Snakes: The Complete Guide to Caring for Snakes

Do Snakes Make for Good Pets?

The first thing to remember is that snakes aren’t really pets like hamsters, cats, and dogs. In fact, snakes have not even been domesticated by humankind.

Therefore, they are either bred in captivity to be sold on the pet market or captured from their wild habitats to be sold as exotic pet species. Snakes don’t generally respond to calls or offer any validation when you establish physical contact.

Snake

An enclosure is usually more than enough space for them, and they don’t vocalize to communicate. You will have to ensure that you can meet the very specific living standards that are ideal and required for snakes.

The fact that many snakes eat live rodents for their daily meals might also be a major disadvantage for you if you are light-hearted. Therefore, this makes it pretty obvious that snakes aren’t good pets for everyone.

If you have already decided to bring home a snake or are still making that decision, this article is your go-to guide to understand more about snakes and learn how you can keep them as pets!

The Advantages of Disadvantages of Keeping Snakes as Pets

Right off the bat, we’ve understood that snakes are the best pets for everybody. There are some advantages and disadvantages to keeping them as your pet.

Advantages:

Low energy pets

A snake doesn’t need you to walk it three times a day so that it can poop and pee. It doesn’t need you to play with it and run around with it. All your pet snake needs is a well-sized enclosure where it is safe and protected.

Snakes are silent pets.

Snakes only hiss when they are threatened. Snakes are silent creatures for the remainder of the time, making them ideal for keeping in an apartment building as a pet!

Snakes don’t need constant vigilance.

Snakes are solitary creatures and therefore don’t need or expect you to look after them and dote on them throughout the day. As long as its physical needs are met, your pet snake will be quite happy by itself.

Disadvantages:

They eat live rodents.

Yes, you got that right. Snakes, being a predatory species, eat live mice, rats, and other rodents, live. If you keep a pet snake, be prepared to let live rodents into your pet snake’s enclosure and watch your pet snake behave like the predator it is!

Snakes don’t cuddle.

After a hard day, you can’t expect your pet snake to comfort you. Snakes simply don’t do that, and therefore, you can’t predict emotional support and attachment with your pet snake. Moreover, not all snakes enjoy being handled.

You can’t train your snake.

Snakes aren’t domesticated animals. Therefore, they don’t respond to your calls or your commands. This is because snakes simply can’t be trained. Playing fetch, tug of war, asking it to roll over are activities that are out of the question if you have a pet snake.

Physical Characteristics of Snakes

Snakes can be tiny, like a worm, or even as long as a three-story building. Contrary to popular belief, their bodies are lined with scales that can be either smooth or rigid but not slimy.

A snake’s belly scales are thicker than those on its sides and back to provide protection while moving. These belly scales are referred to as scutes. Now, bear in mind that snakes vary from other reptiles in multiple physical ways.

Green Viper

This species lacks a set of limbs, eyelids that move, and ear holes. Most non-venomous snakes have two rows of teeth in the upper jaw and one in the lower jaw. The teeth are bent backward to aid in the capture of fleeing prey.

Snakes with venomous fangs have grooved or hollow fangs that inject venom into their victim. Snakes have joints in their heads that allow them to swallow huge prey.

The snake species also sport multiple sets of ribs on the inside of their bodies that help in supporting their total length. However, since snakes are carnivores, they eat live animals.

Therefore, to ensure that their food passes through their bodies, their ribs are flexible in their movement. Furthermore, a snake’s organs are long and slender in order to fit inside the body cavity.

Snakes move in a variety of ways. The most common manners include slithering, side-winding, and an accordion-like movement generally used to scale trees.

Snakes also rely mainly on their senses of smell and touch to survive. Their forked tongues transport microscopic air particles to the roof of the mouth, where an organ detects scents.

Snakes do not have visible auditory structures, but they do have an ear bone that can detect sound wave vibrations.

Further, snakes have no eyelids, external ear holes, or legs. However, some snakes, such as boa constrictors and pythons, have vestigial hind legs that stay hidden and are small, clawed appendages called “anal spurs” that are used to grab onto the partner during mating.

These cold-blooded reptiles also shed their top layer of skin and the membrane that covers their eyes as they mature.

What Should You Feed Your Pet Snake?

Snakes are all carnivorous reptiles and predatorial in nature. Therefore, generally, snakes feast on other reptiles, fish, insects, birds, rodents, and other animals.

Some snakes, such as cobras, vipers, and rattlesnakes, are venomous and inject poison into their food through hollow teeth, killing or crippling it. Snake venom paralyzes the neurological system, causes heart and lung failure, and causes internal bleeding in its target.

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Now given the fact that all snakes are carnivorous, it means you, too, should strive to keep your pet snake’s diet as close to its natural diet as possible. Ideally, you must prefer to feed mice and rats to your pet snake.

Since snakes consume their prey whole, it’s easier for you to ensure that your pet snake secures the ideal amount of nutrition from its food. When your snake is well-fed, it is also well-protected from the common diseases that have been known to affect reptiles in general.

A snake’s regular diet should consist entirely of whole prey, such as mice and rats. Now, if you aren’t comfortable with feeding your pet snake dead mice, you should probably reconsider bringing home a snake as a pet.

This is because mice will form the larger and better part of your pet snake’s diet for the years to come!

However, you should also remember that you should not feed live prey to snakes since these prey animals will be psychologically stressed while being hunted by the snake. Further, these live animals could also try and put up a fight and injure your pet snake in the process.

Mice can inflict life-threatening injuries on snakes while fighting for their lives. Instead, it would help if you taught snakes to eat the previously killed bodies of animals they eat as part of their diet.

By doing this, you can help in ensuring that the prey animal dies humanely and your pet snake stays protected from injury.

You can feed snakes either thawed or newly killed prey that has been previously deep-frozen. You can buy these freshly killed mice and rats at most pet stores.

In addition to its weekly meals or of a frequency recommended by your veterinarian, your pet snake should also always have access to clean and fresh drinking water.

Behavioral Tendencies in Snakes

Being cold-blooded animals, snakes don’t have the ability to regulate their body temperatures by themselves like human beings do. Rather, they depend on their surroundings to keep them at optimal temperatures.

Making use of the warmth of the sunlight or the coolness of the ground are two ways they regulate their body temperature.

Grey and Brown Snake Opening Mouth

Snakes usually choose to stay away from people and will only bite if picked up, trodden on, or otherwise disturbed. Though most of our snakes are harmless, some show protective behaviors such as emitting a pungent odor or shaking their tails.

Frightened individuals frequently kill snakes because of these innocuous characteristics.

It is essential for you to understand and learn the behavioral traits that snakes generally show. By understanding the species better, you will be better positioned to ensure you can provide what your pet snake needs.

Social behavior in snakes

Although snakes are often thought to be the least sociable reptiles, new research reveals that this isn’t the case. Rattlesnakes, for example, exhibit advanced social features such as group defense, conspecific warning signals, and maternal defense of the young.

The findings support the idea that some snake species establish family groups rather than being solitary and asocial.

Another study found that Australian black rock skinks had long-term monogamy, stable social grouping, and signs of “nuclear family” systems, indicating that some reptiles’ social organization may be more complicated than previously thought.

This behavior is likely to vary from species to species. It would be best if you spent some time observing your pet snake and its socialization behavior right at the beginning. If you start handling it early on, your snake is likely to be okay with it later in its life too!

Winter dormancy

As we mentioned, snakes are a cold-blooded species. Therefore, they are highly dependent on their environment and their habitat for temperature regulation. In the winters, snakes prefer to become dormant.

However, they don’t hibernate like warm-blooded animals often do. Snakes enter a state called brumation, in which they become less active, and their metabolism slows significantly. Snakes go into brumation, which is similar to hibernation in that they sleep for long periods.

If a sudden warm spell arrives and temperatures increase for a few days at a time, they will wake up to seek food and water. When the weather cools down again, they will return to their brumation form.

Generally, brumation can occur at any time between the months of September and December, lasting until March or April.

Tongue-flicking

Snakes use their tongues to pick up key environmental inputs in addition to their eyes and noses. A snake deliberately flicks its tongue to pick up chemical particles in the air.

White and Gray Snake on Brown Wooden Table Top

It then transports to the Jacobsen’s organ, which is located on the snake’s roof of the mouth. This organ processes messages and mediates a variety of essential activities, including hunting and mating selection.

What Sounds Does a Snake Make?

A snake can actually make a motley of sounds that varies from species to species. Here are some of the commonly observed sounds that snakes can make.

Hisses

This is the most commonly observed sound made by snakes. Using their tongues and breathing air out of their throats, snakes hiss and slither in different situations.

Rattles

Only the rattlesnake species makes this sound with its tail to signify its presence and in response to threats to its safety.

Farts

We bet you didn’t see this one coming. Snakes can fart too. Snakes may breathe through their cloaca, which is also where they create musk.

They make popping noises that sound like a fart. They force air out, and the sound is eerily similar to a human fart. Cloacal popping is the term for a snake fart.

Growls

Usually, only the Cobra species will growl to display its aggression or alertness to danger. While it doesn’t sound exactly like a tiger’s growl, it can be close to it.

Life Cycle and Reproduction in Snakes

Snakes, like other reptiles, have essentially no sexual dimorphism. Physical characteristics make it difficult to tell the difference between a male and a female snake. The mating season of snakes varies depending on climatic circumstances.

Spring is the mating season in temperate climates, but snakes can mate at any time in tropical climates. The courtship ritual generally involves a female snake that leaves behind some pheromones in a bid to entice male snakes or intimate that she is ready to procreate.

After receiving the signal, a male snake pursues the female for courting. While in some species, males battle or fight with each other as a display of dominance to woo their female counterparts for procreation, this behavior has not been observed in snakes.

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During the courting, the male snake uses its tail to elevate the female’s tail for copulation. The male snake will then use its hemipenes – the tiny sacs that lie under its tail, to implant its sperms in the female’s cloaca to impregnate her.

Snakes will also use these hemipenes to establish a grip on the female during the process of mating. The duration of mating might range from a few minutes to several hours.

During peak mating seasons, females can choose whether they wish to remain monogamous with a male snake or whether it wants to mate with other male snakes to procreate.

When it comes to reproduction, snakes can be oviparous, viviparous, or ovoviviparous. The first category refers to animals that lay eggs.

In contrast, the second category refers to species that give birth to offspring. In the case of ovoviviparous snakes, the eggs hatch inside the female’s body, resulting in the delivery of young.

According to statistics, the majority of snakes lay eggs. In light of this, the following is a brief overview of oviparous snakes, whose life cycle is divided into three stages: eggs, juvenile snakes, and adult snakes.

The female snake retains the sperms in the oviduct for 1–2 months after mating. The female then produces big eggs, which are fertilized by sperm from the oviduct after being released from the ovary.

The fertilized eggs are laid in groups of 10 to 15 in shallow holes or under rocks. The snake’s egg’s outer coating is not firm but rather soft leather-like. The eggs are guarded and cared for by the female snake until they hatch into young snakes.

Several snake species flex their muscles to provide heat and warmth to their eggs to speed up the hatching process. Typically, the young snake emerges from the egg by chewing the egg cover with its egg tooth.

The yolk of the snakelet’s egg serves as its source of nutrition till it hatches from the egg. Once they are out of the eggs, they are referred to as snakelets.

As snakelets and juveniles, snakes have been known to feast on smaller rodents and reptiles and shed their skin about three to four times in a given year.

Within 2–4 years of emergence, the juvenile snakes become full-fledged adults. The most apparent distinction between an adolescent or young snake and an adult one is the stark reduction in the frequency with which the snake molts its skin.

In the juvenile stage, a snake will typically molt about three to four times a year, whereas as an adult, the snake will only shed its skin once a year.

It is useful to remember that unlike in insects, where molting allows the organism to grow, snakes’ skin regeneration does not play a substantial part in their growth.

What is the Average Life Span in Snakes?

The average life span varies depending on whether the snake is living in a domestic setting or its natural habitat. Generally, scientists have observed that snakes live for much longer in a domesticated environment than they do in the wild.

Brown Snake

This is mainly because, in a domestic setting, snakes are kept in a protected area where danger factors are next to nil. In the wild, however, many factors, including predators and the elements of nature, increase the chances of death.

While the lifespan also depends heavily on the species of the snake, they can live for an age anywhere between 1 to 10 years, on average. In a domesticated environment, however, snakes can even live to be three decades old!

How to avoid snake bites and treat them if bitten?

The first thing to remember is that snakes don’t usually display aggression toward and bite them when unprovoked. Snakes typically don’t even use biting as a form of self-defense.

Rather, they use it to exercise their predatorial instinct and kill and subdue or paralyze prey animals. The majority of snakes are non-venomous and non-poisonous.

However, if a snake of any type bites you, you should be concerned and take the appropriate steps to treat the bite wound. Here are some of the ways to avoid being bitten by snakes:

  1. Allowing children to play in vacant lots with long grass and weeds is not a good idea since heavily vegetative areas often witness a higher number of snakes.
  2. Always use a pole or stick to prod the ground to frighten any hidden snakes when traveling through areas with dense grass and weeds.
  3. Trim your hedges, mow your lawn, and clear brush from your yard and any surrounding vacant lots on a regular basis. Snakes will be able to reside in fewer places as a result of this.
  4. Never handle a snake, even if it is dead. Slowly back away from a snake if you see one.
  5. When hauling firewood, bush, or lumber, always use tongs. Any snakes that may be hiding beneath the surface will be safely exposed.
  6. When working or walking in locations where snakes are likely to be present, wear loose, long pants and tall boots.

It is, of course, possible that you get bitten by a snake anyway. In such situations, the first thing to do is to recognize the symptoms of a snakebite.

If you can identify the signs to be those of a snakebite, you can take prompt action to treat it and prevent any severe damage to your health. Here are some of the common symptoms of a snakebite:

  1. At the wound, there are generally two puncture marks.
  2. Swelling or redness around the wound.
  3. Severe discomfort around the wound
  4. Nausea and puking
  5. Issues with your respiration
  6. Sweating and other fever-like symptoms.
  7. The extremities can become numb or tingle along with the wounded area
  8. Vision is hazy.
  9. The pulse rate is high.
  10. Convulsions.
  11. Diarrhea.
  12. Fainting.

If you get bitten by a snake anyway, there are some first aid methods that you must keep in mind.

  1. Your priority should be to remain calm and call for help to go to the hospital.
  2. Avoid excessive movement and in order to restrict blood flow to the rest of the body, keep your wound below your heart level.
  3. Anything that constricts your blood flow in and around the wound should be taken off.
  4. Cleanse the wound thoroughly with antiseptics, soap, and water and wrap a bandage around it.
  5. Report to the hospital what the snake looked like. This can often help in identifying whether the snake was venomous or not and treating it accordingly.

How do snakes move?

Snakes move predominantly in 4 ways. Depending on their terrain, snakes make use of their muscles and optimize their movement to save energy and slither swiftly.

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Serpentine motion

The serpentine motion is the most distinctive movement and the one that allows them to go at the fastest speed. The snake moves like a wave, with its body moving in a sinusoidal pattern.

Accordion motion

The snake twists or produces volutes as it moves from one anchor or impulse point to the next, its body contracting and expanding like a spring or accordion.

Side-winding motion

A side-winding motion is typical of desert-dwelling species (and, in particular, the sidewinder rattlesnake). The snake moves laterally by forming vertical waves to decrease contact areas with the searing surface.

Rectilinear motion

Because the snake crawls in a straight path with its body stretched, this mechanism has recently been discovered and is the only one that does not suit the first definition of serpentine motion.

In fact, side-winding motion is characteristic of the species’ largest and most voluminous members, as it permits them to enter the tiny burrows of their probable food.

Do snakes have ears?

Yes, snakes do have ears. However, snakes don’t really have a visible structure such as external ears, much like their other reptile counterparts. Rather, snakes use ear bones that help them hear.

Human beings and most other animals, ear structures are characterized by an outer ear, a middle ear, and an inner ear. However, snakes lack both an outward and middle ear. They do, however, have a single middle ear bone connecting the inner ear to the jaw.

This allows snakes to detect vibrations on the forest floor, such as a predator approaching closer. They are, however, less adept at hearing noises carried through the air. Therefore, snakes can only hear a highly limited range of frequencies due to their ear configuration.

Because high frequencies are largely conveyed through the air, they can listen to low frequencies but not high frequencies.

Why and How do Snakes Shed Their Skin?

Simply said, snakes lose their skin when it no longer fits or when it becomes old or worn out. Snakes’ skin does not develop with them. Therefore they outgrow it. They shed their outer layer of skin as a result of this.

Snakes can shed their skin as frequently as once a month, although it’s normally only a few times a year at most. Molting is the name of the process of snakes shedding their skin.

It is influenced by various factors, including species, age, weather and temperature, nutritional health, and the presence of germs or parasites. Because they are still growing, younger snakes shed more than adults.

Snakes can also molt if they wish to get rid of parasites that plague the snake’s exterior and pose a threat to its health. Typically, molting is preceded by the snakeskin turning blue and its eyes appearing to be clouded.

Its eyes appear clouded because snakes also shed the skin and membranes around their eyes while molting.

Snakes usually begin the molting process by creating a hole in their existing skin by generating friction against items in their natural habitat like stones and tree barks. Once it forms a hole, it simply slithers out of its old skin.

What physical trait sets snakes apart from other reptiles?

Reptiles, in general, move about using their limbs. Further, their tails are appendages to their body, and they have moveable eyelids too. Snakes, however, don’t have feet or legs.

Brown Python

They move about on the underside of the bodies and make use of bodily muscles to slither to where they wish to go. Further, snakes don’t even have any moveable eyelids.

How to Create the Ideal Living Habitat for Your Pet Snake?

If you choose to bring home a snake as a pet, you will have to ensure that you can provide the optimal living conditions. Doing this is crucial since snakes are still not domesticated and need to live in habitats that mimic their wild habitats as best as possible.

Here is a list of some reliable methods you can use to create the ideal living habitat for your pet snake:

An appropriately sized aquarium or enclosure

Because the enclosure you choose will serve as the foundation of your snake’s habitat, you must select one that provides a safe, spacious environment for your snake to live and explore. You can either buy an aquarium or even build one yourself.

The main advantage of using aquariums as enclosures for your pet snake is its easy visibility and easy opportunities to put needed items in it to make its life easier.

Choose the bedding wisely.

The bedding or substrate you choose for your pet snake must be carefully selected since it’s the one substance in the enclosure that your snake will always depend on. The bedding you choose must be easily cleanable and also mimic your pet snake species’ natural habitat.

Add plants and hidey holes.

You can add flora, pebbles, alcoves, sticks, and other materials to make your snake’s home as natural as possible. These additions aren’t only for decoration; they can also serve as hiding places for your snake. Hideouts might make your snake feel safer and less stressed.

Heat is necessary for your pet snake.

Since snakes are cold-blooded creatures, they will depend on their environment to regulate their body temperatures. Since they won’t be able to rely on the sun for natural heat, you will have to provide an external heat source for their enclosures to keep them comfortable.

Regulate humidity in your snake’s enclosure

The humidity requirements of your snake differ depending on its species.

You can monitor humidity with a humidity gauge or hygrometer, and you may add moisture to the tank with a misting bottle, a reptile humidifier, or even soaking plants in water and adding them to the tank.

Conclusion

Keeping a snake is a decision you will have to take after giving it careful thought. Once you do bring home a snake, you have to ensure its dietary requirements are satisfied and that you can create a living space for it that is ideal for its development and health. Regardless, you can use this article as your complete guide to caring for snakes!

FAQs about Snakes

What does cold-blooded mean?

Cold-blooded creatures essentially depend on their external environment for temperature regulation.

How long do snakes live?

Snakes can live up to the age of 30 years on average.

Can you keep a snake as a pet?

While you can keep some species of snakes as pets in some countries, other countries don’t allow it.

Are snakes venomous or poisonous?

Snakes are venomous creatures since they can inject you with their teeth.

Which is the biggest snake in the world?

The green anaconda is the biggest snake in the world.

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Author
Gulshan
Hi, I am Gulshan, a pet blogger, and author. I've been working with the local pet groups for the past five years. I have been fascinated by our pets and am here to share that wonder with you.