There are many reasons why a ball python isn’t eating. They could just be acting like stubborn teens and choosing not to eat, but there’s a chance it could also mean something serious is going on.
Here are some reasons why your ball python is not eating and what you can do to solve each problem. You know your snake best so use your best judgement to see which one of these it could be.
- Ball Python Feeding Chart
- 1. They haven't digested their last meal
- 2. They are in defensive mode
- 3. They can’t sense the food
- 4. The food offered is too large
- 5. They are in shed
- 6. They have a Respiratory Infection (RI)
- 7. MITES
- 8. They don’t feel safe
- 9. Picky eater
- 10. It’s Breeding Season
Ball Python Feeding Chart
1. They haven’t digested their last meal
Sometimes ball pythons just aren’t hungry. The reason? They’re full! It takes a ball python almost a full week to digest their entire meal. This is why ball pythons only need to eat about once a week or every other week once they’re adults.
2. They are in defensive mode
A ball python will reject food if they feel like they need to defend themselves. There are two ways a ball python will defend itself: 1. striking and 2. fleeting.
A defensive ball python will strike, but won’t constrict.
Take a look at their body language. Are they actively smelling the air searching for food or in a striking position and high alert?
3. They can’t sense the food
Ball pythons use their heat pits and tongue to sense prey. The heat pits help sense changes in temperature, while their tongue flickers to gather information from the air, similar to how we would smell.
If you are feeding a frozen/thawed rodent it has to be warm enough for them to sense it as food.
You can tell a ball python is having trouble sensing the food if they keep smelling and continue searching for food but don’t strike.
4. The food offered is too large
This is especially true with live food.
Ball pythons should eat a rodent the same width as the largest part of the snake. See the chart above for a detailed description of the rat size.
Ball pythons are intelligent so they know if the rodent is too big, they won’t pick that battle.
5. They are in shed
Ball pythons go through a shed in phases and the phases can last several days. During the shedding phase ball pythons feel vulnerable and defenseless(also a little blind), so they won’t be comfortable eating while going through it.
If you see signs of a shed like foggy or blue eyes, then you know the snake will shed.
6. They have a Respiratory Infection (RI)
Sadly, snakes get sick just like us. One of the most common illnesses for a snake is respiratory infection. Many symptoms will appear before a snake refuses food if it’s caused by an RI, so don’t come to this conclusion right away.
Some signs of an RI besides rejecting food are constant “yawning” or opening of the mouth, whistle sound when breathing, pus or mucus around the nose and mouth and lethargy.
If you believe your snake has an RI, contact a vet immediately.
A snake breeders’ worst enemy. Sadly, mites can happen to anyone’s snake collection even if you’re extra cautious.
You know if your snake has mites because you’ll see them in between their scales. They’ll also be very “active” trying to scratch their itches by rubbing up against everything.
It’s always good to check your snake for mites in case they do come up, but when they do your snake may not be interested in food.
Tip: Mites can be prevented! Use this spray
8. They don’t feel safe
Ball pythons need to feel secure in order to hunt. If they have too much stress or feel like they’re in danger they’ll reject food(the exact opposite of what I do).
One thing that can make a ball python feel unsafe is if it is moved to a new location like a new owner or new enclosure. That’s why it’s important to give your snake time to adjust to a new environment by leaving them alone for several days.
Another thing that can cause this is having an enclosure that’s too big.
9. Picky eater
Just like dogs and cats, ball pythons have personalities too. Sometimes a ball python will refuse food just because they want to.
I have a ball python that will only eat mice and turns down any size rat I offer.
No matter what I try she won’t get off of eating mice so at this point its just her personality trait.
10. It’s Breeding Season
Both male and female ball pythons are known to reject food when they are in breeding mode. They are so focused on trying to breed that they won’t even be interested in food.
Ball pythons will eat almost any rodent you put in front of them. If your ball python isn’t eating it makes you wonder why.
These are the top reasons of why your ball python is refusing food and what you can do.
If you’ve gone through all of these and still can’t figure out what’s wrong with your ball python, take them to the nearest vet who can properly diagnose them.
Ball pythons can go months without eating so don’t be discouraged and as always have fun.
How long can ball pythons go without eating?
A ball python can survive off of one meal for up to 6 months. If your ball python has refused food for this long, most likely, there’s an underlying issue
What does it mean when my ball python is active and won’t eat ?
If a ball python is being abnormally active, check for mites or any skin irritation. Mites or any type of pest will cause them not to eat.
Why does my ball python strike but not eat?
They’re in a defensive mode, try again when they’re more relaxed.
Why is my ball python interested but not eating?
If you’re feeding frozen/thawed your ball python may not be able to sense the food you’re offering. Try warming it up more by soaking it in warm water.