Did you recently get a ball python?
Or maybe you’ve had one for a while but are still learning the ins and outs of ball python care?
One of the most common questions ball python owners have is, “How often should I handle my ball python?”
This is an important question, both for your snake’s health and safety and for your enjoyment as a pet owner, so today, we’re going to answer this question and give you a few tips on handling your pet ball python.
Ball pythons should be handled at least once a week, but typically no more than 3 to 4 times per week. Never handle your ball python more than once per day.
Why Do Ball Pythons Need To Be Handled
Some of you may be wondering why ball pythons need to be handled at all.
Aren’t they happier when they’re just left alone?
Unfortunately, ball pythons need to be regularly handled for several reasons.
First, regular handling helps them stay docile and friendly.
It also keeps them accustomed to you and humans in general, ensures they don’t only associate people (and their cage opening) with feeding time, and helps them exercise and stay active.
So yes, your ball python needs to be handled regularly.
Do Ball Pythons Like to Be Handled
While ball pythons are not characteristically emotional or “cuddly” creatures (they probably will never eagerly come towards you to be picked up), they typically tolerate handling quite well.
Some may even enjoy getting out of their tank and exercising while you handle them.
Just remember to always keep an eye out for signs of stress.
If your ball python is stressed when you handle it, it could be because you’re handling it too often or at the wrong times.
When Should I Not Handle My Ball Python
Although it’s important to handle your ball python regularly, there will be times when you need to leave it alone.
Pay attention to the following situations and signs so you don’t stress your ball python out or cause possible health issues.
After Bringing It Home
When you first bring your pet ball python home, it most likely will be stressed out from the ordeal of transportation and change in environment, so you’ll need to let it settle in and adjust to its new home before trying to handle it.
If you try to handle your new ball python too quickly, it may feel threatened by you and try to defend itself.
A good rule of thumb is to wait a week or two or until it’s eaten and digested its first meal before attempting your first handling session.
When It’s Shedding
Another time for you to leave your ball python alone (besides regular feeding and watering, of course) is when it’s shedding.
Almost all ball pythons get grumpy and agitated when they’re in the shedding process, so you don’t want to add to the stress by trying to handle it.
Right After Feeding
This one is extremely important, so don’t ignore this one even if you break all the other rules!
After a ball python eats, it needs plenty of time (at least 48 to 72 hours) to digest it without interruptions or stress.
This includes handling. Why?
One of the ball python’s main predator-avoidance tactics is to vomit up its food when it feels anxious or threatened.
They do this to ensure they can move at maximum speed without the added weight of their undigested meal.
So if you try to handle your ball python soon after it’s fed, it may regurgitate and vomit up its meal.
Not only is this stressful for the snake, but it also temporarily damages the inside of its throat.
If this happens to your ball python, you’ll need to wait a minimum of two weeks before trying to handle it again.
When It’s Stressed
You never want to handle your ball python when it’s under stress.
When they feel stressed, ball pythons can get defensive and agitated, but they may also develop stress-related health issues.
How can you tell when your ball python is stressed and needs to be left alone?
Signs may include not eating, hiding its head when you’re handling it, and being overly active during the day.
If it’s showing these signs of stress, keep an eye on it from a distance to see if it relaxes, and most importantly, don’t handle your ball python until it calms down!
Take a look at our post on the signs of stress in ball pythons to learn more.
How Often Should I Handle My Ball Python
Now we know why we need to handle ball pythons regularly and when it’s best to leave them alone and not handle them, so now let’s talk about how often you should be handling your ball python.
It’s best to handle your ball python somewhere around 1-3 times weekly.
Always remember, however, you need to wait to handle it at least 48-72 hours after it eats to allow for proper digestion and reduce the risk of regurgitation.
So essentially, the number of times for safely handling it each week depends on how many times you feed it.
Never handle your ball python more than one time per day.
For example, if Monday is your day to handle your ball python, don’t make the mistake of handling it in the morning and again in the evening.
This can cause unnecessary stress to your snake.
How Long Should Handling Sessions Last
Although there is no hard and fast rule on how long you should handle your ball python each time you pick it up, it’s best to stay under the 20-minute range.
Again, snakes are solitary creatures and prefer to be left alone, so handling them for too long or too often can cause stress and possible health issues.
Try to pay attention to your ball python’s mood while holding it to determine when it’s time for it to go back to its tank.
How Often Should You Handle Young Ball Pythons
You should probably limit handling sessions to no more than once a week if you have a hatchling or juvenile ball python.
Keep in mind, they are very defensive at this age, so you’ll need to be persistent, patient, and gentle when holding them, but never overhandle them during this stage.
If you’ve been wondering, “How often should I hold my ball python?” we hope this article answered your question.
While it’s important to handle ball pythons regularly, you never want to overdo it.
Aim to handle your ball python 1-3 times per week, and never more than once per day.