Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
  Issue 12 November 2007
My Snake won't eat, so now what? Part 2
In this Issue

by Barry Neilsen

Regular foot traffic past your snake's cage and/or frequent, unwanted attention by dogs, cats, or people can be stressful for a snake and cause anorexia. One possible solution, if you think that this may be a problem in your case, is to tape a piece of cardboard to the outside of the snake's cage. It should be done in such a way that it will block the snake's line of sight and mask busy areas of the surrounding environment. This will make many snakes feel more "closed in" (and safer), and it may be easier than another alternative of moving the cage to a different location. Other unwanted disturbances to your snake, from your four-legged pets or people, need to be dealt with on an individual basis as you see fit.

A snake that has been refusing food should be handled as little as possible until you can get it back on track and eating again. Improper or too-frequent handling can be the reason a snake won't eat in the first place.

Bright lights can be disruptive and should be dimmed or turned off when you offer your snake food. Some snakes aren't bothered by lights, but any recent changes in lighting (or anything else in its environment) should be looked at as a possible cause of a snake not wanting to eat. Many snakes do eat better at night.

Cleaning products used in or near your snake's cage must be thoroughly rinsed away. Toxic chemicals, or even strong odors in the vicinity, may be disruptive. Keep in mind that while plastic boxes are very convenient snake cages, plastic is porous compared to glass. It will absorb and hold bleach solutions to some extent, so use special care by thoroughly rinsing and airing out plastic containers after they've been washed and disinfected with bleach.

Some snakes that are native to temperate climates may quit eating, regardless of their cage temperature, during winter months when they'd normally be "brumating" in the wild. (Many people use the less accurate term, "hibernating.") Wild-caught animals are most affected by this, and there may not be much you can do about it. They can be cooled into brumation (and not fed) or kept warm (some may eat sporadically) until
spring, when their appetite should come back full force. Most people will be much better off with a nice, captive-bred snake that is much less likely to have this problem.

If the proper environment is being provided but anorexia persists, a thorough health examination would be indicated, so you may want to visit a qualified veterinarian. Alternatively, you can do the health examination listed in the previous section on choosing a healthy snake, and you may be able to diagnose a health problem yourself. However, this is not meant to be a medical book, so there are some health issues that I haven't covered. You can refer to a book on snake medicine if you have one, but if you do determine that your snake has a health problem, chances are you will need to visit a veterinarian anyway to get the proper medical care and/or medications.

There are some species of snakes that sometimes quit eating for extended periods of time for no apparent reason. This may not be a health problem. It's just something that some snakes do, and basically all you can do is offer them food periodically and wait them out. Adult Ball pythons, Python regius, are probably the best known for this. If a snake, especially a species prone to going off feed for months at a time, isn't loosing a lot of weight and doesn't have any symptoms of disease that you can see, it may be okay; but you should keep a close eye on it. A snake that hasn't been eating may be in a weakened state, so if you suspect any health problem at all, get prompt medical attention for your pet before it's too late.

Extract from "Snake Keeping - Proven Techniques Everyone Can Use" by Barry Neilsen


  1. My Snake won't eat, so now what? Part 2
  2. Cuff Links
  3. In the News
  4. Tell Us What You Think
  5. Feedback and Updating

Other Issues

Other Articles & Resources


Cuff links

by Mark Chapple

A fellow reptile keeper was recently telling me a bout his nippy spotted python. This was in fact a very angry python that he had just purchased and was trying to get used to handling again. While it was only relatively young, it had not been handled often.
Well, a bit more than nippy, actually downright vicious. A small snake, with a lot of attitude. My friend only had put his hand in the cage and she would fly out and attack it every time. He now wears gloves but he persisted with bare hands for quite a while, with often disastrous and bloody results.

He was showing me a picture of the wounds he sustained on his fingers on his mobile phone the other day. I asked him to email them to me but then realised that he had to get them off his phone. So then we thought, well he could just send them. His mate, Nathan piped up and said, why don't you just Bluetooth them. Ah, good answer, grasshopper, so we did. You gotta love technology sometimes.

As you can see, she had a real go at his fingers, although, luckily it is only a spotted python and this one is young. They only get to 4-5ft long, and while their teeth are razor sharp, they are only small. They still like to sink them in.

young spotted python bite

Just recently she had a hold on him so hard that the only way to get her off was rubbing enough methylated spirits on his hand in front of her nose to make the fumes were so unpleasant she had to let go to get away from them.

On another day, he had her out and was handling her. Well, predictable, she bit him and twisted around his hand. He untangled her and after a couple of minutes eventually got her off his hand when she finally released her jaws. At this point, she bit him on the other hand and promptly twisted around that arm. Again, he went through the exercise of untangling her from that arm and releasing her jaws.

Finally untangled, she seemed OK and was moving around quite happiy, but suddenly, she savaged the first hand again.

Meantime, one of his carpet pythons had noticed its cage was partially open, as he had been intending to feed her as well but somehow must have been distracted and decided to get out the spotted python (we all do silly, distracted things). He saw the carpet python starting to make a move to go underneath his bed from the corner of his eye after she had made good her escape.

The spotted python, far from satisfied with her grip on his hand and a half twist around his arm, managed to wrap herself around his other arm, making a cross over snake cuff link. He now had both his hands, one over the other, with a snake gripping one hand on the base of the thumb with all her might and wrapped around his both his arms at the wrists.

The carpet python was continuing on to further adventures under the bed. With no hands or arms to stop it, he was trying desperately to manoeuvre her away from the bed with his foot while disentangling his hands and arms from an increasingly angry and anxious spotted python, who, cranky enough already, was certainly not happy contending with such a large, unmanageable and annoying prey that seemed to jump up and down at random intervals while balancing on one foot.

This all did end happily after he finally managed to untangle her and stop the other python from going under the bed but not without a lot of squirming, hopping and friendly persuasion.


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In the News

Lassie has some competition...for those of you old enought to remember Lassie :(

And yet more competition...

The lucky...
Luckies home page where you can see pics of bites and very large venomous herps

And the not so lucky...

Just love the headline: Lizard spit and bongs...

Croc Killers...what do you think?

Tell Us What You Think!!

We would love to hear what you think of this (or any other) issue of Keeping Reptiles.

And of course, if you have any suggestions, photos, links, care sheets or whatever for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too!

These could also include:

  • Great herp web-sites
  • Why you pet reptile is fantastic
  • Funny things that happened
  • Dumb**s things that happened
  • Images you'd like to share.

Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans

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