My Ball Python Won't Eat, Hasn't Eaten in Months (2024)

© 2019, Brandon Cornett | All rights reserved

Key points from this article:

  • Ball pythons sometimes refuse to eat, and for a variety of reasons.
  • Illness, stress, and improper cage setup are the most common causes.
  • Like many snakes, ball pythons can go a long time without food.
  • If your snake hasn't eaten for months, it's time for some troubleshooting.
  • Try feeding at night, when the snake is more active.

"Help! My ball python won't eat any food that I offer it, and it hasn't eaten in months. What should I do?"

Judging by the emails I receive, this is one of the most common concerns among ball python keepers. There are two reasons for this.

  • The first reason is that ball pythons (when compared to other pet snakes like corns and kings) can be a bit more finicky when it comes to eating.
  • The second reason is that there's a lot of conflicting information on the internet regarding this subject. You read one website, and it says to do one thing. But somebody in a ball pythong forum says to do something else.

For example, one snake keeper might have a bad experience with a ball python that won't eat — possibly because the snake wasn't kept under the right conditions — and then they'll make a general statement like: "Ball pythons are hard to care for because they don't eat in captivity." These kinds of general assumptions have a way of spreading like wildfire across the Internet.

Let me offer a different view. I have kept several ball pythons in the past, along with various colubrid species and boas. And while the ball pythons can be a little less predictable with their eating habits, they do eat on a more-or-less regular basis.

Here's what it all comes down to:

When kept under the right conditions, a healthy ball python that occasionally refuses a meal will eventually eat a subsequent meal at a later date. Notice the two key parts of that last statement. You must have a healthy snake to begin with, and you must keep it under the proper conditions. When you have these two things going for you, the snake will eat eventually. You might have to go through some trial and error first (see below), but a healthy snake will eventually eat for you.

When Your Ball Python Won't Eat

That's Gretchen in the picture below. She's one of my female ball pythons, and she is probably the most finicky eater of the bunch. But as you can tell from the photo, she is in perfect health. Sure, there are times when she won't eat no matter what I do. And in the past, she has gone several months without eating. But as long as she's healthy, I've learned not to sweat it anymore.

My Ball Python Won't Eat, Hasn't Eaten in Months (1)

If a ball python won't eat (and hasn't eaten for months), there are several possible causes:

  • The snake is going into a shed cycle, or it's already in shed.
  • The snake is suffering from some kind of illness.
  • The cage conditions are wrong (too cold, too hot, too small, etc.)
  • The snake is going though a regular seasonal fasting period.

For starters, you want to make sure you're providing the right conditions for your snake. And this is where some keepers go off course. Ball pythons like warmth and dark. They like to hide during the day and come out at night for food. If you have a healthy specimen, and you can duplicate these ideal conditions, your ball python should eat on a fairly regular basis.

But what about those times when the snake simply won't eat — no matter what you do? When it refuses every meal that you offer?

First of all, stay calm. This is a common scenario, and in many cases it is no cause for alarm. Sometimes ball pythons just stop eating. It might be due to a seasonal change that triggers a breeding response or a brumation type of behavior. (Even if you control the cage temperature to have the same temps year-round, your ball python could still experience seasonal changes in behavior.)

Feeding behavior can also change when a snake reaches sexual maturity. In ball pythons, this can happen when the snake reaches two years of age -- or even sooner for males. (That's just a rough guide. It can vary.) It's common for ball pythons to start refusing their meals when they reach sexual maturity, even if the snake has been a "good eater" leading up to that point.

But what about those cases when a ball python hasn't eaten in months, and won't eat any of the meals you offer? Now it's time for some troubleshooting. And I've created a checklist to help you through it...

What to Do When a Ball Python Refuses Food

Different snake keepers have different opinions on what to do when a ball python won't eat. So the troubleshooting steps below are not the only way to handle it. These are just the steps I recommend, based on more than 20 years' experience working with these snakes.

Note: Before going through these troubleshooting steps, consider the fact that ball pythons will sometimes fast through the winter. Not all of them do this, but some do. I have one that typically refuses meals for about two months out of the year, while the others basically eat year-round. Something to keep in mind!

My Ball Python Won't Eat, Hasn't Eaten in Months (2)Download this chart as a PDF file
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StepsWhat to Do
1Offer a frozen and thawed rat of appropriate size. Offer the meal after sunset, when the snake is more inclined to eat (ball pythons are mostly nocturnal). If it does not eat, proceed to the next step below.
2Double-check the snake's environment to make sure everything is ideal. Start with the temperatures. Give your ball python a warm / basking area of around 90 degrees, with the rest of the cage being about 78 or 80 degrees.
3Leave the snake alone for one week, and then offer another frozen / thawed rodent. Try using feeding tongs to wiggle the rodent in front of the ball python. Make sure the food item is warm (these snakes have heat-sensing pits along their jaw line). A cold rodent is a turn-off.
4If your ball python still won't eat, you should triple-check its environment. Does the snake have places to hide in its cage or habitat? This is important. Check those temps again. Make sure the snake is not in shed, as they will generally refuse food at such times.
5Wait a week and offer another meal, but this time offer a freshly killed rodent (as opposed to frozen / thawed). Try using the tongs to make it seem alive. Make the rodent "crawl" along the ground, as if it were alive. Few ball pythons can resist a fresh and warm rodent that shows signs of "life." If the snake won't eat the rodent, leave it in the cage overnight and then check in the morning. You might find it gone!
6If after all of this your ball python still won't eat, you may want to scent the mouse or rat with gerbil litter (from a cage that contains live gerbils). Your local pet store is bound to have gerbils. Ask them for some of the used / soiled gerbil litter, and explain why you need it. Ball pythons love gerbils, but you don't want to get them "hooked" on gerbils unless you have to. So try scenting a thawed or fresh rat with gerbil litter.
7Just to rule out the possibility of any health problems, you may want to make a visit to your local vet. Try to find one who has experience working with snakes.
8Keep in mind that ball pythons will often fast (refuse food) during the winter, even when kept in heated cages. So if your snake still won't eat after the steps above, just be patient but persistent. Continue to offer a meal about every two weeks. Try offering smaller rodents.
9If your snake is still refusing meals, it might be time to offer a live rodent. This should be your last resort, and you will have to supervise the process. Never leave a live rodent in a snake's cage unattended. The rodent can turn the tables and attack the snake (especially rats, which can be quite aggressive). If the ball python won't eat the live prey item, you'll have to remove the rodent for safety reasons.
10If your ball python hasn't eaten a meal for months, and it is beginning to lose weight, you might want to offer it a gerbil. Preferably, it would be a humanely killed gerbil. You should only offer a live gerbil as a last resort, and keep a close eye on it. It bears repeating: Live rodents can harm snakes. Ball pythons typically get very excited about gerbils. So it might be just what you need to get them back into a feeding routine.

So there you have it, a 10-step troubleshooting guide for a ball python that won't eat and hasn't eaten in weeks or months. Good luck!

My Ball Python Won't Eat, Hasn't Eaten in Months (2024)


My Ball Python Won't Eat, Hasn't Eaten in Months? ›

Accordingly, it is wise to make an appointment with your vet anytime your snake refuses food for longer than a few weeks. Your vet will be able to determine if your snake is suffering from parasites, respiratory infections, or any other health problems that may limit his appetite.

What does it mean if my snake hasn't eaten in months? ›

Refusing to eat is a signal that your snake is stressed. It should come as no surprise that snakes are routine animals and don't like change so very much. If your snake has just been brought to his new home and is not eating, there are very high chances that your snake is refusing food due to the stress of moving.

What to do if your ball python isn't eating? ›

If you move the ball python to a new enclosure for feeding, try feeding them in their “home” enclosure. If you handle your ball python frequently, stop handling until it starts eating again. Try offering a different prey item. For example, if you're offering mice, try rats.

How do I get my ball python to eat again? ›

There are a few things that you can try if your ball python won't eat:
  1. Make sure you're feeding the snake the same food as it was eating before it came to you.
  2. Thaw and warm frozen food.
  3. Try cutting pre-killed prey open.
  4. Adjust the temperature in the enclosure.
  5. Clean the habitat.
Mar 7, 2023

Why hasn t my ball python ate in months? ›

If your snake is healthy and his habitat is well-designed, he may simply be fasting. As explained earlier, ball pythons often fast during the dry season, and some individuals also stop eating during the breeding season. Fasting is probably most common among males and wild-caught individuals.

Is it normal for ball pythons to not eat for months? ›

Illness, stress, and improper cage setup are the most common causes. Like many snakes, ball pythons can go a long time without food. If your snake hasn't eaten for months, it's time for some troubleshooting. Try feeding at night, when the snake is more active.

How long is too long for a ball python to not eat? ›

Fasts lasting several weeks are exceedingly common among serpents, and some may go without food for months. Caveats aside, it's likely that the average healthy adult ball python can survive several months without eating.

Can I leave a dead mouse in my snakes cage? ›

In the best case scenario, your snake will accept the prey with little or no work on your part. Snakes with strong feeding responses such as most colubrids and boas will often take the prey if simply left alone for a while with the dead rodent in a dark, quiet place.

Will a stressed ball python eat? ›

All pet snakes, including corn snakes and ball pythons, can become stressed due to their living environment and your unwanted actions, such as over-handling. A stressed snake's body language will be different from normal. It may refuse to eat, rub its nose against objects, and start hissing or strike.

How do you know if a ball python is starving? ›

You can tell a snake is hungry when it exhibits specific behaviors such as: Prowling the front of the tank, being more active, focussing on you whenever you are near the enclosure, flicking its tongue more often, and hunting at a similar time each day or night.

What helps a ball python survive? ›

Housing for your Ball Python should:

be a relatively large enclosure. maintain ambient daytime temperatures of 80-85°F (27-29°C). provide for a basking area of 90-92°F (32-33.3°C ). provide hide boxes. ● have access to fresh water in a bowl that is large enough for the snake to soak.

Can I feed my ball python anything other than mice? ›

What do ball pythons eat besides mice? Ball pythons in the wild eat a wide variety of rodents aside from mice, and they also eat small birds. In captivity, you can try to feed them any appropriately sized, commercially bred rodent. This includes domestic mice or rats, multimammate mice, gerbils, and hamsters.

Why hasn't my snake eaten in 4 months? ›

Molting is the most common cause of loss of appetite: your snake may stop eating when it's about to molt or shed its skin. 1 In addition to premolt anorexia, look for your snake's skin to become very pale and dull and its eyes to look blue and milky.

Why is my snake still not eating? ›

The most common cause of food refusal among pet snakes is likely stress. When a snake is worried about its well-being, safety or survival, it usually results in a reduced appetite. So, be sure to eliminate any and all sources of stress possible when dealing with a snake that will not eat.


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