Do snakes eat themselves?
If they do, why would they?
There are plenty of videos on the internet depicting snakes eating their tails.
Some flags and pieces of art depict this too, which leads many to wonder:
Why do snakes eat themselves?
The exact reason hasn’t been precisely defined, but there are several hypotheses for why snakes eat themselves, including confusion, stress, and hunger. Snakes eating themselves is a rare behavior.
However, if you notice your snake has been attempting to eat itself in its enclosure, it’s essential to understand what may be happening to stop this behavior.
Continue reading if you’re interested in learning more about why snakes bite themselves and how to respond.
Table of Contents
Why Do Snakes Eat Themselves?
When a snake bites their tail, they resemble a circle.
This circle is also known as Ouroboros, an ancient symbol representing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
While the image itself has some positive and mystical connotations, it is not normal for snakes to be eating themselves like this.
As cool-blooded creatures, snakes cannot regulate their body temperature and rely on external sources to keep them warm.
This is why it is essential to have heat lamps, heat mats, or other heat sources when you set up an enclosure.
However, sometimes too much heat is bad for your snake.
Overheating can lead to confusion and disorientation, which is why they may think their tail is prey.
Their increased metabolism from the increase in temperature also fuels a false sense of hunger, meaning they’ll eat the first thing they see, which may be their tail.
Although they are not hungry, the increased metabolism will trick them into thinking they need to eat something immediately.
When snakes shed, their eye caps also get ready to fall off.
During this process, the eye caps may obscure the snake’s vision, leading to temporarily decreased eyesight or visibility.
This can lead to mistaking their tail for food and eating it as a result.
There’s also a theory which states older snakes will bite themselves when they’re reaching the end of their life.
When old and ill, they may have convulsions and bite their bodies.
If you’ve had your snake for many years, this may be a possibility.
What Should I Do If My Snake Is Eating Itself?
It is pretty scary to walk into the room with your snake’s enclosure and see it eating itself.
Much harm can come to your snake if they continue to feed on their tails without any intervention.
Snakes can get stuck while doing this, which can lead to suffocation.
Many snakes have backward-facing teeth to prevent prey from escaping in the wild.
However, this configuration is still the same when snakes accidentally ingest their tail, meaning it’s difficult to pull the tail out once lodged in their mouth.
If you notice this behavior, you must jump in and act quickly.
There are a few different techniques you should utilize to help.
Manually pulling the tail out of their mouth usually won’t work, as it will likely result in the tail getting more stuck due to the direction of the teeth, as mentioned previously.
Regulate The Temperature
First, reduce the temperature of the enclosure.
Sometimes snakes get confused due to overheating and mistake their tails for prey.
You should lower the temperature by turning off any heat lamps temporarily.
If this is not enough, spray some cool water at your snake.
This may alleviate any stress they are experiencing, and the snake may naturally let its tail go.
Alternatively, place your snake in its water bowl so it can cool off.
If your pet snake is a carnivorous species which feasts on other snakes in the wild, it is more likely to predate on its tail in its enclosure.
Snakes included in this bunch are North American kingsnakes, Garter snakes, and Ribbon snakes.
This theory is particularly applicable when your snake lives in a too-small enclosure.
It may mistake its tail as being another snake and then attempt to eat it.
You should move your snake to a larger enclosure if this happens.
Check The Diet
Also, make sure you are feeding your snake an adequate amount of food on a regular schedule.
Your snake may be eating itself out of hunger alone, which is avoided if your snake is well-fed.
Watch For Other Stressors
You should also ensure there are no other elements of care which may be causing your snake distress.
Do you regularly keep the enclosure clean and sanitized?
Are there remnants of waste everywhere which may be stressing out your snake?
Alternatively, is your snake’s enclosure in a calm and comfortable location?
Sometimes too many noises or disturbances can cause your snake to stress out.
A stressed-out snake is more likely to exhibit these behaviors.
If unable figure out how to stop your snake from eating itself or if the behavior recurs, take it to the veterinarian immediately.
This is especially important if your snake is injuring itself by drawing blood, as these injuries can get infected if they aren’t cared for properly.
Your vet will better know how to handle this situation.
They are trained in how to pry open your snake’s jaws without injuring them any further.
Though it’s odd to us, you now know why snakes eat themselves.
While it is not entirely unusual for snakes to eat their tails, it is always a cause for action.
If your snake is exhibiting any of these behaviors, apply some of the tips above or call your vet.
Your snake will very much appreciate your concern and care!