“My Ball Python Won’t Eat” Here’s Why!

So, your Ball Python won’t eat? These key points will help you get back on track and have your snake feeding regularly. Ball Pythons have a reputation for being picky eaters at times. While this can be true, Ball Pythons will have no problem eating regularly if their environment is correct. These snakes make great pets for beginner and experienced keepers alike, and in this guide we’ll give you some tips and tricks to help you in getting your Ball Python pet to eat. Visit our shop page to see over 900 individually photographed Ball Pythons and find your new pet snake. Looking for more detailed info? Check out our Ball Python Care Sheet. Read on to learn more!

Incorrect temperatures are most often the culprit when a Ball Python is refusing to eat. Ball Pythons are a cold-blooded animal. They are incapable or producing heat or regulating their body temperature. As such, we must provide the heat that they need for cellular activity like digestion.

Ball Pythons need an ambient temperature around 78-85F and a hot spot of 89-93F. Since most Ball Pythons are kept indoors in a cooler climate, heating elements are essential. We recommend using a heat mat or heat tape underneath their enclosure and a heat bulb above on the opposite side of the enclosure. Please keep in mind that heat bulbs alone are NOT going to produce enough heat for them. Heat bulbs are a great way to ensure the ambient temperature is correct. This is why we suggest placing it on the opposite side of the heat mat.

If your enclosure has a screen top and you’re having trouble maintaining temperatures, consider covering 80-90% of the screen with aluminum tape or any other object to limit some of the warm air from leaving the enclosure.

As a rule of thumb, the width of the prey offered should be the same as the widest part of the Ball Python. 

If you’re offering frozen thawed prey, it’s important to warm it up before offering. There are many ways to do this but the easiest option is leaving it in direct sun for a while. Ball Pythons sense their prey through their heat signature, so offering cold or room temperature prey will not work well. You can also try leaving the prey on top of the enclosure’s screen near the heat bulb for an hour or two so the snake can start smelling it nearby while it warms up.

Your Ball Python’s enclosure will have a lot to do with how safe they feel. Ball Pythons will be extremely uncomfortable if constantly exposed. They sometimes won’t eat if they feel uncomfortable since this puts them in a state of high alert and they can’t relax long enough to have a meal. 

Having enough appropriate hiding spots and clutter is essential for your Ball Python. We recommend having at least two hides: one on the cool side and one on the hot spot. The hide on the hot spot should be placed halfway onto the heat and halfway off. This way they can hide in the warmer side without needing to constantly sit on the hottest part. Plants (live or fake) are a great tool to create clutter and spaces for your Ball Python to explore while not feeling exposed. 

Their hides should be appropriately sized so they can fit inside without a lot of space left over. Ball Pythons like to feel the walls of their hide on them so they can know that nothing is going to sneak up on them. (The hollow half logs sold at pet stores that are quite tall compared to a snake and open on both sides are not appropriate hides).

Finally, consider covering the back and sides of your enclosure with a tank background of just about anything. If your Ball Python’s enclosure is exposed on all four sides, they’ll easily sense any movement, shadows, etc. around them and this will again put them in a state of high alert.

The importance of allowing your Ball Python to acclimate cannot be stressed enough. 

While Ball Pythons are generally friendly and calm, reptiles aren’t social animals. Too much handling can and will stress them out. When you first bring your new Ball Python home, it’s imperative that you DO NOT handle it for 4-5 days while it adjusts to its new environment. It’s tempting, we know, but your new pet will thank you for it. If they don’t properly acclimate to their new home, they will certainly be stressed and much less willing to eat. Once they’ve acclimated, you can comfortably handle your new pet.

Temperatures:

Incorrect temperatures are most often the culprit when a Ball Python is refusing to eat. Ball Pythons are a cold-blooded animal. They are incapable or producing heat or regulating their body temperature. As such, we must provide the heat that they need for cellular activity like digestion.

Ball Pythons need an ambient temperature around 78-85F and a hot spot of 89-93F. Since most Ball Pythons are kept indoors in a cooler climate, heating elements are essential. We recommend using a heat mat or heat tape underneath their enclosure and a heat bulb above on the opposite side of the enclosure. Please keep in mind that heat bulbs alone are NOT going to produce enough heat for them. Heat bulbs are a great way to ensure the ambient temperature is correct. This is why we suggest placing it on the opposite side of the heat mat.

If your enclosure has a screen top and you’re having trouble maintaining temperatures, consider covering 80-90% of the screen with aluminum tape or any other object to limit some of the warm air from leaving the enclosure.

Prey:

As a rule of thumb, the width of the prey offered should be the same as the widest part of the Ball Python. 

If you’re offering frozen thawed prey, it’s important to warm it up before offering. There are many ways to do this but the easiest option is leaving it in direct sun for a while. Ball Pythons sense their prey through their heat signature, so offering cold or room temperature prey will not work well. You can also try leaving the prey on top of the enclosure’s screen near the heat bulb for an hour or two so the snake can start smelling it nearby while it warms up.

Enclosure:

Your Ball Python’s enclosure will have a lot to do with how safe they feel. Ball Pythons will be extremely uncomfortable if constantly exposed. They sometimes won’t eat if they feel uncomfortable since this puts them in a state of high alert and they can’t relax long enough to have a meal. 

Having enough appropriate hiding spots and clutter is essential for your Ball Python. We recommend having at least two hides: one on the cool side and one on the hot spot. The hide on the hot spot should be placed halfway onto the heat and halfway off. This way they can hide in the warmer side without needing to constantly sit on the hottest part. Plants (live or fake) are a great tool to create clutter and spaces for your Ball Python to explore while not feeling exposed. 

Their hides should be appropriately sized so they can fit inside without a lot of space left over. Ball Pythons like to feel the walls of their hide on them so they can know that nothing is going to sneak up on them. (The hollow half logs sold at pet stores that are quite tall compared to a snake and open on both sides are not appropriate hides).

Finally, consider covering the back and sides of your enclosure with a tank background of just about anything. If your Ball Python’s enclosure is exposed on all four sides, they’ll easily sense any movement, shadows, etc. around them and this will again put them in a state of high alert.

Acclimation:

The importance of allowing your Ball Python to acclimate cannot be stressed enough. 

While Ball Pythons are generally friendly and calm, reptiles aren’t social animals. Too much handling can and will stress them out. When you first bring your new Ball Python home, it’s imperative that you DO NOT handle it for 4-5 days while it adjusts to its new environment. It’s tempting, we know, but your new pet will thank you for it. If they don’t properly acclimate to their new home, they will certainly be stressed and much less willing to eat. Once they’ve acclimated, you can comfortably handle your new pet.