Most ball python owners will say that their ball pythons love to climb since that’s what they see them doing the most. Ball pythons are not arboreal animals, however they show some arboreal behaviors such as tree climbing, tree nesting, and even hunting in trees.
Ball pythons can and will climb anything to find warmth, food or even if it’s just to tickle their curiosity.
Do ball pythons like to climb?
Ball pythons, both in the wild and captive, will climb when given the chance. They’re normally ground dwelling creatures especially during the day and they’ll explore at night including trees to climb.
These brave climbers are terrestrial meaning they live and spend most of their life on the ground, opposed to arboreal(living in trees) like their cousins green tree pythons.
These terrestrial creatures will stay in burrows, but you won’t see them making any burrows themselves in captivity or in the wild. Instead, ball pythons will find mammal-made burrows (either abandoned or they’ll take them over) and stay there for protection and rest.1
Ball pythons will climb a tree when given the chance though and they’ve even been spotted high up in the hollows of trees.1
All around these snakes will find places to climb and most, if not all, love to do so. There explorative behavior will lead them to high places even if they’re not the best climbers.
Do ball pythons need to climb?
Even though ball pythons will climb given the chance, they don’t necessarily NEED to.
The only reason your ball python will NEED to climb in captivity is for exercise, but it would be the same exercise they can get on the ground and short climbing areas.
Snake species, like the green tree python, climb in trees for survival and hunting. Ball pythons are perfectly fine hunting small rodents on the ground.
The only reason a ball python would need to climb is for survival which is nothing to worry about when they’re safe in your home.
We want to create an area that helps our ball pythons feel the least amount of stress so adding a secure branch or two for your ball python to climb is helpful.
Just make sure they can’t climb too high.
You see, ball pythons will climb when they have the chance, but they’re not very good at climbing so they can easily fall off of any surface they climb.
That leads us to our next question…
Can a ball python climb a wall?
Ball pythons can’t climb unless they are supported from underneath.
Ball pythons can only climb things that their ventral scales can grip onto. These scales are long and rectangular on the underbelly of the snake that they occasionally use to move around. 2
Even though ventral scales have some grip, it’s not enough to support a ball python climbing a vertical surface.
Ball pythons can only grab onto things that they can wrap their bodies around. If you’re creating a climbing space for them, its important to add areas they can wrap around.
Can snakes climb stairs?
Ball pythons can climb areas like stairs by extending their necks(pretty far if you ask me) high enough to reach the next step up. It wouldn’t be unheard of to find a ball python upstairs when their starting place is a lower level.
They can also climb up vertical surfaces they can wrap around by using a movement called concertina. This is when the snake extends its head and the front of its body along the vertical surface and then finds a place to grip with its ventral(underbelly) scales.
Why is enrichment important?
It’s important to add enrichment to your ball python’s enclosure so that they feel they have more control over their environment.
Basic needs of a ball python are a heat source and water and food. You can add enrichment by having a cool spot, adding multiple hides, and adding fake foliage to their enclosure.
This gives ball pythons the chance to explore allows them to be stimulated and curious. Even taking them out of their enclosure adds some enrichment to their lives as long as it’s not stressful for the animal.
Adding tree branches, plants, and additional hides lets your ball python choose where it wants to go and what it wants to do.
Animal enrichment has only been studied on large mammals and some small rodents, but it’s been proven all around that enrichment is important for animal welfare.3
Enrichment isn’t just a place to climb though. Scientists define enrichment as anything that will improve animal welfare such as cage space and physical and cognitive activity.
So if you’re trying to decide between giving your snake a place to climb or more ground space definitely choose the ground space, especially for a ball python.
What can I put in a ball python enclosure?
Ball pythons are simple pets to care for because they only need a handful of care items in their enclosure.
This leaves plenty of room to add enrichment pieces that also make their cage look nice.
Here are some add-ons you can incorporate in home de la ball python.
Using fake plants is much more sustainable than adding live foliage. Ball pythons like to climb so they’ll trample over anything and everything in their enclosure.
Live plants have no chance of surviving the constant bulldozing by your ball python so just get fake plants instead.
You can even add your own branches if you have them, just make sure you sterilize them well to avoid mites and any harmful bacteria.
They do tend to be heavy so make sure you put the branch in a way that it won’t fall on your ball python.
Driftwood is always a good option to add into a reptile enclosure. Most driftwood sold at pet stores have been sterilized and prepped to safely add to your reptiles enclosures and there are so many sizes and options to choose from.
No two pieces are the same so you can have fun customizing your ball python’s enclosure to your liking.
PVC pipe fittings
if there is anything that reptile owners can agree on it’s that reptile hides are expensive.
A cheap alternative to those expensive hides is pipe connectors.
It sounds silly but they actually work.
The best ones to use are the ones that have openings that are 4 or more inches in diameter.
Rocks and gravel should never be used as a substrate for ball pythons, but you can add a few to their enclosure for some decor.
Bigger rocks and stones are great for ball pythons to rub against and climb. Hard surfaces like these also help ball pythons shed.
In the wild, ball pythons will climb, hunt and nest in trees. This doesn’t mean that they need to climb though.
As long as your ball python has enough space to roam around and explore you won’t even need to worry about giving them space to climb.
These ground dwellers will climb when they have the chance, but it’s not always safe since they’re not the best at defying gravity.
Try adding other enrichment pieces instead of adding tall places for your ball python to climb. These can be fake plants, extra places to hide, and even rocks and stones.
- The Natural History of the Ball Python, Python regius: Ball Pythons in the Wild, Posted by: Frank Indiviglio in Non-venomous Snakes, Snakes January 7, 2009. http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2009/01/07/the-natural-history-of-the-ball-python-python-regius-ball-pythons-in-the-wild-part-1/#.YFqkE7RKjVo
- How Snakes Work. By: Lacy Perry. https://animals.howstuffworks.com/snakes/snake.htm#pt3
- The impact of environmental enrichment on the outcome variability and scientific validity of laboratory animal studies. K. Bayne & H. Würbel. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/33085907.pdf