Some pythons transition from live prey to frozen prey with little or no problem. Others initially refuse defrosted food and require special feeding techniques. A juvenile or adult snake won't allow itself to starve to death and will eventually eat a frozen mouse. If a hatchling won't eat, he'll need a vet's attention.
Always feed your python in a container or cage separate from his daily living environment. A covered plastic bin, a glass tank or even a paper bag will suffice. When you practice this approach, your python will know when he is transferred from his cage to his eating place that it's time to feed. This method also eliminates risk of striking that could occur as you drop food into his living quarters.
Thaw a frozen mouse completely before presenting it to your python. Even a partially frozen mouse can be harmful to your snake. If you have a picky heater, soak the mouse in warm water right before presenting it. A python used to live pray can sense a live mouse's body heat; a frozen mouse doesn't provide the same effect -- warming the mouse can help replicate live prey. Use long-handled tongs or hemostats to hold the mouse by the tail. Wiggle the mouse in front of your snake so it appears to be alive. This should help trigger your python’s natural feeding instincts.
If your python continues to show no interest in a frozen mouse, try feeding him at night, when snakes instinctively hunt, then cover his eating container and leave him alone to see if it makes a difference. Some snakes prefer to eat in private. Some snakes also have a preference for the color of the mice they eat. A python used to eating black mice, for instance, might initially be hesitant when presented with a white mouse, whether frozen or live.
Instead of going straight from live to frozen prey, consider using a freshly euthanized mouse, making a progressive transition from live to fresh to thawed frozen mice. Such an approach can acclimate your python to his new feeding routine.
Pythons won’t eat when they are getting ready to shed. For one thing, their eyesight is compromised. In the wild, snakes don't eat pre-shed because of the potential for getting injured while hunting. If he continues to refuse his meal after a shed, put him back in his living quarters and try feeding again in a few days. Make sure the temperature in the tank is 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If he eats and regurgitates his mouse, or refuses to eat for several weeks, it’s time to see a vet.
If you buy a snake from a breeder or a pet store, ask about the snake's feeding schedule. Find out whether the snake ate live or frozen prey. Many snake breeders alternate between live and frozen prey when snakes are young to acclimate them to whatever feeding preference the eventual owner decides to use.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.