It is known that snakes can eat strange things from golf balls, and bulbs, to sheep, and alligators, and with such a reputation, it makes sense to ask: What do snakes eat?
There is no single diet to describe what snakes eat. Since there are many types of snakes, they will feed differently. Some snakes have special bodies that allow them to eat only one type of prey. For example, snakes that eat eggs only eat eggs.
Fortunately, usually, pet snakes will be limited to a basic diet consisting of mice and rats. Snakes are carnivores, and a rat or mouse is usually a complete and balanced meal for them.
Certain species of snake can also eat chicken, guinea pigs, gerbils, or young rabbits. Some snakes also eat insects, frogs and amphibians, earthworms, eggs, other reptiles, bats, and even birds.
Each species of snake has a different diet. However, snakes always feed on animal matter, never on plant material. Their teeth are not designed for plant consumption.
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Although snakes prefer live food, it is recommended to feed your pet snake only dead prey. There were incidents where the live prey was left inside the snake terrarium and it did not consume it immediately. In defense, the prey bites or attacks the snake, and can seriously hurt it.
Because a snake’s diet can vary so much, it’s important to do some research before buying a snake pet. In captivity, it is always best to feed your snake dead prey, or frozen prey, but defrost it before giving it.
However, some snakes will not eat previously dead food. So, make sure your snake has already followed such a diet, with frozen and then defrosted animals, before bringing it home. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Young snakes that eat young mice will not eat prey unless it moves. So, for them, living prey is acceptable.
There are several reasons to make sure your snake is in the right place, and it will consume dead or defrosted meat. And one of these reasons is the cruelty factor. If you feed your snake with living prey, that prey often suffers more than is necessary to become the food for the snake. If the prey can be euthanatized before, it is generally better.
In addition, the living prey can fight back. If it is a rodent, it can bite the snake as it tries to eat it. The snake will generally win the fight but may be injured in the process.
Another reason to buy frozen food is to avoid any kind of parasite that the prey can carry. Live prey can have internal parasites like worms, or external parasites like ticks, and fleas. Any of these can also harm the snake.
An additional advantage when offering frozen foods is that they are cheaper and you can make a stock. You don’t have to buy live animals when you have to feed the snake.
The amount of food a snake will eat during each feeding will depend on its age, size, and species. Whenever you feed your snake, make sure that the prey is not more than half the diameter of the snake. This will help with digestion.
As a general rule, you can give the snake the entire prey. No need to cut it into smaller pieces. This is because the jaw of a snake is not joined inside the face, as in humans. It is connected by a ligament, which makes the jaw very flexible and allows it to rotate vertically and horizontally. This is why snakes are able to eat an entire large prey.
Snakes drink water, but not very often. However, the snake should always have a large bowl that is a little deep with water at its disposal. The snake can soften itself in it and even make its needs in this water. Water evaporation also helps maintain proper humidity inside the terrarium.
Snakes do not eat often. Usually, they will consume one meal only once a week or once every two weeks, maybe even more. Smaller, younger snakes can eat 2 times a week, and larger, older snakes may not eat for weeks.
Not sure if the snake is hungry? There are some signs you can look for. For example, the snake may become more active or start climbing on the sides of its enclosure as if it were looking for food. Be careful with the intestinal transit as it may become hungry afterward.
Now that you know what snakes eat, you should know that it is advisable to move the snake to another feeding facility, separate from where it usually sits. This can decrease the aggression of the snake and make it less likely to attack if it is hungry.
In addition, you should wait 48 hours after feeding before handling the snake. Snakes can be stressed, just like humans, and if their prey is not fully digested, it can be regurgitated.
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after feeding the snake. Many reptiles can carry Salmonella, a life-threatening bacterium that can spread from pets to humans. And vice versa, any chemicals on your hands, for example, moisturizers, lotions, hand disinfectants, etc., can be transferred to the skin of the snake, which can cause irritation.
You will need to do research for the specific species of snake you are buying to find out what it will eat. If it is a more general species, it is best to provide it with several types of food, such as live crickets, fish, frogs, and small mammals such as mice and rats.
But if the snake species is more specialized and eats only one type of food in the wild, be prepared to always have that food at hand.
Keep in mind that most snakes eat every 5-14 days. So, determine in advance the types of food you will need to buy for your new pet, to ensure that it remains happy, healthy, and well-fed for years to come.