Why Are Snakes Cold-Blooded?

Are you thinking about getting a snake as a pet, but just found out they are cold-blooded? 

Have you wondered what the term “cold-blooded” really means?

Is the habitat you just set up for your new reptilian housemate adequate for its survival? 

Before you go any further in the purchasing process, or if you happen to be curious about a snake’s composition, you may have the following question:

Why are snakes cold-blooded?

Snakes are part of the animal class of reptiles, ectothermic animals, which regulate and maintain their body temperature by relying on the environment. On the other hand, mammals are endothermic animals able to regulate their body temperature despite the outside conditions.

Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of cold-blooded critters.

why are snakes cold blooded

Cold-blooded: The Good vs. The Bad

Although being cold-blooded may appear as a disadvantage, since these animals cannot regulate their body temperature internally, there are some distinct benefits snakes enjoy from being ectothermic.

They Don’t Need Much Food

Since snakes rely on the environment to regulate their internal temperature, they do not need to use any of their stored energy for this task, unlike their warm-blooded companions. 

As a result, snakes use their energy more slowly and require less food and nutrients. 

They also don’t need to eat as often, which helps them survive when in the wild.

They Can Thrive In Harsh Environments

Given a snake’s ability to conserve energy and eat sparingly, these reptiles do not need to live in an environment rich in food sources. 

This is why harsh climates, such as deserts, are natural living spaces for snakes. 

The lack of available food also means there are fewer predators to pose a threat to the snake.

They Are Less Prone To Disease

Viruses and bacteria thrive and replicate only inside warm bodies, particularly mammals. 

However, given a snake’s cold-blooded composition, they are naturally poor hosts to these pathogens. 

While a snake could still become infected with a disease, they are much less likely than warm-blooded animals.

Read on to learn how snakes maintain their body temperature.

Cold-blooded Life

As you have seen, cold-blood animals need to rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature. 

Although this may not seem very efficient, snakes have found some interesting ways of maintaining an optimal internal temperature.


During a sunny day, don’t be surprised if you find a snake resting on top of a flat rock or piece of wood. 

This is called basking, and it’s the snake’s way of absorbing heat, a practice most reptiles utilize. 

Although this makes the snake vulnerable to certain airborne predators, it is vital for them to absorb heat and energy.


Similar to warm-blooded mammals, snakes will overheat if they stay in the sun too long. 

This may even be more dangerous for a snake since they do not have adequate bodily functions to cool themselves down. 

To avoid this, you may notice snakes burrowing in the summer months. 

The moist soil helps to cool off the snake and allow it to maintain its optimal temperature.


Huddling is another method snakes use to regulate their body temperature. 

Like how humans huddle together when the heat goes out, snakes will do the same thing when the temperature drops or if the sun hasn’t come out in a few days. 

Sometimes, these huddle sessions will even involve different species of snake. 

Pressing Pause

Snakes will also slow down and become virtually inactive to conserve heat, especially in winter months. 

The majority of their bodily functions slow down, and they will enter into a hibernation state. 

During the coldest months of the year, this hibernation will ensure the snake’s survival.

If you are thinking about purchasing a pet snake, read on to learn how to set up the perfect environment for these cold-blooded animals.

Creating The Ideal Habitat

Becoming the parent to a snake is a fulfilling experience, but its important to remember the ideal conditions these reptiles need for optimal survival. 

Before bringing your new pet home, its necessary to ensure your habitat has the following amenities.

Temperature Control

Since snakes are cold-blooded, we know their environment is critical to them. 

If it happens to be too hot or too cold in their living space, they will be at risk for digestion problems and other ailments. 

We recommend installing either an overhead lamp or under-tank heating to ensure your snake always has a heat source. 

Make sure you install a thermometer because the snake will overheat if they absorb too much or freeze if the heat is not on long enough.

Flat Surfaces

Since a significant way for snakes to absorb heat is basking, it’s essential to have at least one flat surface in the snake’s habitat, especially if you are using an overhead lamp. 

With this addition, the snake will have an ideal place for absorbing heat from the light source. 

Your pet snake will also thank you since they will not have to worry about any predators from above in their protected setting.

Ground Cover

If snakes get too hot, we know burrowing in the ground is a method they use to cool themselves off. 

Your habitat must include some material for them to dig into, such as this aspen bedding from Amazon. 

Zoo Med Aspen Snake Bedding (24 qt)
  • #1 Preferred snake bedding by professional herpetoculturists worldwide!
  • Provides a safe, naturalistic substrate that allows snakes, lizards, and small animals to form burrows and nests as they would in the wild.
  • It has a 191% absorbency rating and is odorless-safe for all snakes.
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Also known as substrate, this ground cover is typically composed of aspen and Cyprus shavings and will line the bottom of your habitat quite well.


If you were ever wondering why snakes are cold-blooded, hopefully, you have a full understanding of the term and how snakes thrive as such in the wild. 

These reptiles utilize very distinct temperature regulation methods, so if you are thinking about taking one home, it’s essential to consider this.

While living as a cold-blooded species has its pros and cons, snakes have adapted quite well to their situation and have proven themselves to be versatile creatures.

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