Updated March 23, 2022 byJennifer Munsell
Ball pythons are extremely popular snakes as pets. They are obedient, love a good cuddle and are beautiful to look at. If you're interested in owning one of these adorable snakes, you need to know what ball pythons eat in captivity.
As pets, ball pythons can eat a variety of different foods. However, some foods are better for health than others because they contain all the right nutrients a ball python needs to grow and stay healthy. Listed below are the staple foods, as well as optional items, that you can add to your ball python's diet to add flavor and keep them interested in eating.
Also note that ball pythons are notoriously picky eaters. At the end of this article, you'll find expert advice on feeding your picky python. These tips are humane and provide insight into why a ball python might be refusing to eat.
Feeding time is a fascinating task that should be fun for both you and your snake. Take care of the preparation of their food and they will thank you! Let's take a closer look at their dietary needs below.
staple food for ball pythons
The standard or staple foods that your snake should be eating are ones that contain a healthy dose of protein and calcium. Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and joints. Protein is essential for developing and maintaining healthy muscles and organs.
Loot items should come from reputable retailers that can be found in your area or online. When you buy food for snakes, such as rats and mice, from reputable breeders, make sure each meal is free of parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can harm your snake.
Reputable dealers also ensure that their victims are frozen and that the cold chain is not broken. In this way, you always get high-quality food for your snake that does not endanger its health.
Mice are an excellent source of protein and calcium, especially for younger and smaller ball pythons. These common feeds are nutritionally beneficial for ball pythons due to their high nutrient content.
The overall nutritional value of an average adult mouse is as follows:
- Protein:55 %
- Fett:23 %
- Calcium:2,9 %
- Vitamin A:578 272 j.m./kg
Mice are high in protein and low in fat, making them a healthy food for ball pythons of all ages, especially growing children and adolescents.
However, their calcium levels are quite low, which means a ball python will need extra calcium supplementation.
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Rats are an excellent source of protein for ball pythons! Unfortunately, just like mice, they are quite low in calcium and need to be dusted with a dietary supplement.
The nutritional value of an average adult rat is as follows:
- Protein:59 %
- Fett:23 %
- Calcium:2,62 %
- Vitamin A:151 389 j.m./kg
Rats are larger than mice and are therefore better suited to adult ball pythons to prevent choking or poking. The low fat content and high amount of protein make rats ideal staple foods for prey.
Young chickens are a very good source of protein and are low in fat. This and their small size make them excellent prey for young ball pythons as they grow and develop their muscles.
The average young chicken contains the following nutrients:
- Protein:64 %
- Fett:22 %
- Calcium:1,69 %
- Vitamin A:35 600 J.m./kg
Since their calcium levels are low, young chicks must be sprinkled with a calcium supplement before feeding.
Also, chicks taste different than rats and mice, so they provide variety for your snake, which increases its interest in food. Unfortunately, the juveniles are too small to be live prey for most adult snakes, since each meal would require feeding multiple juveniles to complete a full meal.
Optional loot items
The following lactating animals can be fed to ball pythons from time to time to diversify their diet. However, due to their inferior nutritional value, they are not ideal staple or staple foods.
Hamsters can be fed ball pythons as optional or occasional prey.
The average adult hamster contains the following nutrients:
- Protein:49 %
- Fett:34 %
- Calcium:2,51 %
- Vitamin A:26 666 j.m./kg
HamsterThey don't have as much protein as rats or mice and a lot more fat. This makes them a tasty treat, but they should not be used as your main prey as they can create an imbalance in your ball python's diet and even contribute to obesity.
Due to their less than ideal nutritional value, hamsters should only be fed as supplements and treats, not as a staple food.
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Large crickets can be fed to small and young ball pythons. Unfortunately, crickets are too small to be suitable as food for most adults.
- Protein:65 %
- Fett:35 %
- Calcium:366 mg/kg
- Vitamin A:<1000 j.m./kg
Crickets are high in protein but are not reliable as a staple food. They should be offered as a treat or as an accompaniment to a meal. They also need to be fed live ball pythons, which can be stressful for your snake and can cause it to avoid food.
3. Cuts of meat (various)
Pythons may be offered cuts of certain meats. The nutritional values of typical meat products listed below are for the entire animal, including all organs and bones.
Because rabbits and mink are too large to feed an entire ball python, they would have to be cut up. This is completely right. However, keep in mind that this may reduce some of their nutritional value.
The average pet rabbit contains:
- Protein:72 %
- Fett:13 %
- Calcium:5,93 %
- Vitamin A:6200 j.m./kg
The average mink contains:
- Protein:72 %
- Fett:11 %
The average green frog contains:
- Protein:71 %
- Fett:10 %
- Calcium:4,29 %
- Vitamin A:25 110 j.m./kg
Green frogs are on the optional list, although they make excellent staple foods. That's because many ball pythons dislike frogs and reject them as a food source, and acquiring them can be expensive.
Ball pythons require a calcium supplement in their diet. Calcium keeps bones and muscles strong and healthy and aids in proper digestion.
Your snake's prey should be distributed in the right placeCalcium supplementation. Most calcium supplements are available in powder or liquid form. Any meal you offer your snake should contain supplemental calcium.
Top tips for feeding a ball python
The ball pythons can disappearquite a long time without eating a single meal! Don't worry if your snake is fussy or fussy at times because ball pythons are known to be finicky.
If your ball python is not eating, there can be several reasons:
- The temperature or humidity inside your case is not correct
- They can have a heavy parasite load
- You may be dehydrated
If you suspect any of these things, check the cage settings and take your snake to the vet for an exam to rule out any possible health problems.
If your snake is just being picky for no apparent reason, there are a few things you can do to encourage it to eat:
- If you can swallow it, you'll pierce the victim's brain (e.g., their skull) to enhance the victim's scent
- Cover the victim in fresh blood
- Offer less loot
- Make sure the victim is thawed and about the same temperature it would be if it were alive
Frequently asked questions about ball python eating habits
What do ball pythons eat in the wild?
In the wild, ball pythons feed primarily on small mammals, fish, and amphibians. However, they are quite opportunistic and will eat almost any prey they can find that is small enough to successfully defeat them.
Sometimes they even eat large insects like grasshoppers or crickets. However, this is mainly due to accidental ingestion while eating other prey items.
Ball pythons squeeze their prey. That is, they grab their prey with their sharp teeth and entangle it with their bodies. When the victim exhales, the coils become pinched and eventually the victim suffocates or suffers heart failure.
You can read more about this in our articleBall pythons kill their prey!
Why should I feed my ball python frozen/thawed prey instead of live prey?
Living victims can cause many problems. The most important of these is the risk of infection or contamination. Victims have bacteria and parasites living on their fur and intestines. When freezing these items, the harmful organisms die and cannot be transferred to the snake.
Live prey also poses a threat to snakes, as it can fight back and physically harm the ball python. Chicks, mice, and rats can peck or scratch the snake's eyes or bite its body, causing serious damage.
In addition, living victims often make a mess. This means that when feeding your snake live prey, you must clean the prey's droppings as well as any debris your snake makes. In addition, the parasites live in feces, which can contaminate your snake's intestines.
Finally, live prey triggers your snake's instinctive hunting response and can make it more aggressive when you try to handle it.
In short, captive ball pythons should primarily feed on small to medium sized frozen/thawed prey that is high in protein and calcium and low in fat.
Standard or basic prey such as mice, rats and chicks have significant nutritional value for your ball python. While other foods such as hamsters, crickets, and cuts of meat offer some flavor variety in your snake's diet, they are not as nutritionally beneficial.
Ball pythons are obedient and efficientgreat petsalthough they can be picky about food. However, if you understand your snake's dietary needs and follow our top feeding tips listed above, your ball python will be eating in no time!
In general, the youngest, smallest ones eat small frozen feeder mice or rats. Larger ball pythons typically eat larger mice or rats. Selecting prey for a ball python. As a general rule, you should select a rodent that is 1 to 1.25 times the size of the midsection of your snake.Can ball pythons eat anything besides rats? ›
Ball pythons can eat only rats or mice for an entire lifetime, but they also love to spice up their diet in captivity and feed on other rodent species such as hamsters, gerbils, and other exotic breeds. Young ball pythons should only be fed with large crickets, fuzzy mice, and pinky mice until they grow into adults.What is python Favourite food? ›
Pythons eat vertebrates, such as lizards and snakes.
The majority of a small python's diet consists mainly of lizards, which account for the majority of its weight. While growing in size, the python begins to rely more on mammals for food.
Boas and pythons will not eat crickets or eggs. They are carnivorous animals and should be consuming appropriate-sized rodents for proper nutrition. That is the basic fact of owning one of these types of snakes.How do you stimulate a ball python appetite? ›
If your ball still doesn't eat, try cutting the pre-killed prey open to expose the blood and entice your snake with the scent. Using long tongs, hemostats, or feeding forceps to dangle and wiggle the food in front of your snake can also be helpful, especially if your ball prefers eating live prey.Can ball pythons eat dead mice? ›
Snakes are predators, and in the wild they're used to catching their own food. Your pet snake, though, will be fine with fresh pre-killed or even frozen rodents (you'll need to thaw them first.) It's safer not to feed your snake live prey.What other animals can ball pythons eat? ›
Ball pythons in the wild eat a wide variety of rodents aside from mice, and they also eat small birds. In captivity, you can try to feed them any appropriately sized, commercially bred rodent. This includes domestic mice or rats, multimammate mice, gerbils, and hamsters.What can I feed my ball python besides mice? ›
- Multimammate mice.
- Guinea pigs.
Smaller snakes tend to feed more often than larger ones, but species like the ball python can go for as long as two years without needing a meal. Without an internal metabolism to manage, the energy cost of doing nothing is a lot lower than it would be for an equivalent mammal.Is it better to feed snakes live or frozen? ›
Snakes should be trained to eat dead prey. It is more humane for the prey and safer for the snake. Snakes can be offered either thawed, previously frozen prey, or freshly killed ones. You do not have to kill the prey yourself, as most pet stores will supply freshly killed or frozen rodents to feed.
I would not feed house geckos to a royal (ball) python. In my experience, royal pythons are much more interested in warm-blooded prey items - in captivity, they are typically fed on mice, rats and occasionally on day-old chicks or larger quail.How often do you need to handle a ball python? ›
Handle your snake at least 1-2x weekly, but no more than once daily. Snakes do not require social interaction for their mental health, but regular handling helps the snake stay tame and can be a good opportunity for exercise.How often do ball pythons poop? ›
How Often Should Your Ball Python Poop? Typically, your ball python should poop about 1 week after eating a meal. This answer is not the same for all snakes as different environments, temperatures, and foods can cause digestion to take longer in some cases.What makes ball pythons happy? ›
be a relatively large enclosure. maintain ambient daytime temperatures of 80-85°F (27-29°C). provide for a basking area of 90-92°F (32-33.3°C ). provide hide boxes. ● have access to fresh water in a bowl that is large enough for the snake to soak.What do ball pythons enjoy? ›
Ball Pythons will eat mice and rats in captivity, although they would not in the wild. In the wild they prefer birds, other snakes, frogs and lizards. They are constrictors; which means they constrict their prey to suffocate it and then eat it.Is it cruel to keep snakes in cages? ›
While you might see snakes being sold in pet stores, that doesn't make them “pets.” Snakes are wild animals who belong in their natural habitats, not your home. Wild animals kept in captivity all experience some degree of suffering because they don't experience the freedom they'd have in the wild.Why won't my snake eat his rat? ›
Refusing to eat is a signal that your snake is stressed. It should come as no surprise that snakes are routine animals and don't like change so very much. If your snake has just been brought to his new home and is not eating, there are very high chances that your snake is refusing food due to the stress of moving.Should I feed my ball python in its tank? ›
Spoiler: No. People feed their snakes in different enclosures for two reasons. The main concern is that a snake will go into "feeding mode" when you open and reach into their usual enclosure if they are fed in that same space. Then, once the enclosure's open, they may bite you after mistaking you for prey.Can I feed my ball python a baby chick? ›
Keepers of ball pythons feeding chicks will definitely need to wait until the snake is about 4 months old to begin feeding one chick weekly. As the snake grows, it may require two chicks weekly, or an older bird every other week.Do ball pythons drink water? ›
Ball pythons can survive for up to 12 days without water, but after that, their health may start to suffer, and they will die after one month of dehydration. Providing them with a large bowl or dish of fresh drinking water should be your first priority when setting up a habitat for your ball python.
Almost any snake will technically eat a frog if it's convenient enough and the snake is hungry enough.What smells do ball pythons hate? ›
Ammonia: Snakes dislike the odor of ammonia so one option is to spray it around any affected areas. Another option is to soak a rug in ammonia and place it in an unsealed bag near any areas inhabited by snakes to deter them away.What not to do with a ball python? ›
Avoid overly dry beddings such as any wood shavings (even in reptile-safe woods) and Carefresh. If you do use any loose substrate, be sure not to feed on it. Instead, feed your snake in a separate container. It is important to provide décor that creates a hiding spot for the snake.How do you know when a snake is hungry? ›
Snakes will let you know when they're hungry. They will start prowling their enclosure and their tongue flicks will increase in frequency and number.How do I know if my ball python is eating enough? ›
An imaginary cross-section of a healthy ball python would look a bit like a melted Hershey Kiss, round on the sides with a gentle peak at the top (the spine). A prominent spine means that the snake isn't eating enough, and an invisible spine means that the snake needs to eat less.What happens if a ball python bites you? ›
Call your doctor right away or go to your local emergency room for immediate medical attention. Even without venom, a snake bit may cause severe damage to your body. You may need stitches and medication to treat your ball python bite.Is it illegal to feed live mice to snakes in the US? ›
Amongst snake owners and professional animal keeping institutions, there has been controversy regarding the feeding live prey debate. Officially, it is not illegal, under the 1911 Act, to feed live vertebrate to reptiles unless you cause it unnecessary suffering.Do snakes prefer heat or cold? ›
“Snakes don't like it too cold or too hot,” Clay said. “You're going to find them in shady areas in the summertime. If they get caught out in the sun for too long, they'll get too hot and die. So they'll be seeking shelter during the hot times of the day.”Is live feeding animal abuse? ›
Live-feeding of animals is an inhumane practice that must be avoided whenever possible. It is only justified if a predator absolutely cannot be trained to eat anything but live prey.Should I feed my ball python live mice? ›
While some hobbyists feel snakes should be fed a more natural diet, others feel it's much safer to offer pre-killed rodents to their pets. Feeding pre-killed prey to your pet snake is a safer and more convenient option. In a confined space, live prey can scratch or bite your snake, leading to injury and infection.
What Do Ball Pythons Eat? Ball pythons are carnivores that hunt and eat small mammals and birds. In their native range in West and Central Africa, they prefer African giant rats, black rats, grass mice, weaver birds, and rufous-nosed rats.What should a ball pythons tank be at? ›
Temperature and Humidity
Ideal temperatures for Ball Pythons range from 75-80°F on the cool side and 80-85°F on the warm side. Provide an 88-92°F basking area on the warm side.
Side Effects of Over Handling
Too much handling can stress your snake and affect its behavior, which is Ball Python's greatest vulnerability. If handled too often: Even docile ball pythons may become overwhelmed and bite you. It can also cause a ball python to become defensive and unwilling to interact with humans.
Ball pythons are nocturnal but spend between 20 and 23 hours sleeping each day. Ball pythons are nocturnal and prefer dark spaces because their eyes are susceptible to UV lighting.How often should I soak my ball python? ›
Provide water in a shallow dish at all times. Ensure this bowl is large enough for your ball python to completely fit in and to easily get in and out of. Soak your ball python two times a week in warm shallow water for 10-15 minutes. This increases hydration and helps with shedding.Do ball pythons like showers? ›
Snakes – Yes, They Like Baths Too
Most people don't think that pet snakes need to bathe, yet many snakes enjoy soaking in a shallow tub of warm water. If their enclosures are large enough, snakes should be offered an open pan of water in which they can submerge themselves if they choose.
Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a month, if not more. Place your snake in a secure secondary habitat while you scrub the tank and furnishings with a 3-5% bleach solution. Rinse very thoroughly with clean water and continue to rinse until the smell of bleach is completely gone.What can I feed my ball python besides rodents? ›
Most snakes eat lots of mice and rats in the wild. But if you want to offer a more varied diet, there are pet snake food alternatives available. Fish, worms, amphibians, and eggs are suitable for most snakes. Larger mammals, such as chicks and baby rabbits, offer variety.Can you feed snakes something other than rats? ›
Their diet depends on the species. Some eat warm-blooded prey (e.g., rodents, rabbits, birds), while others eat insects, amphibians (frogs or toads), eggs, other reptiles, fish, earthworms, or slugs. Snakes swallow their food whole. The most popular pet snakes usually eat prey such as mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters.What human food can ball pythons eat? ›
Snakes can consume human food like eggs, poultry, fish, pork, and beef when they are unprocessed. This means that the food should be given in its basic and raw form. You cannot give fried or saucy food to your snake as there are already other ingredients in the food that may make your snake sick.
Avoid kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and romaine lettuce, however, because these greens contain an ingredient that prevents reptiles from absorbing calcium properly.Will snakes eat dog food? ›
No, snakes don't like cat or dog food, but rodents do. Feed your pets inside and limit the food for rodents. Get rid of debris and leaf piles. Piles of leaves and other lawn debris not only attract rodents, but they also provide protection for snakes, making them a great place for snakes to set up shop.What do you feed a ball python that won't eat? ›
Fortunately, you can often convince them to feed by switching up the prey you offer. For example, you can begin by offering your snake a domestic mouse or domestic rat of a different color.Can I feed my ball python in its tank? ›
Spoiler: No. People feed their snakes in different enclosures for two reasons. The main concern is that a snake will go into "feeding mode" when you open and reach into their usual enclosure if they are fed in that same space. Then, once the enclosure's open, they may bite you after mistaking you for prey.Can ball pythons eat birds? ›
depending on the size of the snake and size of the food item a snake can spend a whole week digesting its food without eating. Absolutely. Dietary studies show them eating many kinds of mammals and birds. In fact males eat a roughly ratio 70/30 ratio birds/mammals and females eat a roughly 70/30 ratio of mammals/birds.Can snakes eat hot dogs? ›
While many snakes prefer to eat live or freshly dead animals, some snake owners do report successfully feeding them store-bought or packaged meats such as hotdogs, However, it's probably not the healthiest food for the snakes, and for that matter, for humans either.