are no problem at all for this species, I hope all goes well, pl keep me posted, Frank

  28. avatar


    I have a ball python & she hasn’t ate for like 3 to 4 weeks could it be from the cold cuz were close to December ! We don’t want to see her die but she is a heathy snake she’s kind if fat lol

  29. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    I wasn’t sure what article would be the most relevant to post this question under – hopefully this one’s okay.

    We emailed a few weeks ago about my ball python’s shedding issues – thanks for the advice, because the olive oil worked wonderfully. There is still a little dead skin here and there, but that should come off in the next shed.

    My question this time is in regards to feeding and defecation: I try to keep him on a regular schedule, feeding every 10 days, however, it takes him about that long before he defecates completely. Normally, after about a week he defecates a very small amount of what I was told is the rodent’s bones (it’s white, and I don’t know if it’s actually bones, that’s just what I was told), and then after another day or two he defecates a larger amount that is grayish brown. But this time, it has been 13 days since he was fed, and he has only defecated the very small amount of bones. He is overdue to be fed again according to the schedule I try to maintain, but I am concerned about feeding him again if he hasn’t defecated enough – I don’t want to cause a blockage or anything. So, my questions are, should I wait to feed him after he has defecated again, the larger amount, or is that small amount enough for him to be able to eat again? And, can it cause any problems for him if he is on an irregular feeding schedule, even when he has an appetite (he is a very good eater)?


  30. avatar

    hi im not sure if your still answering questions but im kind of stressing about my ball python. First off shes about 695 grams we got her about a year ago from petsmart she wasnt very big then id say she has grown to be bout 10x the size she was when we got her. we got her on 4/12/13 and shes always been a great feeder we were feeding her every 3 days(as pet shop directed) up until 6 months ago we gradually cut her down to once a week shes been eating once every sunday for about the last 4 months again ive never had a problem with her eating up until this sunday we gave her a rt pup she went nose to nose with it but didnt want it shes not a picky snake she would eat a rat pup or a mouse but she will not eat the rat pup we got her this sunday im just concerned hoping to find out what could be going on with her and maybe get some pointers. (she gets live feed she has been bitten once but has eaten 4 times since then she is healed we just dont want to lose her or anything she is a part of our family and we love her very much. thank you

    • avatar

      Hello Catherine,

      Thanks for your interest. Feeding every 3 days is quite excessive for a captive, and growing so much in less than a year is way beyond the normal growth rate. The snake is most likely adjusting now, not stimulated to feed as it has no doubt stored up reserve fat etc. A long fast as mentioned in the article–weeks to months – would not be unusual at this point.

      Please also note that there is never a need to feed live food to ball pythons. The snake will be injured in time (Please see Part II of this article); yours may take some time to adjust to pre-killed rodents, but t will accept them in time.

      Without a vet visit, There’s no way to be sure that a medical problem is not also present; however, long fasts are typical of ball pythons, even if they are fed moderately; they are almost inevitable in snakes that have fed heavily for extended periods. Please let me know if you need further info, best regards, Frank

  31. avatar

    Hello sir!
    My step dad recently gave me his beloved python as my mother is is not a fan of her and she won’t eat.

    It’s been about 4 months and we have recently moved and she shed in febuary. She seems active (coiling and slowly moving towards me when I put my hand in to give her water) however she still won’t eat the prey we give her. She’s about 5 feet long and feeds on full grown rats. Is it the temperature? (My room is in the basement) this is my first reptile. Thanks!!

  32. avatar

    Hi. Ive had my ball for about 8 months, hes a year old now. Hes very friendly and has been growing well. Last I weighed he was about 700+ gramms. About 4 weeks ago he came put of his hide for feeding loooked eager, struck missed and then did not want the food. I tried the next day and he took it no issue. The next week the same happened. Then 2 weeks ago he was just not interested and ive tried maybe twice since. Today he looked eager came out all ready and then just lost interest. I can leave it in there and he just ignores it. Should I be worried?

    • avatar

      Hi Susan,

      The time period is not a problem at all, very common. But they do not usually strike at food and then refuse. Perhaps it is aggression (if you are moving the food about?) which would be okay. The only possible concern is a mouth issue that may be causing the snake to release food due to pain, etc. A bacterial infection commonly known as mouth rot is the most common related problem…usually you’ll see red, inflamed areas along the gum line, if you pull back the scales in that area; the inside of the mouth will be affected as well. They will bite when you try to do this, so you’ll need 2 people. If it’s grabbing and releasing the food, this might be something to check…a vet exam would be best.

      Best, Frank

  33. avatar

    Hello. Thanks fir the reply. Ive taken him out of his enclosure, which I dont normally do for feeding, and just had him on the carpet. I though I’d take a chance and put therat out in front of him. It took a few slide pasts but once he got nose to nose with it he simply opened his mouth and started eating. I tried a second (as he did not feed last week I was offering two small rats) and again he just ate it once directed to the face. No striking, no aggression towards me or food. I might still take him for a check up but his mouth looks clean and no difficulty breathing. This is a bit strange as hes always been a great eater, since the day i got him even during a time we had a power out and he was wrapped around a hot water bottle ( was mid winter) hes never refused.
    Thank you again 🙂

    • avatar


      My pleasure….Good to hear; it wouldn’t eat if mouth rot were involved so don’t worry. Again, they routinely fast for months on end…never feed during a power outage etc as even w/hot water bottle they cannot usually get up to the temps need for digestion; fatal infections likely if food remains too long in gut. You’ll never do it any harm by skipping meals, they need very little food in captivity and store fat effectively; many become obese over time. Emjoy, best, Frank

  34. avatar

    Hi, I just bought a female ball python at Petco on the 31st of July, they said she last ate Saturday… I misses her feeding because I hd to leave but my sister tried to feed & she wouldn’t eat she said… She is my first pet ball python & I’m just a little nervous because she won’t eat… What do I do??

    • avatar


      They typically refuse to feed when first obtained…may take several weeks to settle into a new terrarium. Also, please see article…long fasts are normal for this snake, and not a problem if the animal is in good health. please send info re day and night time temperatures, terrarium size and set-up, etc and we can review to make sure all is as it should be. best, Frank

  35. avatar

    Hi I have a 20L tank with mulch (I can’t rember what kind got it in a starter kit) the temps. stay around 85 on the hot side & idk on the cool side I need more stuff for my tank (thermometer, UTH, Etc.) I’m going shopping for it soon… What all do you recommend?? She’s my baby girl I want her to have the right stuff.

  36. avatar

    Hello iv have my ball python since a baby he was eating every week for the first 5-6months without fail, I couldn’t tell you sizes but he got extremely big the first couple months, it’s now been 6months later and he’s 1. He’s not grown much bigger, 2. Only pooed about 2 times 3. Only shed 1-2 times an 4. Only ate 1-2times
    What shall I do?

    • avatar


      It’s common for them to grow rapidly at first…then to slow down growth and shedding. Feeding and defecating less is also common after a growth spurt…if you do not see symptoms of illness, all is probably well…please let me know if you need more info, Best,. Frank

  37. avatar

    I just bought my ball python from a breeder last Monday & she was was supposed to eat that Wednesday. I tried feeding her last night & she wouldn’t take it. I was told she was eating live fuzzies but I tried pinky rats. She tries to escape constantly & I know she is stressed because she is in my room and can see all my movements. I have the thermometer at the top of the tank & it says the temp is at a set 90. I also have a under heating pad as well as a day time & night time heating lamp. I can tell that she isn’t happy, any suggestions? She is only about 2 months old

    • avatar

      Hello Bri,

      No need to worry at all about feeding schedule…they routinely fast for weeks at a time; not feeding after being moved to a new tank is normal. Stay with the usual food, live fuzzies; after the first meal, use dead fuzzies..they will be taken in time if snake is healthy.

      Take reading of temperatures at the hottest point of the tank, and over the heat pad, and let me know what you find. Also send info as to tank size, and availability of shelters, etc. may be best to move tank to a quiet room, at least for now, best, Frank

  38. avatar

    I have a young ball python ive had for maybe two months,she has only eaten once and is refusing to eat again,also she hasn’t defecated.ive tried feeding her several times and she refuses.what should i do?my python in the past didn’t do this.im worried.thank u.

    • avatar


      Individuals vary…some fast very often, others not at all..it may be related to where the parent stock originated. One meal over 2 months is nothing to be concerned about, they are very efficient at storing food and using reserves as needed. Please feel free to send info re temps, tank size etc if you have any questions, best, Frank

  39. avatar

    Hey Frank my i got a female ball python thats about 3 months old and she refuses to eat even thoe she is really skinny, thoe she hasnt eaten she is pooping alot and its a white liquid. I also have a male burmese ball python that is in great health. She isnt thoe and im not sure what to do. Plz help

    • avatar

      Hello Jonathan,

      Fasting is common, but there’s no way to be sure a health problem is not at work w/o a veterinary exam/work-up. Please send along details re temperatures, cage size etc…but if you are sure all is set up correctly, then it would be best to see a vet. Let me know if you need anything, frank

  40. avatar

    Hello , my name is Kaitlyn and I just got my first ball python . I had a red tailed boa a few years ago but I’m quickly seeing that these to snakes are very different ! Iv had my new snake Draco since a few days befor Christmas . Iv tryd feeding him twice now . Once with a large rat but he showed no interest in it , I thought it was to big for him so I went and got a smaller rat , but again he is not showing any interest . He eats live rats and the rat has been in the tank with him for three days now . I don’t what what to do , I don’t have anything to put the rat in . Is my snake fasting ? Or is he just not hungry he hasn’t eating in more then two weeks ! He’s very friendly and love to be out of his tank and wrapped around you . What should I do , I’m afraid to leave the rat in there , knowing that the rat could harm him . Please help . I never went thur anything like this with my boa

    • avatar

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      2 weeks is not much of a wait for a ball python – fasts of 2 months or more are common; other times they will eat weekly for awhile, then go off feed again. No need to worry, unless the animal appears ill…discharge from nostrils, etc. Proper temperatures are necessary also…please send some details.

      Never use live rats or mice! The snake will be injured, without question, in time,….very different from wild situation, where snake controls the hunt. Best to bring the rat to the pet store if possible, but remove t for sure. Once it adjusts to being there, it will attack the snake.

      Just keep offering dead rats, try mice also, every 2 weeks or so…the snake will not starve, do not worry. Sen info on temperature etc,. if you wish, best, frank

  41. avatar

    I noticed a few days ago that he is starting to shed , I was just worried, and wanted to be sure he’d be okay . But his tank stays around 80 to 85 degrees . Iv tryd frozen rats and mice but he won’t eat them , the person I got him from had him eating live mice since he was a baby , Ill keep trying tho . Thank you so much for the tips . I was wondering if you have any tips to help him through his shedding I was told to spay him with water to help keep the skin moist , but idk if that will really help him or not . He’s just starting to shed . His eyes are milky and his skin is getting duller , and his belly is just starting to turn a pinkish color . I’m trying not to handle him and let him be . How long do you think it will take him to shed

    • avatar

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      The snake will take rodents in time, but they do not feed just before or during shed phase. Provide a water bowl large enough to soak in …they are native to dry habitats, and usually shed fine w/o any extra help. Timing is individual, and depends upon many factors,…once it establishes a pattern you should be able to predict the length of the shed cycle with so accuracy, but it can change as time goes on. enjoy, best, Frank

  42. avatar


    I just bought my first ball python a couple weeks ago. Tia is still a baby, and that’s why I’m writing. I know two weeks isn’t much to be concerned about, but the fact that she is a baby is what’s stressing me out. And we have tried everything.

    We tried feeding her the first time last week, with no results. We tried dangling it, squashing the brains open, leaving the room with the lights off, everything.

    We tried again today, and still nothing.

    We keep the night lamp on all the time, letting her morning cycle be regulated by the natural light from the window, and we have a heat mat set to 92 degrees. The humidity is at 50% pretty much all the time.

    I’m just wondering if there’s anything else I should be doing, thank you.

    • avatar

      Hello Ashley,

      No need for concern at all, unless the animal is showing signs of illness. They take time to adjust to surroundings, or it may just be in a non-feeding period. Young ones have plenty f reserves and will not starve.

      If you need to heat the air at night, it’s best to use a source which does not provide visible light., i.e. a red / black bulb or ceramic heat-emitter.

      Let me know if you need anything, best, Frank

  43. avatar

    Hi my name is Suzanne and I wanted to ask a question about my male yellow bellied boa . I got him on the 17th of January . and I fed him a few days later ,but has not eaten since then. He just balls up when i put a live mouse in for him. So not sure if it is normal or he is sick? you can write me on my email xannapixie@yahoo.com .any way I hope its just a not hungry thing happening .im worried an this is my first boa

    • avatar

      Hello Suzanne,

      I’m not sure to what species you are referring..that is not a name that is in general use. But in any event, do not feed live prey…the reaction you see is common, putting prey in a tank has no relation to what occurs in nature, and is experienced by many snakes as a stressful event. All boids will consume dead rodents. Even if the snake feeds, it will be bitten in time, and likely suffer a severe to fatal infection…always happens.

      Please send info on the type of snake you have (species), it’s size, and details concerning the terrarium – size, day/night temps, basking site temperature, hiding spots, etc…the reason for not feeding generally lies in these details, best, Frank.

  44. avatar

    Hi frank, I stumbled upon your blog because I just found out that my poor 3-4 month old ball python, Kaa, has an RI! He had his first round of baytril today, he gets another tomorrow, then another monday. I was just wondering how long it takes for them to show symptoms of an RI and how long it usually takes to recover from them. I’ve only had him for a week! I feel like such a bad snake mom, I cried when I was told he has an RI, cried like a baby. I really am attached to my scaly baby and I would hate for this to kill him. If he’s had this longer than this week I want to let the breeders know, they have over 80 snakes housed in close proximity. He only started showing symptoms about 4 days ago, but his open mouth breathing had all but stopped by today. I had thought he burned his mouth since he managed to get his whole head in my wax warmer as I was making coffee with him on my other arm. I only see him do it about 2-3 times a day. I just hope my lil guy will be alright! I’ve owned BP’s before and never had this happen! All the best, Lorelei.

    • avatar

      Hello Lorelei,

      Respiratory infections can be caused by any of several micro-organisms, each of which may react differently to treatment. If your vet has identified the species present, then an estimation of the time to recovery may be possible; I would check back with the office.

      Handling and especially carrying the animal about at this time is not recommended; the less stress/disturbance the better until the snake has recovered. i hope all goes well, Frank

  45. avatar

    My snake got out of his tank and was gone for a month. I found him today outside of my other snakes tank in a ball. He is in very poor condition, skinny, he vomited twice, won’t eat the mouse we tried feeding him, a little dull, just shed his skin, his poop was clogged but we got it all out and lethargic. When we peeled the extra skin off he had a lot of mites. Help please, I feel like he might be dying…:(

    • avatar


      You’ll need to visit a vet as there’s no way to diagnose the problem at home; likely an antibiotic will be prescribed, etc., but that determination needs to be made by a vet. Be sure to isolate the animal as mites will spread to others rapidly/. There are mite sprays available, but speak with a vet first. I hope all goes well, frank

  46. avatar

    My royal ball python Cleopatra hasn’t ate in 3 weeks and is getting quite agressave she strikes at her mouse but won’t eat it.

    • avatar

      Hello Sonja,

      Three weeks w/o eating is not a concern unless the animal shows signs of illness. Snakes that are not hungry will treat food items as a threat. Hopefully you are not using live mice?…injuries to the snake always occur in time, and live food is never necessary for this species, or most others. Please let me know if you need more info, frank

  47. avatar

    Only frozen mice

    • avatar


      That’s good; offer food every 2 weeks or so, try leaving instead of moving about with tongs (if this is your usual practice0 and assuming temps are correct and snake is healthy, it will feed when necessary. Best, frank

  48. avatar

    Hey I have a ball python that right now is 6 1/2 years and he went through hibernation this winter and he still does not want to eat til this day I’ve tried feeding and he would just stare at the rat and not strike at all. The temperature in his tank is just perfect he has water and has everything he needs I always take good care of him. Need some advice I rely don’t want him to die on me.

    • avatar


      It’s common for them to refuse food after hibernation, even if this has not been the case in the past…seems to be no pattern to fasting etc. in many cases. However, if the animal was chilled over the winter there’s always a chance that a health issue has arisen. You should see other signs of the most common ailments, however, but a vet visit is the only way to be certain. Have you tried leaving food items in overnight, or offering mice instead? Best, frank

  49. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    I have a 20 inch ball python that I purchased from a breeder two weeks ago. The breeder said that the snake fed live and was a strong feeder. I tried to get the snake to switch over to frozen thawed but she would not take it. A week later I tried feeding her a live small mouse but she would not take that either. I tried feeding her a frozen thawed rat again today but she would not take it. She has not eaten for about 3 weeks and I am concerned as she is only 20 inches. The breeder said she was eating small rats but I’m not sure if the small rats I have for her are too big. Also when I put her in her feeding bin and put the rat in she does not even act as though she smells it like my other snake does. It’s as if she doesn’t recognize it as food. Do you have any advice for how to help her feed?
    Thank you!

    • avatar

      Hi Emily,

      Unfortunately, Ball Pythons are notoriously finicky eaters, especially males. Provided that the snake is properly hydrated and doesn’t look like it is skinny (spinal ridge beginning to show, saggy, looking loose skin), three weeks without food shouldn’t be a big deal. Some of my male breeder ball pythons regularly go all winter (about four months) refusing to feed. Remember; they are cold blooded, so their metabolisms work quit differently than that of a mammal.

      To troubleshoot I would begin by ensuring that the hot side of the snakes enclosure is getting to at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and that the opposite side is somewhere around 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a good digital thermometer to check. If you cool side is a little too cool you might want to add an under tank heating pad to give it a little bit of a boost.

      – If your temperatures are correct and the snake is still refusing to feed, try offering a live prey item that is a little smaller than what you would normally feed. I would do this in the snake’s enclosure, not moving it to a separate feeding tub. Although there are differing opinions in the hobby about this practice: It’s my opinion that removing a “lie and wait” predator from the place that it is “lying and waiting” for prey can disrupt the animals feeding instinct. Once you get it eating regularly, you could go back to the tub method if you like.

      -If this still doesn’t work for you, you can try scenting the rodent some chicken bouillon, or used hamster bedding (hamsters smell a lot like their native food source).

      -Make sure that you are not handling the snake while it is refusing to eat, as this can add to stress.

      If none of these tips work for you, I still wouldn’t start to get too concerned until the animal has gone a few months.

      Hopefully this helps you out!


  50. avatar

    Hey i just got a juvinlle Ball Python and she is very friendly for this being the 2nd day here. The problem is she will not eat. I have tried at night and in enclosed places where i have been present but been away from her. I have left her alone with a pinkie for about 30 min and i came back and it was still their and i am very worried for the pet store said she had eaten their but i think they were lying as i have look at her back and her spine (the ridge on her back) is very visible and she is not very wide in diameter wise so i fear she has not eaten for a while. I have only tried frozen Mice for now but I am not sure if i should try live. This is my first snake that has eaten mice BTW. I have had some experience with others that ate worms and fish. Mostly Garter snakes but i have never seen this in a snake before. I have done tons of research and seen that Fasting is very common yet she looks like she’s starving and am very worried. Should i be worried since its coming on to winter in a few months? I live in Wisconsin US so it gets quite cold up here and therefore may this cause lower humidity and cold temperature making her uncomfortable? or might this just be her getting ready to hibernate? Thanks for your time in reading this i hope you can help me!

    • avatar

      Hi there,

      There could be several different reasons for your ball python refusing to eat. Since the bodily functions of cold blooded animals are controlled by external heat sources, the first thing that you want to check is the temperature of the snake’s enclosure. Make sure that you use a very accurate thermometer. I personally prefer digital probe or infrared thermometers. Ball Pythons should have a basking area between 90 and 92 degrees F, and a cool area that stays around 70-75 degrees F. Sometimes a deviation of merely a few degrees can trigger a snake not to feed. Ball Pythons are from Africa, and do experience a “cool” season in which they slow down a bit, but they do not experience temperatures cold enough for them to brumate (hibernate).

      I would also try offering live prey, you can always try to gradually switch over to frozen/thawed later.

      • avatar

        Now i know about the degrees and all but i don’t know how to exactly separate the temperatures so one side is around 90 and the other is 70. ATM im a am using fiberglass as i am low on finances so i cant purchase a nice metal lid so i still have a heat lamp but its resting a but above the plastic so that it doesn’t melt it and hoping that it still allows heat to get in side. But back to the separating heat thing. would i need a metal lid to this since i can then have half the lid covered with a towel and surround the heat lamp with the towel so that that side doesn’t have heat escaping it and then the other half of the lid has nothing on it is what im thinking yet i don’t understand how to get the other side to about 70 degrees when the other side is 90! if you have any ideas or suggestions that would be great i don’t want my poor little girl to die from starvation

        • avatar

          Do you have a thermometer in the enclosure? If so, what temperature are you able to achieve in the basking area (the side that the heat lamp is on) with your current setup? If there is no lid on the enclosure, and heat rises, much of the heat from your bulb is probably escaping. You don’t necessarily have to physically separate the hot and cool side. If you use the appropriate wattage heat bulb and and appropriately sized enclosure, the heat level should naturally dissipate further away from the bulb.

          Get a good thermometer, preferably a digital probe type such as this one. I usually don’t trust the “stick on” thermometers, they really just give you the temperature of the wall of the enclosure. With a probe thermometer, you can move the wire around and get readings throughout the enclosure. Once you can get me an accurate temperature reading I might be able to help you figure out the best heating solution for your enclosure. It will depend on several factors including your enclosure dimensions, ambient room temperature, lid type, (or lack there of) and even substrate.


          • avatar

            I have a plexi glass lid atm and i have small holes popped in the plexi glass on the side thats supposed to be cool so that heat can escape their if their is a lot

          • avatar

            The most common enclosure for a baby ball python would be something the size of a 20 gallon (long) tank with a screen lid. If your fiberglass enclosure is of similar proportion, a 75-100 watt heat bulb might get one side warm enough for you. Generally, the heat will dissipate enough to create a temperature gradient if you are housing the animal in the appropriate sized cage. Without knowing your exact temperature and enclosure specifications, I can’t offer you much more advice. Pythons and Boas are not as tolerant of cooler temperatures like ribbon and garter snakes.

  51. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    I recently purchased my first ball python about 2 weeks ago. Samson is about 18 inches long, they said about 3 years old. He has a 30 gallon snake aquarium with all the things that was suggested by the pet store. I was instantly in love with him. He was shy at first but warmed up to me quickly. I can handle him and stroke his head without him even flinching. I tried to feed him for the first time last week, he wasn’t the slightest bit interested in eating. After reading your blog I wasn’t that concerned. My concern today is that Samson has been extremely quite for the last 24 hours. He is just laying in his hiding box. This isn’t his normal behavior. He usually I quite active when he sees me in the morning and of course in the evening. Should I be concerned with the change of behavior?

    • avatar

      Hi Jessie,

      Provided that your temperatures are correct (90 degree basking area, 75 degrees ambient) sitting still in the same position is actually perfectly normal behavior for a ball python. Sometimes mine don’t move for days. They are lie and wait predators – one of their main goals in life is to expend as little energy as possible and wait for food to come to them. We need to remember that reptiles, especially snakes do not experience the world in the same way that we do. Although it may appear that he is being “friendly” and enjoys the experience of being handled, it could actually be causing him stress. I recommend that you do not handle him python until it eats at least twice in a row for you.

      Also, 18 inches is pretty small for a 3 year old ball python. Unless he had been malnourished or underfed I would be willing to bet that he is actually closer to a year old. At that age some male ball pythons reach sexual maturity and go on a hunger strike around this time each year. They may seem hungry and roam their enclosure appearing to want out, but what they are really searching for is a mate.

      Let me know if you have any other questions,


  52. avatar

    Thanks Josh,

    He is back to moving around the pen again. The temps seem to be fine but I do have to spritz the cage once in awhile to keep the humidity up.
    I don’t think he is malnourished or underfed. His backbone isn’t noticeable at all. So I would guess you are right about the age. I didn’t think they knew for sure at the store when I asked.

    I will go with out handling him until he eats and hopefully that will help.

    Thanks again

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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