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Why Won't My Snake Eat His Mouse?

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It’s common for pet snakes of all species to suddenly refuse to eat, much to the consternation of their human keepers. Many individuals fast during the winter months, just as they would in the wild. Ball (royal) pythons are notorious binge eaters who habitually go off their feed at the drop of a hat.

The first thing to do when your previously eager eater turns his nose up at his favorite meal is to get him to a qualified herp veterinarian. Illnesses and parasitic infestations constitute one of the main causes of fasting in these animals. Once your vet gives you the official all clear, it’s up to you to find out what’s troubling your pet so you can do whatever it takes to get him feeding regularly again.

I'm Itchy

Many snakes go off their feed when they’re preparing to shed. If his skin looks dull and his eyes are blue or milky, you can relax. The snake is fine, and his appetite will most likely return after his shed is complete.

But I Wanted Steak

Size matters when it comes to feeding snakes. Offer your pet already killed prey items with roughly the same body diameter as the snake’s. Don’t feed him live rodents, which can inflict serious and even life-threatening injuries on a disinterested snake.

If your snake suddenly refuses his normal food, he may have decided that a dietary change is in order. Try prey of another color if you’ve been feeding him white mice. If that doesn’t work, offer a different species such as rat, gerbil or hamster. Try different colored rodents as well as fresh killed instead of frozen then thawed food. If he likes rats, keep a dead one in the freezer for a while and rub a white mouse on it to capture the scent before offering it to the snake.

Not Digging On Your Style

Sometimes a snake won’t eat because he objects to the presentation of the meal. If he’s hiding, slip the prey item into the hide box with the snake, turn off the lights and leave the room. It may be that your pet has been viewing you as a threat, causing the refusal to eat. It’s possible that he simply doesn’t know when there’s food in the cage, particularly if the habitat is large. Try confining him with food overnight. Put your snake in a small brown paper bag, and then the prey item, and staple the bag shut.

I Hate My Living Room

Your snake may be uncomfortable in his habitat. If the cage is too warm or too cool, he may refuse to eat his mouse. Make sure the temperature at the substrate level is the correct range for your pet’s species. Give him a hidey hole in each of the warm, cool and gradient temperature zones.

If the humidity is too low, the snake may not feel like feeding. Give the cage a light spritz of room temperature water in the evening, which may prompt him to prowl for food.

If the snake feels insecure in his environment, he may refuse food. Replace spacious hide boxes with small structures just big enough for the snake to squeeze into. Because these critters require tight resting quarters, a piece of newspaper wadded up inside a too-large hide box may be all he needs to feel more secure and resume feeding.