Are you a new ball python owner looking to learn more about their diets?
Do you want to make sure you know what’s safe for your snake pet?
Habitats and diets are the key to a long and healthy life for your ball python.
The habitats may seem tricky at first, but once it’s set, you just let it be.
Food isn’t tricky to handle either, but you need to know exactly what to feed a ball python.
A ball python is a carnivore and needs to eat an appropriately sized rodent every 10-14 days as an adult. The correct size for the rodent is no larger than the circumference of the snake’s body at mid-length. Rodents may live or frozen and then thawed.
Check out the rest of the article for more information.
What Can I Feed My Snake?
Ball pythons eat mostly rodents, but they are known in the wild also to eat small reptiles, amphibians, and even insects.
As a pet, the bread and butter of the ball python are mice and rats.
Young ball pythons should eat pinkie or fuzzy mice (baby and juvenile mice).
As the python’s age, their food should get larger as well.
The biggest rule to keep in mind is this:
Never feed the python food larger than the snake’s body is at mid-length.
If the python does eat something too large, there are potential health problems.
For one, the snake could choke on the food.
When the rodent gets stuck, it may push on other organs and cause damage.
This is unlikely to happen, though it’s certainly a possibility.
More likely, your python will regurgitate or vomit up the food.
This means the snake didn’t get the nutrients from the food.
More importantly, vomiting puts a lot of stress on the snake’s body and dramatically shortens its life span if this is done regularly.
This is also why you shouldn’t handle the snake after it eats (more on this below).
Frozen Or Live?
The big debate in the snake pet world is whether you should use live or frozen rodents for your pet.
There are pros and cons either way, so it’s ultimately up to you.
Live rodents will catch the attention of the python better, making it easier to get the snake to eat.
Live rodents often have better nutrients and are generally healthier for the ball python.
On the other hand, live rodents take more effort to care for on your part.
It’s almost like having another pet.
You also have to watch the snake eat more closely as a live rodent may end up attacking back at the python.
This is especially true with rats.
Frozen rodents are easier to care for (pull them out and let them thaw before you feed the snake).
However, frozen prey may not smell as strongly and catch the python’s attention.
They also aren’t as healthy at times, but this is offset with a vitamin supplement sprinkled on before feeding.
How Often Do You Feed Ball Pythons?
Snakes don’t need to be fed often, and this is true with ball pythons.
As babies and juvenile snakes, they only need to be fed every seven days.
As adults, they only need to be fed every 10-14 days.
This may not seem like a lot, but it’s more than enough for them.
After the python eats its prey, it takes a few days for the prey to digest inside its body.
For 24 hours after eating, the rodent is visible as a lump in the snake’s body.
It’s important to leave the snake alone during this time.
Handling the python 24 hours after feeding may cause it to regurgitate, which is hard on the snake’s body.
Even if the snake will eat earlier than this time frame, don’t feed the snake.
Fortunately, snakes are better at self-regulating their diet than some other animals who will eat until they’re obese or sick.
When you notice signs of shedding, the ball python won’t eat.
Signs of shedding include milky eyes, white skin, and increased irritability.
If the snake is shedding its skin, wait to feed it until the shed is done.
Waiting a couple of days beyond the feeding limit will be just fine.
What Else Can You Feed A Ball Python Besides Mice?
There are two schools of thought on ball python diets:
- Only ever feed the pythons rats
- Any rodents are fine as long as they’re the correct size
Rats are the natural prey of the ball python, but it does eat other animals in the wild.
Mice and other rodents may not have exactly the correct nutrition to meet the ball python’s needs.
However, even the rat purists won’t say the rodents are bad for the python; just the other rodents aren’t as good.
Other animals are often too small to fill up the ball python enough.
Remember, even when eating a small animal, you still need to wait a week or more before feeding again.
Here are common rodents and other animals safe for ball pythons:
- Guinea Pigs
- Large crickets (for young ball pythons)
Stick with these, and your ball python will safely eat these.
However, most ball python owners stick with a diet made of mostly rat or large mice.
This should be the bulk of the diet.
You may enjoy learning about how to care for a ball python.
We hope you found learning about what to feed a ball python helpful.
One rodent every 10-14 days may not seem like a lot to you, but it’s more than enough for these large pythons.
Frozen or live, make sure you don’t overfeed your snake or use prey too large for it to handle.
Keep in mind the size rule: no larger than the width of the snake’s body halfway down its length.
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