Do Pet Snakes Have to Eat Live Food?

Do Pet Snakes Have to Eat Live Food?

Although not cuddly, snakes are fascinating creatures to keep as pets. However, some people are put off because of the myth that snakes need to be fed live food. With this said, in their native habitats snakes have been known to eat some pretty extraordinary things which includes sheep, alligators, light bulbs and golf balls to name but a few. The good news is that when kept as pets, snakes don't need to eat anything too strange and they don't need to be fed live animals to thrive and remain healthy.

The basic diet for the majority of pet snakes includes things like dead mice and rats both of which provide them with all the nutrients they need. However, some species need to be fed pre-killed chicks or other specialist food. There’s a good reason why pet snakes should not be fed live prey is because a snake with many reports of them getting bitten by an animal that’s been put in the snake’s environment which can cause quite a serious injury that can quickly become infected.

However, a snake's food has to be freshly killed and then immediately frozen before being packaged and either sent directly to people who own snakes or to pet stores that keep the food in stock. Frozen food whatever it is, has to be kept in the freezer and taken out when needed which makes it a very convenient way of keeping everything as fresh as possible.

How Much Food Do Snakes Need?

When it comes to the amount of food a snake needs, it depends on their age, their size and their species which is why it's essential to carry out as much research as possible before deciding which type of snake to get. If you have any doubts or questions, the best people to talk to are the people you buy your snake from and/or the vet who would looking after them should they ever fall ill. The rule of thumb is that any pre-killed food should never be any larger than half the diameter of a snake. If it is any larger, it could mess up the amount of time it takes for a snake to digest their food which they swallow whole.

You should never have to cut up a snake’s food into smaller pieces because unlike people and other animals, their jaw is extremely flexible which means it can rotate both vertically and horizontally. As such snakes can grab and take large animals into their mouths before swallowing and then digesting them.

The other thing to bear in mind is that snakes don't often drink any water, but they still need to have access to it. Providing fresh water in their environment helps keep the humidity at the right level and snakes often like to soak themselves in water. They will often do their “business” in it which means the water has to be regularly and frequently changed to keep things hygienic.

How Often do Pet Snakes Need to be Fed?

Pet snakes don't actually need to be fed that often and will only need to eat once a week with some species only needing to be fed every two weeks. With this said some species that can go for even longer without food so it really does depend on the species, their age and size.

How to Tell if Your Snake is Hungry

Snakes soon let you know when they are hungry because they start acting differently which is usually a sure sign that it's time to feed them. Typical signs to watch out for include the following:

  • They become a lot more active
  • They start climbing up the side of their environment as if they are looking for food
  • Check to see if you snake has recently had a bowel movement – if they have, the chances are they will want to feed soon afterwards

Tips and Advice

It's always a good idea to feed you snake in a different environment than the one they normally live in because they will show less aggression when food is about if they are out of their normal environment. Feeding snakes in this way lessens the risk of them striking out when they are hungry and about to grab hold of their food.

You should leave your snake alone for a next couple of days after they've been fed because handling them straight away stresses them out. If they have not fully digested their meal the chances are they will regurgitate it which is never very good.

Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after you feed your snake because of the risk of Salmonella which the majority of reptiles carry and which can be passed on to humans. The other reason to wash hands is that anything you may have on them like moisturisers or lotions could prove harmful to your pet snake. They might end up with a nasty skin irritation that ends up being really hard to treat and clear up.


Snakes are fascinating creatures to keep as pets and although not everyone's cup of tea, they are among the most popular exotic animals around. However, the myth that snakes need to be fed live food to stay happy and healthy isn't true because it's far safer and better to feed them pre-killed food that's been frozen which you can either buy online or from a good pet store. You would need to check what type of food your pet needs to be fed but for many snakes their staple diet tends to consist of dead mice, rats and/or chicks.

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