Bonding with your pet snake might be different from that of a dog or a cat, but it’s certainly possible to do! There are plenty of ways for a snake owner to play with these animals, regardless of whether they have limbs or not. But physical interaction is more than fun, it’s also an important aspect of reptile upkeep that helps to keep these wild and undomesticated exotic pets, tame. In this article, we’ll cover the different ways you can interact with your pet snake and how to do so safely.
A safe place to start is by simply picking up your snake. Depending on their size and temperament, a snake hook can be a handy tool for doing so without causing your snake discomfort. Whether you grab them by hand or with a tool, grab them gently but securely by the mid body, lift, and then quickly support them with two hands. Never try to grab them by their heads or tails. Once you’ve got a secure grasp of your snake, allow them to roam up your arms and torso if they wish. Just be sure to keep their middles supported and secured.
Snakes are solitary creatures that don’t have the same aptitudes for affection that mammals and other traditional pets do. However, just because they’re cold-blooded doesn’t mean that they can’t appreciate some gentle pats. Stroking and massaging your snake’s back is a nice way to interact with them without having to pick them up.
Another less hands-on option for playing with your pet snake is to set them down near you and just allow them to rest outside of their enclosures. Since snakes are temperature-sensitive, do this in a warm setting and place them on a warm surface such as a recently worn shirt, a blanket, or perhaps even a heating pad (though you’ll want to cover this with some sort of fabric before placing the snake down). If your snake is comfortable with you, they’ll be content to hang out by your side without trying to escape.
Depending on the species of snake and the region they originate from, some snakes love water. Bathing your snake is a win-win of being both a bonding opportunity and helping to keep them healthy. Soaking can help relieve constipation, promote shedding, and remove any mites there might be. To give your snake a bath, fill a container with about four inches of warm, unchlorinated water and let them swim and soak freely for about 10-15 minutes. No need for soap. Once they’re done, dry them gently with a soft, absorbent towel and return them to their enclosure.
It’s important to keep in mind that some snake species are friendlier than others. Ball pythons, corn snakes, and milk snakes are some of the most docile and most tolerant of being touched by humans. A quick online search of your pet snake type will reveal their species’ tendencies for being handled. Additionally, older, mature snakes tend to be more laid-back than their younger, juvenile selves who can be a bit squirmy.
However, there can still be such a thing as too much interaction even with the most social of snakes. Known as over handling, this can cause your snake stress and result in defensive or aggressive behavior as well as long-term health issues. For this reason, it’s typically recommended that the maximum amount of time to handle a snake is for 15 minutes a day. You may be able to handle your pet snake for longer periods or more frequently, however, this depends on the nature of your relationship.
- Relaxed in your grasp and doesn’t try to escape
- Doesn’t hide or hiss when you approach
- Seeks out your attention
- Constantly trying to escape
- Nose rubbing
- Tail rattling
- Hissing, striking or biting
- Over alertness
- Refusal to eat
- Hiding their head
- Heavy breathing’
Another rule of thumb is to give a snake at least 48 hours after eating. It takes a long time for them to digest, and picking them up during this time frame can cause them to choke on their food or get sick.
No matter what any internet article says, it’s important to pay attention to the signals your snake gives you. Their behavior will be the best determinant of whether it would be a good time to interact with them or not. Handling your snake regularly is crucial for keeping your snake tame and socializing them. The more you do it (while still respecting their space of course), the stronger your bond will be and likely, the more comfortable they will be with physical contact and other interactions. You may find that your grumpy hatchling has become a sweet and cuddly adult.
The key is to have patience and allow your relationship to grow on its terms. Don’t handle your snake if they’re shedding, have recently eaten, or if they display any signs of being in distress.
If you are excited by the thought of handling and holding a snake but don’t have one of your own, that’s an easy problem to fix. The rising popularity of reptiles and other exotic pets has made them easier to acquire than ever before. Specialty online reptile shops have the best variety of snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises along with all the equipment needed to care for them.
When it comes time to buy a snake, look for friendly species such as ball pythons, corn snakes, garter snakes, gopher snakes, hognose snakes, ring-necked snakes, and California kingsnakes. Many of these are also low-maintenance and non-aggressive, making them great options for first-time snake owners as well. You are very likely to find these snakes for sale wherever reptiles are sold.