Snakes are natural predators. When in captivity, their healthiest food source is live, frozen and thawed mice or rats. You can create your own prey for your snake or buy it from a pet store. Make sure you choose the right size for your snake's age and species.
Method 1 of 3: Choosing the Right Food
Step 1. Buy mice or rats
In the wild, most snakes eat mice, rats or other small rodents. These animals meet all of the snakes' nutritional needs, so a diet consisting only of rats is completely sufficient to keep your snake healthy and happy. If you only have one snake to feed, you can buy mice or rats from a nearby pet store. If you have a large number of snakes, you might consider raising mice or rats for food.
- Buy rats from a company you trust. Check that the animals have been fed correctly and that they are free from chemicals.
- If you don't want to feed your snake mice or rats, you can feed it a combination of larvae, insects, fish and other foods that together meet all of the snake's nutritional needs. However, as snakes tend to be selective in what they eat, a variety of different foods increase the risk of exposure to parasites, so it is advisable to feed your snake only with rodents.
- Do not feed live crickets to a snake, as they can eat its scales and cause damage to the reptile.
Step 2. Choose between live or frozen
As the choice of snakes as pets has increased, a greater variety of food products made for them have become available in pet stores. Many pet owners choose to buy live mice or rats to feed their snakes, but rats served thawed and warmed are also a viable and convenient option. Decide which method is right for you and what your snake needs.
- If you choose to offer live mice, you will be able to more accurately reproduce the eating habits of a snake in the wild. However, using live mice requires a lot of extra effort on your part. You will need to raise mice or run to the store to buy more every day. And if you put a live rat in the cage when the snake doesn't feel like eating, you'll have to remove it and keep it until you can try again.
- Many find using mice or rats to thaw very convenient. The problem is getting the snake used to eating the reheated dead animal, since it usually finds rats alive in nature.
- Many snakes prefer live mice when they are still babies and then acquire a taste for frozen mice as they age.
Step 3. Acquire rats that are the right size for your snake
Mice and rats are sold according to their size. Young and small snakes need smaller prey than larger snakes, which tend to prefer mice or large rats. As the snake grows, you will need to provide larger fangs, but very large fangs can be difficult for a snake to digest. A good rule of thumb is to choose ones that have the same circumference as the snake's body. The different sizes of food available are as follows:
- Pink: These are baby rats, called "pink" because they have not yet developed fur. They are ideal for baby snakes and small adults. For the smallest baby snakes, chunks of pinks are offered.
- Babies: these are the baby rats that have just acquired their first signs of fur. They are slightly larger, so they are good for either large baby snakes such as pythons, rat snakes and milk snakes, or medium adult snakes of all species.
- Adults: These are adult rats, sufficient for baby ball pythons (which are very large) and most adult snakes.
- Fully grown rats: This is the largest prey available, and should be reserved for large adult snakes.
Step 4. Provide water too
Besides mice or rats, the only other supply the snake needs is fresh water. Provide a basin of water large and deep enough for the snake to completely submerge in it. Snakes don't drink very often, but they do need to submerge their bodies in water from time to time to stay healthy.
Keep the bowl clean. Disinfect it between a week and another to kill the bacteria that are born
Method 2 of 3: Feeding the Snake
Step 1. Prepare the food
If using live rats, no preparation is needed as long as the food has been raised under hygienic conditions. Frozen foods, however, need to be thawed properly and heated to a temperature that makes them more attractive to a snake. If using frozen pinks, babies, adults or mice, follow this method to thaw and prepare them properly:
- Place frozen foods on a paper towel and place them near a fan. The smallest ones will thaw quickly. Do not leave them uncovered for too long, and defrost only as much as you need for the meal.
- Wash your body with soap and water and rinse well. The mouse may have a smell that can act as an inhibitor.
- Put the food in a bowl of warm water and let it heat up for about five minutes. The snake will not touch food if it is cold.
Step 2. Offer the thawed fangs to the snake
You will have to get to know the snake better before deciding how best to offer food. Some snakes prefer to have the meal hidden in the cage so they can find it on their own, while others prefer the rats to be hung in the cage, being attracted by the movement generated. Try both methods to find which works best for your snake.
- When you offer the food in the cage, place it on a plate or in a shallow bowl that keeps it away from the snake's bed. The snake won't want to swallow bits of bedding.
- When offering food by swinging the rat in the cage, use tweezers or forceps, not your fingers, as you could get bitten.
- Whichever method you choose, give the snake 20 to 30 minutes to decide whether to eat or not. If the snake does not eat its meal within this time, remove the food and try again later. You can't force a snake to eat when it doesn't feel like it.
Step 3. If you are using live prey, promptly remove them
Place the mouse or rat in the cage and see what happens next. If the snake doesn't eat it within 10 to 20 minutes, remove the prey from the cage. If the snake is not hungry and the prey is in the cage, it may try to bite or scratch the snake in an attempt to save itself. Remove the prey and put it in a storage container and try again later.
Step 4. Create a feeding schedule based on age and size
Baby snakes usually only need to feed once a week. As they get bigger and older, they need to be fed more often. Start feeding once a week and then once every six days. If the snake eats the meal quickly as soon as you offer it, try to feed it every five days. Adult snakes eat every three or four days.
As you change your feeding schedule, keep in mind that you shouldn't try to force a snake to eat. Offer the food and then remove it if it is not consumed
Method 3 of 3: Dealing with a Picky Snake
Step 1. Make sure the food is hot enough
If you are serving thawed mice, it is important that you warm them up enough so that they still appear to be alive or have recently been killed. This is especially important for boa constrictors and pythons, which have receptors in their heads that can sense heat from their prey, triggering a stimulus to eat.
- Try heating the prey with a hot lamp for a few seconds before offering it.
- Do not heat mice in the microwave unless you have one reserved for that specific purpose. If you do it this way, use a very low power so as not to cook the mouse.
Step 2. Consider the brain technique
Piercing the prey's brain releases a scent that can help make it look more attractive to a snake. This technique can be used on live or dead mice, although it's not easy to do this if you're touchy. If you want to try this method, use the following steps:
- Insert a sharp knife or scalpel into the mouse's frontal lobe at the top of the head.
- Insert a toothpick into the wound to remove the brain mass.
- Spread this mass on the mouse's nose.
Step 3. Try rubbing the mouse into a lizard
It may sound strange, but you can make a dead rat more appetizing for a snake if you rub it on a lizard's body. Buy a dead lizard or lizard from the pet store and apply its scent against the mouse's body. While this method isn't really feasible to use every time you need to feed the snake, it's a good way to start getting the animal used to eating what you're offering.
This is a good method to use when you are getting a snake that ate live rats used to eating frozen prey. It may take a few tries to get the snake to get used to eating food that is dead
- It is not uncommon for a snake not to eat for two weeks. Always monitor the snake and be aware of factors that can affect the animal's appetite.
- Ball pythons are nocturnal snakes and usually eat at dawn or dusk.
- You can watch it if you like, or you can just cap the box.
- Remember that feeding your snake live prey can be dangerous for it. Mice and rats can and will fight back, potentially causing serious injuries to your snake. Sometimes, if the snake isn't hungry, it will ignore the rat. The rat, on the other hand, will bite the snake, causing serious injury.
- Don't leave snakes alone.
- It is illegal to feed snakes with live prey in some areas, because of the danger of predators, as well as being unnecessary suffering caused to the prey.
- Feeding the snake with live fangs instead of frozen ones shortens the snake's lifespan. That's because, when attacked, rat or mouse endorphin and thiamine levels rise, and high thiamine levels can be harmful to snakes. When a rat or mouse is humanely killed, it becomes unconscious before the body goes into shock and creates these chemicals.