It’s safe to say that, as humans, we are pretty new to snake ownership. Owning a pet snake is very different from owning a pet dog or cat, or any other pet for this matter.
One of the most obvious signs of difference between them is in how much attention they need. Since snakes are solitary creatures by nature, many people snakes do not need any attention, but is this true? I’ve asked some reptile experts, and here is what I’ve found.
So, do snakes need attention? Snakes do not need attention and do not enjoy human attention or affection the way dogs or cats do, but snakes can be conditioned to tolerate being handled and will be fine with it as long as you do it sparingly, however, pet snakes still rely on their owners for food, safety, and overall well-being.
This is one of these rare cased where the common belief is actually true, but there is a big asterisk that should be added. To understand really how much attention your snake needs and how you should give it to them, keep reading.
Do Snakes need attention?
Let’s get this out of the way first: Do snakes need attention? Do not feel bad if your pet snake does not seem to get lonely being alone for hours. Snakes are solitary animals and do not need human interaction in order to be happy, but they still rely on their owners (whether it is you or someone else) for food and safety.
Your snake is not like dogs and cats in the way that they need your attention to stay happy and content.
Your snake doesn’t need your attention this way, but they need your attention in the way that you pay attention to their nutrition, habitat, and overall well-being, and although snakes may not show you much affection and appreciation for taking care of them, know that they do appreciate it.
Do Snakes like attention?
Snakes don’t like attention, actually. They are solitary animals and predators, and they don’t enjoy the attention of humans or anything else for this matter.
However, with time and proper conditioning, snakes can be trained to accept humans handling them.
Do Snakes like being touched?
Snakes can certainly feel when you touch or pet them, butit does not feel good to them in the way that it feels good to a dog or a cat.
The good news is that if your snake really disagrees with your petting, they are not going to tolerate it just to be polite and will try to move away, and if you don’t let them move freely, they will bite you. So if your snake doesn’t squirm away from your touch, this means that it may actually enjoy it.
Snakes will often rub against one another during their mating process or after a shed (to remove the dead scales and skin), therefore every rubbing or petting has a distinct goal.
Some ball python owners love to make the claim that their snakes will rub against their hands after eating, but this actually has nothing to do with you, sorry. You can learn more about why your ball python is rubbing his face against you here.
If your snake appears to enjoy being pet, then you can causally handle and pet them from time to time. Some snakes respond well to a light stroking down their body, a head touch, or a belly massage, while others don’t.
Snakes may have distinct personalities, and one might like something else, but being kind and paying respect to the snake’s boundaries are crucial.
If your snake squirms away, hisses, tries to bite you, strikes or puffs up, stop stroking it. These are clear indications that your animal is dissatisfied with your affections and does not want to be touched.
Snakes do not like to be held the way other pets do because they do not have limbs, so holding them should always be done gently and with respect for their body language.
If you are able to hold your snake without it feeling threatened by your touch or if it tries to strike at you then that is great , but do not do anything that makes your snake uncomfortable or afraid.
Snakes can tell when you touch them, but the sensation isn’t as good as it is for many domesticated animals. It’s difficult to determine whether your snake likes physical affection if it doesn’t struggle or bite you when you pet it .
Remember to never stroke the snake in the direction opposite to the scales’ natural orientation, as this can seriously injure or harm them.
If you are not sure how your snake feel about you, make sure to check out this post on how does your pet snake really feel about their owners.
When to not pet a snake?
You should not attempt to pet your snake when:
- They are shedding or have recently shed their skin. They are too sensitive in this time.
- Before, during, or after the meal time.
- If the snake is sick, ill, or in pain.
- If the snake is injured
- If they are sleeping or hibernating
- If they are too hot or too cold.
- If they don’t want to be petted or handled
The snake will see your finger as part of the meal, and you really don’t want it to make this association. So, just leave your snake eat in peace.
Speaking of feeding time, you should take a moment to learn if feeding your snake live mice is a good idea here.
What not to do when petting your snake
Do not do any of the following when you are petting your snake:
- Do not hold your snake by its tail because this will confuse it and may cause it to become frightened or agitated.
- Do not try to pick up a snake by its head or neck, as this could hurt both you and the animal itself.
- Do not pick up a snake that is in the shed or around any place where it might be shedding. It’s common for snakes to rub against objects when they’re in the process of removing old skin, which can cause them injury because their eyes are still sensitive during this time.
How to condition your snake to be handled?
It will take time for your pet snake to warm up to you, that’s just how it is, but if you are patient, gentle, and consistent, you can get your pet snake to warm up to being handled and pet.
Here is how to do it:
- Give the snake some space. Snakes also need time to adjust. Allow him enough time to become familiar with his new surroundings, and make sure his water is frequently checked. Keep it vibrant without becoming an invader by keeping it clean for him but not intruding on his territory.
- Let the snake eat first. It’s vital to attempt dealing with your pet snake after they’ve had their first meal.
- Keep the snake’s age in mind. Younger snakes are more excitable, although this is dependent on the type of snake you have. Corn snakes, for example, tend to be a little more irritable when they are younger. Know what is the age of your snake. If you have a young snake, take care not to upset him.
- Limit handling your snake to a maximum of two times per week. Snakes prefer to be alone. After some time passes and they’ve gotten used to being picked up fou times (or more) per month, your pet reptile will be more acclimated to continual handling. Simply put, they just need to feel at ease around you before anything else happens.
- Play games with your pet snake. As your snake gets more and more comfortable with you, they will be open to playing simple games with you. You may try to let them swim in a tiny and shallow pool or play hide and seek with them in their tanks.
Snakes are low-maintenance pets that require little care. In reality, they find little to no attention useful.
How often should you handle your snake?
You should only handle your pet snake once or twice a week, but this frequency can change with time as your snake gets more and more comfortable to you.
How often you should handle them will also depend on the snake’s species, age, and temperament. Yes, snakes do have different personalities and even snakes from the same age bracket and species can act differently.
Secrets of Snakes: The Science Beyond the Myths by David A. Steen
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