Ball pythons are often kept as pets by many snake lovers. However, very few know that this species is very particular about its food choices. These snakes belong to the same family as Boas and are scientifically known as Python regius. They are native to western and west-central region of Africa, and it is quite possible that your pet ball python is imported from Africa. In their native place, these snakes feed on gerbils and small mammals. As snakes identify their prey through smell, it is quite obvious they wouldn't identify domestic mice and rats as their prey, which smell differently. Apart from this, these snakes are also very particular about their surrounding environment while feeding, making you wonder the possible reason behind your pet snake's reluctance for food.
10 Tips to Deal with Ball Python Feeding Problems
► Try not to force-feed your pet snake, and avoid doing so specially when it is dehydrated. Visit a vet to check the extent of dehydration so that fluids can be administered, if necessary. Alternatively, you can soak your pet in water for some days and place a humid box in the snake's tank so that it can avail it when required. After your pet is adequately hydrated, force-feed it with gavaged slurry so that it does not have to fight against force-feeding.
► If your pet regurgitates the food, give it a resting phase for a couple of days before giving it a smaller prey than before.
► Ball pythons need a warm environment and any variation could trigger their reluctance towards food. To provide the required temperature conditions, make sure the snake's enclosure gets sufficient day light and dark period. Maintaining environmental conditions can solve feeding problems.
► Breeding season for this species is winter, and male (sometimes female) ball pythons tend to avoid food completely during these months. So keep a note of this point and if the winter season is on, there is nothing to worry about as your pet could possibly be on a fasting mode.
► Remember, your pet snake loves to hide! If you have not provided sufficient hideouts for it to escape your visibility, it is quite possible that it is responding to this discomfort by avoiding food. So go ahead and provide adequate personal space for it to come back to its normal living and feeding pattern.
► Disturbance is another factor that affects the feeding response of this species. If you are unknowingly disturbing your pet often, either manually or through noise and foot traffic, it is bound to feel stressed. Similar to human beings, your pet snake also does not like to eat when stressed. Leave it alone for some days and then try to offer food. Place it in a quiet place if you feel the stress is due to noise level in the surroundings. Once the stress is relieved, it will probably have food without any problem.
► Your pet may also avoid food because its smell may not be the same as that of its regular prey. To solve this problem, you can rub a dead domestic mice or rat with a dead gerbil. You can also try to make the mice smell more pungent by alternatively thawing and freezing it in the refrigerator.
► The color, size, and sex of the meal can also alter your pet's food preference. Some of them identify food by its color. For example, they fail to identify white mice as food items, probably because they have never had them before. Too large prey is also not liked by these snakes. If you are providing large-sized meals to your pet, try giving smaller meals instead. Sometimes, food preference also depends on the sex of the prey. Your pet may either prefer having only male or female prey during meals!
► Try getting soiled gerbil bedding from the pet store. Place this along with your pet and a dead mice in a brown, opaque paper bag and leave them overnight. The smell of gerbil might tempt your pet to have the mice for dinner!
► Some of them like to have meals when it's dark. This may be due to their nocturnal nature. If this is the case, provide food only during the night so that your pet is comfortable eating its food in the darkness of the night.
Keeping ball pythons as pets becomes a difficult task if the pet causes any problem. Feeding issues may arise at any point during a pet's lifetime. It is therefore necessary to be prepared so that, you are well aware of the ways for dealing with ball python feeding problems that may arise in future.