The Ball Python Behavior (Common & Unusual) & Illnesses

Captive-bred ball pythons are generally very healthy, hardy and resilient animals. Learn everything you need to know about the ball python behavior & health in our guide:

pet ball python

The typical health and behavior of a species are important considerations for anyone seeking a pet reptile.

Species that commonly experience serious health issues or problematic behaviors, for example, are poor choices for beginners. Instead, reptile-keeping novices should stick to species that are usually healthy and – if you’ll pardon the anthropomorphism – happy.

Ball pythons clearly fall into the latter category. At least, captive-bred ball pythons do; wild-caught ball pythons are an entirely different matter.

Relatively early in my snake-keeping career, I had the “opportunity” to work with thousands of imported ball pythons (in those days, captive-bred ball pythons weren’t widely available).

Almost every single one was suffering from more than one health problem. Tick infestations, respiratory infections, poor sheds, and infected wounds were common. None of them wanted to eat for at least a month, and some would refuse food for nearly a year. Needless to say, these snakes were very difficult to maintain, and they’d make horrible pets for most first-time owners.

But captive-bred ball pythons are generally very healthy, hardy and resilient animals, and they’re among the more docile snakes available to hobbyists. We’ll talk about the health and behavior of ball pythons in greater detail below, so that you’ll know what to expect from your new pet.

> Further Reading: The Complete Ball Python Care Sheet

Basic Ball Python Behavior and Body Language

You’ll notice your ball pythons performing a few common behaviors over time, including those explained below.

  • Calm ball pythons move about slowly but purposefully.
  • Ball pythons often flick their tongues while moving about to learn about their surroundings.
  • Hungry ball pythons often lay motionlessly, with their head poised and ready to strike. They may also prowl slowly around the habitat seeking prey.
  • When frightened, ball pythons may withdraw their head into an “S-coil,” hiss, flee or roll into a ball.
  • Although it is somewhat rare, ball pythons can bite if they feel threatened or mistake your hand for prey.

Common Ball Python Behaviors: A Deeper Look

We’ll examine a few of the more noteworthy behaviors ball pythons exhibit below.


Ball pythons, like all other snakes, shed their skin periodically. This can occur as often as once every three or four weeks, or as rarely as once or twice per year, depending on the size, age, and health of the individual.

Proper sheds should come off in one long piece. But unfortunately, ball pythons who are sick, mite infested or dehydrated often shed in multiple pieces or fail to shed completely. This can cause long-term health problems in some cases, so it is important to take steps to eliminate the problem.

Accordingly, you’ll need to help your snake remove the retained skin and rectify the problem that caused it. You can usually help a ball python free himself of the retained skin by soaking him in a bit of room-temperature water for an hour or two.

Be sure that the water is only deep enough to cover your snake’s back – he shouldn’t have to swim to keep his head above water.

After soaking him, you can likely pull the retained skin off with gentle pressure. Do not force any scales off – especially those located around the eyes or face. If any stubborn spots remain, soak your snake again the next day and try again. If this isn’t effective, contact your vet and seek his or her assistance.

ball python mouth


Biting is the behavior that often elicits the most attention from new keepers. This is understandable – nobody wants to be bitten by a snake.

However, it is important to note that ball python bites are rarely very painful, nor are they likely to cause much damage. Typically, they’ll cause a few minor breaks in the skin, which will ooze a trickle of blood.

Bites rarely require much more first aid than simple soap and water. However, if the bite displays any signs of infection (redness, swelling, etc.), contact your doctor. It is also important to feel the wound carefully to ensure no teeth were left in your skin.

> Further Reading: Does a Ball Python Bite Hurt (and Why Would Your Pet Bite)?

Handling Your Ball Pythons: Basics, Tips, and Tricks

Below, we’ll discuss the best way to handle your ball python, and then we’ll share a few tips and tricks that’ll likely make it easier and more enjoyable to do so.

Basic Ball Python Handling Procedure

Although you’ll certainly need to adjust to different circumstances and individuals, the best way to handle your ball python is as follows:

  1. Open the habitat and touch your snake gently on the back. This will help you avoid startling him if he’s sleeping (it is essentially impossible to tell if your snake is just sitting still or sleeping, as they lack eyelids).
  2. Place your fingers under his body gently and lift him off the cage floor quickly and decisively. Don’t stare at him for 10 minutes trying to gather your nerve; that’ll only make him nervous. Just pick him up.
  3. Once lifted, let your snake crawl freely around your hands and arms. Be sure to support him but avoid gripping his body tightly – that tends to make snakes feel threatened.
  4. After about 5 to 10 minutes (or you are done examining him, if that was your reason for picking him up in the first place), gently return him to his habitat and close the enclosure.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and warm water.

ball python head

Tips and Tricks

Try to follow the procedure outlined above, but from time to time, you may find the following tips helpful:

  • Learn to recognize your snake’s body language. Typically, ball pythons will communicate discomfort or fear long before they resort to biting. They’ll often do this by tensing their muscles, becoming more rigid, hissing or acting “jumpy.” If you note these signs, return your pet to his enclosure and leave him alone.
  • If you must pick up a defensive ball python, use the “paper towel trick.” By simply covering your snake with a paper towel (or small hand towel, if your snake is large), you’ll find that most snakes calm down significantly. You can then pick up the entire package – snake and towel – and move him as necessary.
  • A snake hook (or an improvised version thereof) can make some snakes feel more comfortable. After lifting the snake with the hook, you may be able to transfer him to your hand without a problem. Otherwise, you can simply use the hook to move him as necessary.
  • Don’t handle your snake too often or for too long. Excessive handling will usually stress your snake out, so keep handling sessions brief. Also, don’t bring your snake to public places, as this is stressful to the snake and often upsetting to those who are not comfortable with snakes. This type of behavior only hurts the hobby.
  • Because they’re nocturnal, ball pythons are generally easier to handle during the day. You’ll often find that your ball python will be more alert at night, and they’ll generally be less tolerant of handling during such times.

Caution: Don’t Handle Your Ball Python After Eating

Note that you should never handle your ball python who’s recently eaten. Doing so may cause him to regurgitate his last meal. This not only creates a thoroughly disgusting mess, but it is also stressful for the snake. It’s also a waste of money, as that rodent will now be useless.

As a general rule, you should wait for at least 24 and preferably 48 hours after feeding your snake to handle him. This assumes that any bulge created by the meal has shrunk. If you can still detect a food bulge, do not handle your snake.

> Further Reading: The Ball Python Diet

ball python substrate

Illness and Disease: Signs of a Sick Ball Python

Some of the most common health problems that afflict ball pythons are explained below. These are certainly not all of the possible diseases and conditions that may threaten your pet, but they deserve the most attention.

Respiratory Infections

Any snake can suffer from a respiratory infection, but snakes that hail from tropical areas – including ball pythons – are often especially susceptible to them. Because snakes cannot cough, they have great difficulty expelling the fluid which can accumulate in their respiratory tract. This means that a simple “chest cold” can quickly prove fatal in snakes.

A few of the most common symptoms of respiratory infections in ball pythons include:

  • Blowing bubbles from the nostrils or mouth
  • Unusual breathing sounds
  • Drooling
  • Labored breathing
  • Food refusal
  • Staying near the heat source more often than usual

If you notice your ball python exhibiting any of these symptoms, contact your vet and schedule an appointment at once. While ball pythons occasionally recover from extremely mild respiratory infections without veterinary treatment, most will require medications to help combat the infection.


Obesity can cause health problems for ball pythons, so it is important to keep your snake at the proper body weight. While experienced keepers are often able to accurately assess body condition, it is often difficult for novices to do so. Accordingly, beginners should visit their vet regularly (perhaps once per year) to ensure that their snake is in good health.

Some of the most notable locations in which ball pythons store fat include the rear portion of the head and the sides of the tail base. Additionally, the spine and ribs can provide clues to the snake’s body condition. You should be able to feel your snake’s ribs, but they should not be visible in most cases.

Obesity takes a long time to treat in snakes – they don’t need very many calories in the first place. Accordingly, it is important to avoid the problem entirely.

> Further Reading: The Ball Python Diet

Eye Infections

A lot of new owners worry that their new ball python has an eye infection, but eye infections aren’t terribly common in snakes. I can only remember caring for one snake out of thousands that had a legitimate eye infection – and that was a water snake, not a ball python.

However, ball pythons do frequently experience two other eye-related problems:

  • The eyes of dehydrated ball pythons will often dimple.
  • Shedding difficulties can cause a snake to retain the scale covering its eye.

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for beginners to distinguish between these two problems. So, the best thing to do is simply visit the veterinarian if you notice anything unusual about your ball python’s eye. Neither of these issues is terribly difficult for your vet to treat – he or she can likely remove a retained scale or help you rehydrate your pet.


The snake mite is a tiny arthropod that feeds on the blood of snakes. And unfortunately, they are both extremely common and extremely difficult to eradicate – particularly for snake-keeping novices.

Individually, mites don’t represent much of a problem, although they’re probably irritating to the snake. But, when their numbers climb into the dozens, hundreds or thousands, they can cause serious physical stress. Death from mites is rare, but it is possible.

Mites essentially look like a moving speck of black pepper. They’re easy to spot against a white enclosure wall, but they’re very difficult to see on the dark portions of a snake’s body.

The easiest place to see them on your snake will be his ventral side, especially the portion under the chin (check in the crease running down the center of your snake’s lower jaw).

Eradicating mites is complicated because the mature females are constantly leaving your snake, moving into the environment and depositing eggs. So, you’ll often have to utilize special medications that will kill the next generation of mites, or you’ll need to go to great lengths to eliminate the mites on your snake and those living in the environment.

In either case, beginners are wise to immediately seek veterinary assistance when confronted with mites.

> Further Reading: The Ball Python Habitat

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot is a bit of a catch-all term for various infections that manifest in the mouth of a snake. It is pretty disgusting – it can cause your snake’s mouth to bleed, ooze cheesy material, loose teeth or worse. But if caught quickly, you’ll usually be able to stop the problem.

Mouth rot can be caused by a variety of different things, so you’ll need to work with your vet to treat the animal. Just be sure that you do so quickly, as this problem can progress drastically in a short period of time.

ball python terrarium

Take Care!

Ball pythons are usually healthy and easy-going animals. You just have to start with a healthy, captive-bred individual and then provide the proper habitat, diet, and care. Just be observant and look out for the symptoms of illness mentioned above. This way, you’ll be able to act quickly and give your snake the best chance of recovery.

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Ben Team

Ben Team

Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.

62 thoughts on “The Ball Python Behavior (Common & Unusual) & Illnesses”

  1. Avatar

    Ok my ball python was in feed mode you know following the scent quickly out her hide and she went into the S striking pose, and I could barely notice, but her head was vibrating, ever so slightly. It really scared me and she also didn’t eat that night! I need help! Send me an email or something

    1. Avatar

      It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on here, but it just sounds like your snake was exhibiting normal hunting behaviors. Snakes sometimes get a bit “physically tense” (for lack of a better phrase) right before eating, and you may interpret this as vibrating.

      I wouldn’t worry about it, and I’d just try to feed him/her again on your next scheduled feeding day.

      Let us know how it goes!

    2. Avatar

      So I notice my ball python sometimes breathes a little heavy, he has no signs of struggling to breath, no mouth gaping or bubbles from the nose. I’m curious if it is him getting stressed by myself coming over to monitor him and his temperatures. He is pretty docile, a little skittish at times but he is very active. His temperature is 90 degrees in the hot spot, around 75 degrees on the cool side, he does go to and from both ends. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’d also like to add he is going through the process of his first shed with me since I got him in May.

      1. Avatar

        Hey, Kim. Unusual breathing is a pretty common issue for snakes that are in a shed cycle. As long as he’s not blowing bubbles or producing any fluid from his nose or mouth, and his breathing returns to normal after he sheds, I wouldn’t worry.
        However, if the breathing issues continue, or you start to see a discharge, go ahead and get to your vet.
        Best of luck!

        1. Avatar

          My ball python “hugs” my hand/fingers very tightly like she is constricting but only with her head/jawline. What is this behavior? I’ve never experienced thos one with my previous ball

          1. Avatar

            Hey, Jenna.

            It’s hard to tell exactly what these crazy serpents are doing sometimes! She may just be trying to get a better grip on your hand, or it may be just a byproduct of the way she’s crawling around.
            True constricting behavior is pretty serious business; it’s not a casual “hug.” So, I wouldn’t worry about it one way or the other.

            Thanks for your question!

  2. Avatar

    How will a ball python act if he dont have enough room in his cage to streach and move about. I was given a ball python unexpectedly,and it was something I was definitely going to save. And I have only had her a few days I made her home a small fish tank I had until I get payed and am able to buy her something to fit her needs. It just seems her bahavior is sad, I believe well Ibknow she dont have enough room to stretch and move. So can you tell me any signs I should look for, or is it harming her to be in a small tank. It will only be another 3 or 4 days until I’m able to get her proper housing,I’m just worried and want the best for her so any tips you can give me will be very appreciated. Thank you

    1. Avatar

      Hey there. Snakes certainly need habitats that allow them to stretch out, explore, thermoregulate and obtain exercise, but this is a long-term concern. Don’t worry about habitat size over the short term. In fact, it may actually help the snake feel a bit more secure while he is dealing with all of the changes going on in his life.

      As long as your snake has enough room to lay comfortably and change position as necessary, I wouldn’t worry about habitat size if you’ll be getting him a proper habitat in a few days.

      Also, in case this is your first snake, it is important to understand that many snakes (particularly ball pythons) aren’t especially active. They spend a lot of their lives just sitting there (they probably sleep a lot, but it’s difficult to tell because they have no eyelids).
      It’s easy for beginners to think their snake is sick or sad, but snakes just don’t do very much. Also, your ball python is nocturnal, so he’ll likely be most active at night, when you’re not watching him.

      Best of luck! Keep us updated!

      1. Avatar

        Yeah I have 3 going all pythons on one of them down by the privates it looks like soon tags on both sides of the privates

  3. Avatar

    Lucy is 15 years old, she has not gone into hiding for two days now and has been basking under the lamps. Should I be concerned I have not seen her do this since we have had her. She has been in the family since a baby. We have had her maybe about 4 months now. During that time she seems to be exhibiting happy behavior. This is new what I have described above. She is not balled up either. She is stretched out and has been.

    1. Avatar

      Hi, Diana. So sorry that we missed your comment earlier. I realize that this advice probably won’t help you now, but it may help someone else in the future. Let us know how things went with your snake!

      As for the outstretched body posture, that could mean a variety of things.

      Snakes suffering from respiratory infections often exhibit strange postures (it can help them breathe more easily), but it could also be associated with reproductive events like ovulation. And then sometimes, snakes just lay in a stretched-out position because, well, they just do.

      It’s really impossible to be sure based off the info provided. If your snake is exhibiting any symptoms of illness, I’d head to the vet ASAP. Otherwise, I’d recommend just watching her for a day or two. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a problem, but you’re correct to seek help whenever your snake does anything weird.

      Best of luck!

  4. Avatar

    I have just recently bought my first ball python she was captive bread by a local breeder and i have red alot and wanted to educate myself to the fullest as this was going to be my first snake it has been a very fun journey learning all the stuff I’ve read and have found snakes in general to be quite fascinating however some of the things ive read in other places and even here dont exactly match the behavior of my snake like at all……for example i know pythons in general are pretty nice in nature for the most part and as u stated before they bite you will know they are uncomfortable…….mine doesn’t seem to get uncomfortable by just about anything young children other pets in the house like a dog she has not snapped drew back into the s form or nothing no matter what she has encountered since ive had her. I also have read that even if they dont bite or scare to easy none like their head touched or messed with and will usually atleast yank their head back quick in fear however mine seems to act like a puppy loves her head rubbed nudges me to do so even and when around my neck nudges my chin rubs her head against me and i read on here it isnt good to handle your snake for too long or too much but seems to me my snake cant wait to get out of her enclosure and to be held or handled……as soon as i out her in her cage she seems tonact just like my bearded dragon i had for years did and seems to want back out enjoys the attention she gets and wants it more than to just lay there in her enclosure…..she doesn’t seem to stress outside or even in public like at all and i was wandering since ive heard so many different things that dont describe my snake like at all could it be a sign that something is wrong with her she seems completely healthy no mites no scale rot mouth rot or respiratory issues at all however if handling her too much can cause any of these health issues should i not handle her even though she acts like everything is more ok that way and seems. To prefer being handled or up my around my neck all the time and keeps acting like she only gets upset if i put her in her enclosure is this any kinda sign something may be not.ok. with her because her behaviour doesnt seem to match all ive read….. even if was for the better….51 q still her behavior doesn’t add up should this be a. reason to be concerned or does this give you any kind of.clue that there is something wrong and what it could be or do i just have a rare case of a very tame mild mannered snake that likes attention?

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Joe.
      First of all, I applaud the amount of time and effort you’re putting into your pet. You seem like you’re really trying to provide your pet with a wonderful life, and you’re being observant about his behavior.

      Ball pythons are often quite docile. But they’re all individuals with slightly different personalities. You may have just ended up with one that is particularly chill.

      As long as the habitat is set up properly, your snake is eating well, and he’s not exhibiting any of the signs we mention above (nostril discharge, etc.), he’s probably fine. But it probably wouldn’t hurt to head to the vet to double check everything anyway.

      I would caution you that snakes don’t always exhibit obvious signs of stress, and it does sound like you may be handling him quite a bit. It’s also important that we don’t misinterpret our pets’ behaviors — I doubt your snake “wants” to be handled, although he may very well tolerate it.

      Point being, I would encourage you to restrict handling sessions to about 10 minutes or so a day, and it’s probably a good idea to give him several “off days” a week, when you leave him completely alone. And obviously, give him at least 24 to 48 hours after feeding to digest before you handle him.

      Thanks for reading, and we wish you the best of luck with your pet!

  5. Avatar

    Hi i have a question have u ever had ur python crawling on your arm abd put their eye and face close to your skin and open their mouth twice? My husband had this happen tonight she did bit him but it was not normal us?

    1. Avatar

      Hi, Patricia. It sounds like your husband’s hands/arms smelled like food. Just make sure you always wash your hands after handling or petting any other critters.
      Thanks for reading!

    2. Avatar

      I just bought my hatchlin ball python yesterday and the pet store said that it was feeding day
      I got him home and his house set up and tried feeding him and he refused it so i left it there over night and he still hasnt ate is this normal for a new snake not to wanna eat

      1. Avatar

        Hey, Cheyanne.

        Stress – such as often occurs when bringing a snake home or transferring him to a new habitat – will often cause snakes to refuse food.
        Just discard the rodent and try again in about a week. Don’t worry: Your snake isn’t going to starve in a few weeks’ time.

        Best of luck!

  6. Avatar

    My boyfriend and I rescued 2 ball pythons who were deathly sick and the vet only gave them 50/50 chance. After a month of injections every day, they are finally back to their healthy selves. I have done a lot of research before, and still am doing a lot. They have been in the same tank for almost 5 years now the guy says and they constantly look for each other, when we have them out they always have to be touching. It’s so weird but cute! We have them in a 75 gallon fish tank because that’s what they came with, a big hide that they can both fit in, we tried putting two in there but they would always end up in the same hide anyways so we figured if we took one out it would give them more room, and a bigger water dish because Noodle likes to swim, along with a big stick they can climb but they don’t seem to really use it. Noodle sometimes rubs her snoot on the glass for a few minutes or on the water dish, she isn’t shedding, she just shed a month ago and there is nothing left stuck on her. Nopie when he goes back in the tank, tries to get out and that has just recently started, he also got done shedding a month/month and a half ago. They are VERY curious and constantly doing something whether it’s climbing behind the hut, pushing the bedding away, or laying in the water dish…they seem content and happy and eat once a week. Some behaviors though lately have me questioning if everything we are doing is OK. The vet says we are doing a great job but I’m afraid some of these signs means they are stressed and I am unsure about what to do about it.

    I guess my main questions are;
    1. Do you think we should separate them even though they do look for each other?
    2. Instead of separating them do you think they just need a bigger tank? They are about 3 1/2 feet long and have plenty of room to sprawl out if they want.
    3. Should we put anything else in the tank with them? I read that two sides of a glass enclosure should be covered so they don’t feel like they are too out there, one side is pushed up against the wall though.

    Also, we are going on vacation at the end of the month and were going to take them to a friends house so he could watch them. He does have python experience, but they aren’t going to be in THEIR enclosure for a week, they are going to be in something different while at this guys house. Do you think it would be best to keep them in THEIR tank or is it OK to send them away for a week?

    They are my kids and I love them so much already, I only want what’s best for them.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Madison.

      On behalf of your snakes, I want to thank you for trying so hard to give them a high quality of life. Kudos to you and your boyfriend!
      To answer your questions:

      1) I would recommend separating them. Snakes are not really social animals, and although it may appear that they are trying to “spend time with each other,” it is more likely that they are just finding the same spot cozy. Ball pythons are almost completely solitary (aside from breeding attempts) in the wild. Separate housing just makes it easier to care for them, and it’ll help prevent accidents at feeding time (which can be very dangerous).

      2) I always advocate for large enclosures, but a 75-gallon tank is actually pretty spacious. I’d still recommend separating them though.

      3) Covering some of the glass can help keep their stress level down and make them feel more secure. However, your snakes seem like they’re doing well, eating regularly, and using their hide space when they want to, so I wouldn’t worry about covering the tank.

      4) Yes – if possible, I would keep them in “their” tank. This will help prevent them from becoming stressed.

      You sound like you are doing very well! Just keep up the good work and continue to learn all you can!
      Thanks for reading.

  7. Avatar


    I have a 9 year old ball python (got him at 3 months old), and he has always been the healthiest guy imaginable. The last few months however he has been SUPER active in his tank almost non stop, culminating last night when he BROKE OUT OF HIS TANK (it was locked and secure, although I will admit the lid isn’t in the best shape due to years of wear and tear).

    His substrate is clean, his tank is worm, he always has water, his weight is perfect, what is going on???? please help!!!

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Michelle.
      Sorry it took us so long to respond! I hope you’ll still find this helpful.

      Assuming that your snake is actually healthy, hyperactivity is probably caused by one of three things:

      1. The cage is too hot. Like, dangerously hot. So, double-check your temperatures.
      2. Your snake is a male that’s thinking about lady pythons. There’s not much you can do about this besides let him breed, or just wait until his urge passes.
      3. Your snake is stressed because of some perceived threat. Do you have a cat that likes to sit in front of the enclosure? Do children tap on the enclosure all day long? Make sure you address any potential sources of stress and ensure that he has a secure hiding space.

      Best of luck!

      1. Avatar

        Ok so this post…I too have a male BP (we had him sexed) and his spurs have just shown themselves. He is super friendly and happy, hasn’t gotten the eating thing down yet but been taking him to vet regularly to get fed but the last couple days since noticing the spurs he has been all over the place. Prior to this he would come out between 11pm-1am to crawl around a bit then hide and sleep til between 6-8 am to come out for a bit and go back to sleep and that was the only time we seen him. Past 2 days he’s prowling more than hiding. Could he really just be looking for a mate? We’re getting ready to go into spring and the outside temps are raising. Birds chirping, cats and dogs looking for mates so I naturally thought maybe he is too, but some opinions on this would be most hopeful.

        1. Avatar

          Hey, Leslie.

          If your snake is mature or nearly so (somewhere north of 400 or 500 grams), then he may very well be lookin’ for the ladies! But, unusual activity can also occur before shedding or, in some cases, as the result of excessive enclosure temperatures.

          So, double-check your cage temps. If they look good, I wouldn’t worry.
          Best of luck with your breeding trials!

  8. Avatar

    i have a male Royal ball python and would like to breed it to get an albino or different colors or morphs will it be okay if i breed two royals together, and will i be able to get nice morphs or albinos from the breed ?

    1. Avatar

      Hi there, Michael.
      If you are prepared to care for the resulting offspring, there’s no reason you couldn’t breed ball (royal) pythons. If your male is a normal-looking animal, you’d have to breed him to a snake that has a co-dominant or incomplete dominant trait to produce morphs in the first generation.
      You’d have to engage in a two-generation project to use a normal ball python to produce any recessive trait (such as albinos).
      Best of luck!

  9. Avatar

    Hello Ben! My significant and I recently just bought a ball python from a local Petsmart, and was wondering if you could ease my worries a bit. As I would think being nocturnal of course the BP would be very active, out and about for the most part, not to mention we did just get him Im sure he’s getting a feel for his new digs. However, my concern is when it comes to his adventures, his full extention to reach the top of his enclosure(he likes to fit himself inbetween the small indention where the screen fits onto the tank- I say he’s testing the strength for a breakout!)he happens to lose his grip and falls over. I worry that he may hurt himself due to witnessing him slip and bump his head on the side of the glass, will he be alright?

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Ronni.

      Sorry it took us so long to respond – I hope we can still provide some help.
      I think I’m familiar with the behavior your describing. He certainly could injure himself like this, but I wouldn’t think it is terribly likely that he would. I’d recommend trying to move any branches or cage furniture out of the way in case he does fall, and I may consider switching to a “fluffier” substrate, but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

      Thanks for reading!

  10. Avatar

    Hey, had a question regarding retained eye caps. My python was having shed issues and as I’ve always been told, left her alone. But after many weeks I knew something was wrong and took her in the shower and removed TWO complete sheds. The head was another problem. I found out about a snake specialist and took her in and they said the had fused caps that are now scar tissue. I asked if that was permanent and they said yes but shouldn’t harm her or shorten her life. What I don’t understand is why the next shed wouldn’t just eject them as they grow from the inside out. Can you give me a second opinion on this? Thank you in advance.

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Marcus. Thanks for reading and sharing your question.

      That’s a strange one. I’ve never heard of a snake’s eye caps (spectacles) becoming “fused.” You are correct that you shouldn’t try to remove retained eye caps, but I’d recommend re-examining your husbandry practices if your snake is experiencing chronic shedding problems.

      It’s probably also a good idea to seek out a second opinion from another vet.

      Best of luck!

  11. Avatar

    I have a 7 year old BP that was given to us. We have had him for about 3 months now and the previous owner who had him since he was small I’m assuming said he was feeding a medium size rat every 3 weeks. Well it was time to feed and we got one he refused to eat it he had no interest in all I read that they could be picky eaters based off color of the food so to speak so we tried again with a medium size in a different color he ate when we weren’t home he wouldn’t touch it when we were home so we put it in the cage with him. Fast forward to second feeding pet store was out of medium so we got a small rat no problems he ate it in no time we were told to wait a week then try and feed again we got yet another medium size (pet stores recommended to get back in feeding schedule) and he wouldn’t eat it. My questions are 1. Does color really matter? 2. Can this be a sign that medium size are too big? 3. Is it healthy for a BP to be fed every 3 weeks?

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Court. Thanks for your questions.

      1) “Color” doesn’t really matter, as ball pythons see largely in shades of grey. That said, some ball pythons do prefer rodents that look more like wild rodents. So, it can be helpful to avoid all white “lab rats,” in favor of brown, black or multi-color individuals. But I seriously doubt your snake cares whether the rodent you offer is brown or grey, for example.

      2) It sounds to me like your ball python’s food refusal is more closely related to stress than food size. Most 7-year-old ball pythons should be able to handle a medium rat, although that may be a pretty big meal. I’d recommend moving down to small rats, just to be on the safe side. Some individual snakes do have size preferences.

      3) A 3-week feeding schedule may be adequate, but typically, it is wiser to offer smaller, more frequent meals. The important thing to consider is your snake’s body weight and condition. Speak with your vet about it, if you are unsure whether your snake is getting enough food.

      Best of luck!

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    I got my baby female ball python about two months ago and she won’t eat, I’ve had to assist feed her a few times because she is getting so skinny her skin is loose and moves to the side and her spine looks weird (I’m unsure if this is due to the weight or not). She has always seemed interested in her food but has only striked at it once since I got her. I don’t know if it is just from stress or from sickness and I’m worried she will starve to death. She is active at night and seems happy when I hold her (I only do this occasionally to get a better look at her) but when she is in her tank and I look at her to check in her she seems scared because she breathes hard. What should I do to get her to eat etc? And if she needs to go to the vet can I go to any ordinary vet or does it have to be a special one since it is a snake? Thanks for the helpful article

    1. Avatar

      Hi there, Hope.

      So sorry to hear about the troubles with your snake (and I apologize for not responding sooner). I would definitely recommend taking her into the vet. There are a variety of health problems, including everything from mites to respiratory infections to parasites, which may cause a snake to refuse food. So, get her in to the vet so you can address any problems she’s experiencing – hopefully, she’ll start eating regularly after she starts feeling better.
      You can go to any vet who’s willing to treat your snake, but you’ll likely have much better luck by going to one that specializes in reptiles. A Google search should turn up some options in your area, but if that doesn’t work, consider calling around to local reptile-oriented pet stores and ask for some recommendations.

      Best of luck!

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    I just recently got my first ball python, she was pretty underweight when we got her a month and a half ago but has since almost gotten back to a normal weight. She’s only about 1’1/2 so I’m assuming it’s fairly young! She still hasn’t shed yet for us and has been acting scared of food when it’s been feeding time for the last two weeks. She basks above her hide all day and sleeps all night? Her temp is 86 on the heat side and about 75 on the cool side. She’s in coconut fiber substrate if that makes any difference. She still acts scared when I take her out so I try to leave her alone most of the time. Is it normal that she hasn’t shed and she’s been refusing to eat? Also how long should it take until she doesn’t tense up while I hold her? Thank you so much in advance and any tips help since this is my first ball!

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Morgen. Congrats on your first ball python!

      First thing’s first: You’ll want to bump up the temperatures on the warm side of her tank first. Aim for temperatures between 90 and 95 degrees (just make sure the opposite side of the enclosure is cooler). Her “backwards” behavior pattern is a little concerning, but it may just be that she’s a little cool and trying to keep warm.

      I would recommend that you get her to begin eating regularly before handling her. Stress will often cause ball pythons to refuse food, so make sure that you are leaving her alone for the most part until she starts to eat regularly. Don’t worry about her not shedding yet — when the time is right, and her body is ready, she’ll slip out of that skin. Also, note that the shedding process makes snakes a bit nervous, so it is possible that she is already getting ready to do so.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if she began eating regularly and calmed down a bit when handled once she sheds.

      Best of luck!

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    Hey Ben!
    My boyfriend and I just adopted a 20 year old girl ball python. She is very chill and curious when meeting people. Today I took her out to meet my roommates for 10 minutes and her whole body started to vibrate. It was very strange and was wondering what this behavior could mean, as I googled it and couldn’t find much about it. Although she’s very socialized, it is her first few days living with us and I thought maybe the body vibrating has to do with stress. Pls let me know thanks!!

    1. Avatar

      Hey there, Natalie.

      First of all, it’s really cool that you have a 20-year-old ball python! ‘Ol gal has been kicking around longer than a lot of young keepers have been alive!

      To be honest, I’ve never seen, felt, or heard of a ball python “vibrating.” If you made me take a guess, I’d suggest that you could be feeling vibrations associated with her breathing. If this is what’s happening, you’d probably want to have your vet give her a once over, just to be sure she doesn’t have a respiratory infection.

      But, if she’s healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it. Just chalk it up as one of the weird things our snakes sometimes do!
      Best of luck.

  15. Avatar

    I finally put moss in my ball pythons terrium and it started hissing quietly as I put it down gently I think I may have put too much water on the coconut fiber and miss but it’s just very unhappy I don’t know what to do please help me

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Zaria.

      I wouldn’t worry about it – I bet your snake was just a little irritable and he or she may have just been expressing his grumpiness. As long as he or she is acting healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it.
      Thanks for your questions!

  16. Avatar

    Our ball python just shed and was making a weird puffing like sound from her mouth. Do you know why that happened because I got scared and thought she couldn’t breathe. One more thing, do you recommend that she should breed or not. Thank You!

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Liam.

      Unusual breathing sounds are pretty common before and during the shedding process, but strange sounds that occur after your snake sheds can be more troubling. They may indicate the presence of a respiratory infection.
      Sorry to be so late responding to your question, but I’d recommend that you have your vet check her out if she’s still making strange breathing sounds. Otherwise, if she’s no longer making the sounds and has resumed eating and behaving normally, she’s probably fine.

      If your female snake is healthy and you have the time and resources to take care of the resulting offspring, I say go for it! But, just be aware that caring for a clutch of baby ball pythons is a lot of work, so consider your actions carefully.

      Good luck!

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    I just got a ball python a couple days ago. When we take him out hes moving around with my partner but when i get him hes basically motionless. I am a little nervous with him but im fairly comfortable holding him. Does he just not like me?

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Brittany. Congrats on your new snake!

      I wouldn’t worry – it is highly unlikely that your snake distinguishes very much between you and your partner, and even less likely that he “likes” one of you more than the other. We all love snakes, but they aren’t exactly brilliant creatures, nor are they wired for very much social interaction.
      But, if you are nervous, it may be causing you to (subconsciously) hold him in ways that prevent him from feeling comfortable.

      At the end of the day, I wouldn’t worry about it – just try to work on feeling more comfortable when handling him, and he’ll likely relax a bit too.
      Best of luck!

  18. Avatar

    Hello Ben,

    I’ve had my ball python for 7 years now and she’s always been a rather active snake – not excessively so, but I give her a good amount of space to roam(she could stretch out along long side of her tank and has one platform a bit above the ground that she likes to climb on sometimes) and she usually uses it. She also has 4 hides, one of them a humidity hide, that she uses regularly and I am usually not worried about her level of activity. Her temps are ~73°F on the cool side and ~88°F around the hot spot, and her humidity is around 70% with occasional spraying.

    Now, in the last couple weeks I’ve noticed some behavior changes, with her scratching her head on her hides or the walls a lot more than I’ve observed her do it before, and sometimes when she’s resting she’s not actually laying her head down completely and(maybe because of the tension?) shivering/wobbling slightly. I’ve also seen her raise her head towards the ceiling and just stay still for several seconds occasionally. She’s active quite a bit over the afternoon/night, but as I mentioned that’s normal for her. I haven’t made any significant changes to her husbandry in that time except put her on a larger food size – she gets those down without problem and afterwards disappears into her hides for a couple days like she should, and I haven’t seen any signs of mites or heard heavy breathing from her.

    I’m sorry this is such a long post, I just wanted to ask if there’s anything I should be worried about? If I’ve learned one thing in my time as a snake keeper it’s that sometimes they’re just being weird without a reason, so I just wanted a second opinion if any of this sounds concerning, or if I should just not worry too much until I see more alarming signs, and what to look out for.
    Also, I do my best to give my snake the best possible care by my best knowledge, so if there’s any errors in my husbandry you’ve noticed feel free to point them out and I’ll correct them.

    If you’ve read this far I am both impressed and sorry for the text wall, and I’d be delighted to hear your advice. Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Aly.

      First of all, I think your husbandry regimen and practices are fantastic. I literally smiled when reading your question, as it is obvious you are clearly interested in taking great care of your pet. If I were to make any recommendation, it would be to bump up the hot spot temperature about 2 degrees, but that’s being really nit-picky. Overall, it sounds like you are doing an awesome job, and I love that you’re including so many hides.

      You’re absolutely right that our snakes occasionally do things we don’t understand, which is certainly frustrating, but some of her behaviors are a bit concerning.
      Rubbing her head on objects sounds to me like typical shedding behavior. At the beginning of the process, they’ll often rub their heads on things in the enclosure. But, given that you’ve been caring for her quite well for 7 years, I’m guessing you’d have seen her do so before. Regardless, if she just did it for a short time period, I wouldn’t worry too much.

      However, the “wobbling/shivering” and head elevation may be a bigger deal. They may be indicative of a respiratory infection, so it’d probably be a good idea to take her in for a check up at the vet. That’s probably not great to hear, but you sound like you are taking excellent care of your pet, and she’ll likely have a great chance of recovery with your vet’s help.

      Best of luck and keep up the great work!

      1. Avatar

        Hey! So I just got my ball python two days ago. One one side I have her hide with a heat pad under the glass around 90 degrees, and on the other side I have her water and a heat lamp above the cage, which makes the middle of the cage roughly 75 degrees and over the water a little warmer. She hasn’t come out of her hide yet unless I get in the cage to take her out. Is she just comfortable in the hide? She actually shedded yesterday and it was a full shed.

        1. Avatar

          Hey there, Jerome!

          I wouldn’t worry about your snake if she seems healthy otherwise. Most snakes hide for a significant portion of the time, and ball pythons are certainly no exception.
          Additionally, snakes are more likely to hide before shedding than any other time, so everything sounds normal.

          Thanks for reading!

  19. Avatar

    Hello! My ball python is 8 months old (I got him when he was about 3 weeks old). I’ve never had a snake or reptile before, so I often find myself getting stressed that I’m not taking proper care of him. Is it normal for him to push up against the screen cover like he’s trying to escape? His temperatures never go over 75 on the cool side and around 85 on the warm side. I’ve been researching all over and I keep convincing myself he’s unbearably stressed. Please help!

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Bella!

      Don’t worry – pushing against the screen top is pretty normal. As long as your snake seems healthy otherwise, he has at least one hiding spot, and the habitat temperatures are appropriate (yours sound pretty good, although the basking spot could be slightly warmer), it’s no cause for concern.

      Just be sure to watch for abrasions – if his nose starts to get raw or wounded, you’ll want to make a visit to your vet.

      Thanks for reading!

  20. Avatar

    Just bought my first BP, seems mostly healthy for a 3 month old, maybe a little under fed, but other wise healthy. He ate a mouse for me on the second day I had him, but ever since, he has stayed in his warm hide, and has not come out in 24 hours now. Is this normal? I did check to make sure he ate the mouse, and it was not just rotting in the cage. I have left him alone other wise. His tank temps are 94 and 75 on the cold end.

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Cameron!

      Sorry for the delayed response, but he sounds fine. Snakes will often hide and digest for a day (or two or three…) after eating a large meal.
      It doesn’t sound like anything you need to worry about!

      Thanks for reading!

  21. Avatar

    Hello! Wanted to reach out about my 4 month old BP. I’ve has him for over a month, have gone through the first shed, feedings etc fine. Pretty familiar with his behavior and when hes okay to be handled. one thing I haven’t been able to find any info on is this. When he comes out of the cage and in my hands/arms, he does this thing where he rubs his head and neck on me. Sometimes the skin on his neck/belly will sorta stick to my skin. I guess from rubbing n warmth. Is this bad or good behavior? There’s times hes even fallen asleep in that position. I dont see mites, he may be hungry again since it’s coming up soon(next feeding) Just cant find info on it. Strange because his neck skin will be folded kinda. (Picture a fat person’s extra skin) sorry best way I can describe it. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks for taking the time to get back to all of us. think it’s cool to have someone care enough to help us newbies lol.

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Rachel.

      It’s hard to say for sure what your wacky ‘lil fella is up to, but I think I’m familiar with the behavior you’re describing. It’s somewhat like what snakes often do immediately before shedding their skin (it’s a way to cut the skin on their lips so they can start to crawl out of it).

      But the thing is, they seem to do it at other times too.
      Ultimately, as long as he’s healthy, doesn’t seem to be troubled by you handling him, and is free of mites, I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s just some things our snakes do that we’ll never understand-lol!

      Best of luck!

  22. Avatar

    Hi, I just got my ball python about three weeks ago and have been noticing a few small things here and there and am wondering if I should be worried or not. I’ve noticed he holds his head up slightly for about a minute or so at least once or twice a day. At first I didn’t think much of it but he yawned today and got a bit worried that he might have a respiratory infection. He has also started to spend most of his time on the warm side of his enclosure. I have checked if he has any mucus and I’ve listened to his breathing and everything seems to check out fine. I have fed him three times but he hasn’t defecated at all.

    1. Avatar

      Hey there, Aesa.

      It’d probably be a good idea to have your vet check your snake out. The yawning and sticking to the warm side of the enclosure may indicate a respiratory infection. Also, while snakes don’t necessarily defecate after every meal, a ball python won’t usually eat three times without eliminating.

      Best of luck!

  23. Avatar

    Hi Ben,

    I have a question about sudden behavioral change.

    My male BP is 9 months old, and he’s always been the most chill and docile snake. I was able to handle him during the day and night without any issues.

    However, over the month and a half he has become quite defensive at night. If walk into the room after 8 or 9 PM, he will just stare at me, coiled and even following me sometimes. He had one problem during this time, he was constipated. I have him a warm bath three days ago and he passed everything right away, and had a meal just last night. But tonight he is still behaving under defense when I’m in the room. I’m not even attempting to handle him (I always give 48 hours for digestion).

    This is brand new behavior and I’m not sure what to do about it. Below are some facts about him/ his environment:

    -He eats every 7-10 days, without any issues.
    -He has had three perfect sheds, his last shed was two weeks ago (while he was constipated)
    -He has two rock hides, along with some cage furniture/fake leaves
    -his cool side sits at 76-78, warm side around 88-90, humidity around 60
    -lives in a glass terrarium
    -if he pokes his head out during the day time he’s extremely chill/not coiled in defense towards me.

    I always fed him inside his own tank, but since he was constipated (due to ingesting substrate with a meal) I tried feeding him in a separate bin last night. It took a while for him to eat but he did. Not sure if I should practice this during every feed so that he starts distinguishing the bin for feeding time.. and not just any random night I’m walking by his tank

    It’s really bumming me out that he’s not calm at all times anymore like he was for so long… did being constipated mess up his mood? I have no idea how to help him feel safer at night and not afraid of me.

    For now I’ve covered some sides of his tank so he doesn’t have to see me walk by.

    Again this behavior is only at night.

    Thank you in advance for any advice, I will really appreciate it

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Lo.

      I don’t think the constipation changed his demeanor, but you may want to ensure he’s not becoming dehydrated (often the cause of constipation in snakes).
      That said, your husbandry all sounds great.

      It’s hard to tell from afar, but it sounds to me like he’s hunting, rather than being defensive. That’s normal for ball pythons, and it’s actually a good sign. It means he has a good appetite and isn’t likely to be feeling stressed. All that said, ball pythons are a bit more edgy/jumpy/nervous at night when they’re active. Most nocturnal snakes are the same way.

      It’s probably best to avoid trying to handle him at night, but otherwise, I wouldn’t worry at all. It sounds like you’re doing a great job.
      Keep up the good work!

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    I just bought my 1st ball python it’s a baby I can’t tell male or female because it’s to small that’s what the pet store said, I go to get it out of its cage and it sticks his head straight up and just stares at me but when I pick it up it doesn’t bite but I’ve held it in my hand and it stands straight up and looks at me is it going to end up biting me or is it normal?

    1. Avatar

      Hey, Heather.
      Sometimes, snakes will extend their head upward to check things out or attempt to climb. I can’t make any guarantees, but it doesn’t sound like he or she is interested in biting you.
      Best of luck!

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Ben Team
Ben Team
Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.