Why Do Snakes Yawn?

Are you interested in learning more about your snake’s behaviors?

Have you ever seen your snake open wide, looking like it is yawning?

When you see your snake randomly opening its mouth extra-wide in what looks like a yawn, you might ask:

Why do snakes yawn?

Snakes open their mouth wide, resembling a yawn, for various reasons, including preparing for a meal, realigning their jaws after eating, stretching, or taking in air particles to get a better smell. Opening their mouths wide may also indicate a more significant and severe health issue.

Continue reading this article to learn even more about why snakes yawn.

why do snakes yawn

Why Do Snakes Yawn?

When humans yawn, it is a good indication the person is tired. 

It’s something you will see in many mammals, from dogs to monkeys. 

When a snake yawns, it is not an indication of the animal getting ready to take a nap.

Instead, snakes make yawning like motions for entirely different reasons.

But of all the reasons you might notice your snake opening their mouth wide looking like a yawn, being tired isn’t one of them.

Yawning for snakes is more of a functional habit than anything else.

In this section, we will dive into some of the reasons why your snake makes this wide mouth expression. 

Meal Time 

Have you ever heard the expression “open wide” when it comes to mealtime?

Snakes are animals who take this expression quite literally.

A snake will open their mouth extremely wide, looking like they are yawning, when preparing to eat, especially when the meal is large.

Yawning this way helps the snake open their jaws extremely wide, so they can swallow their meal whole.

This is especially important if the animal the snake is getting ready to eat is larger than its head.

Snakes don’t unhinge their jaws as some believe. 

Instead the lower jaw isn’t even attached to the top by bone, and it isn’t one piece.

Ligaments attach the top and bottom of the jaw, and each moves independently. 

This allows them to open their mouth incredibly widely to take in the meal. 

Once the snake has eaten their meal, they might also make these yawning like movements to realign their jaw. 

You’re likely to see your snake yawn both before and after a meal. 


If you stay sitting in one space for an extended period, you might get stiff, a feeling made better with a gentle stretch of your muscles.

And when you wake up in the morning, there’s a chance you take some time to stretch before getting up. 

Your snake may also feel this way after a long period of being sedentary during the day or sleeping at night.

When the snake starts moving again, you may see your snake yawning as they stretch their long-unused muscles.

It might seem weird to think of the animal stretching their mouth, but these muscles stiffen up too, and a good stretch loosens them up and provides relief.

Gathering Information

Your snake is continually gathering information about the world around them.

They need to know where predators might be lurking or where there might be a food source.

The snake will also need to figure out where other snakes are during the mating season.

Their survival ultimately depends on understanding the world around them.

One of the best ways these animals gather information about their surroundings is through their sense of smell.

They don’t see very well and have limited hearing, so taste tells them what they need to know.

The snake’s sense of smell is very good.

Flicking their tongues in and out, the snake picks up small particles carried on the air.

These are the particles scents are made up of. 

These animals use their tongues to gather particles, to pass over their Jacobson’s organ.

The Jacobson’s organ then processes the information and sends the messages up to the brain to process and identify different scents.

Sometimes snakes will open their mouth wide to take in even more particles and expose the organ to the environment and all the air particles. 

Yawning allows the snake to gather even more information at one time than what they would get by flicking their tongue in and out. 

The more information they have, the easier it will be to stay safe, eat, and mate. 

Sign Of Disease

Yawning may also be a sign of illness in your pet snake and cause concern for you as the owner.

Snakes are not immune to disease, whether it is fungal or bacterial. 

These animals may also develop parasites.

Continual yawning may indicate your snake has a bacterial or fungal infection or some respiratory issue.

When the snake cannot get enough air, they will yawn to help open their airways to allow more oxygen to get to their lungs. 

There are other signs of illness you will want to look for in addition to the yawning. 

This might include a lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, wheezing, mucus discharge from their nostrils and mouth, or lethargy. 

If you are concerned about illness, contact your pet’s veterinarian to give you a definitive diagnosis.

Once you have a diagnosis, develop a treatment plan, and get your pet back to full health.

Be sure you select a vet who specializes in reptiles as your every day local vet likely doesn’t see too many of these animals regularly. 


Snakes don’t yawn because they are tired, like humans and other animals do.

Instead, a yawning-like motion is useful to them in many other ways and even helps their owners check in on their wellbeing. 

Next time you see your snake yawning, remember there are plenty of reasons they might be doing so.

From mealtime to stretching and information gathering to being a disease indicator, a yawning snake tells you a whole lot about the animal.  


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