Ball pythons can make great pets!
If you have always wanted a pet snake but you haven’t known what kind of snake to buy for your first pet snake, consider a ball python.
Ball pythons are very popular with first-time snake owners for several good reasons.
They are large enough to be interesting—adult ball pythons can grow up to 5 feet (160 cm) long—but not so large that you can’t manage them.
Your pet ball python will probably be with you for a long time. Both males and females kept as pets typically live to about age 30, and they can live to be almost 50 years old.
These snakes usually aren’t aggressive. They express fear or displeasure by rolling up into a ball. And they aren’t especially fussy about food or cages.
That being said, ball pythons do have a few requirements for long, healthy lives.
In the first part of this article, we will go over some of the biggest reasons ball pythons make great pets.
Then we will go over what you need to know to be a great ball python pet parent.
What Makes Ball Python Snakes Good Pets?
While I’ve already told you that Ball Pythons make great pet snakes, let me share specific reasons why I say this.
Ball Pythons Are Friendly Snakes
Experienced snake owners agree that ball pythons are unusually friendly snakes. Over time, they grow to actually like being handled.
They will interact with you by gently wrapping themselves around your arms or over your shoulders or around your waist.
It is possible to upset a ball python, usually by getting between it and its food at feeding time, and there are a few snakes that just don’t have very agreeable personalities, but on the whole, they are unusually docile, easy-to-handle snakes.
Ball Pythons Are Low-Maintenance Pets
Compared to their furry and feathered counterparts, ball pythons are especially low-maintenance pets.
They don’t shed feathers or hair around the house. (They do shed their skin every few weeks, but this happens inside their terrarium.)
They don’t need to go to the vet very often. They don’t get lonely and they never experience separation anxiety when you go out for the day.
Even cleaning up ball python poop is just a once-a-week chore.
Once your ball python is on a regular feeding schedule, there isn’t a lot to do with your snake other than enjoying them.
Ball Pythons Are Clean Pets
You will never have to clean up after an “accident” with your ball python.
You won’t have to vacuum the upholstery every day, either.
There won’t be any extra window cleaning, either. You will need to keep their terrarium clean, but that isn’t something you have to do every day.
Ball Pythons Are Small Pets (Easy to handle)
The average ball python weighs around 5 pounds. (That is about 2.2 kilos.) They are muscular, but they can’t overpower you.
Even children can handle them safely. They won’t scare your friends and neighbors the way a reticulated python or an anaconda might.
Ball Pythons Almost Never Bite
Ball pythons occasionally get “nippy.” They will strike at you just to let you know that they aren’t feeling like being picked up.
Maybe they are still digesting their meal, or maybe a female is full of eggs. These “love bites” won’t even break your skin.
The only time you might have a real problem with a ball python bite is when it is feeding and it bites into you instead of its intended meal.
When it comes to eating, ball pythons mean business.
They will sink all of their tiny teeth into you, and because their teeth hook backward, they can’t let go. You have to pull them off.
But the ball python will suffer more broken teeth than you will suffer broken skin.
The easy way to avoid this problem is just to hold your snake’s meal in front of them with tongs.
Ball Pythons Are Interesting, Beautiful Animals
Ball pythons are interesting pets. They aren’t so exotic that they are impossible to care for, but they are unusual enough that there is always something new to learn.
Fortunately, there are enough ball pythons around that there are plenty of people to give you answers to your questions.
Ball pythons can be beautiful. Everything Reptiles estimates that there are now over 4,000 color and pattern morphs available for ball python enthusiasts!
Ball pythons can differ greatly in appearance, but they all have the same gentle demeanor and they are all low-maintenance pets.
Does it sound like a ball python is right for you? Great! Now let’s make sure that you are right for a ball python.
Ball Pythons Are Easy To Feed
It is not hard to feed a ball python. Defrost a previously frozen mouse of an appropriate size for them about once a week, and that’s all the food preparation you need.
Ball pythons get all their nutrients from their prey animals, by eating the whole animal, so they never need supplements, and they don’t need a variety of foods.
Ball pythons don’t eat a lot. They are less expensive to feed than the average dog.
Also read: Why Is My Ball Python Not Eating?
What You Need To Know About Pet Ball Pythons
Understanding where your ball python comes from helps you care for it better.
Ball pythons are native to west and central sub-Saharan Africa. They live in grasslands and savannahs east of Ghana, Togo, and Benin, all the way to South Sudan.
Ball pythons do not live in rain forests, and they are not found south of the equator.
Since termite mounds provide natural air conditioning on hot summer days and elevation above seasonal floods, ball pythons like to move in with these ubiquitous insects when they can.
More often, however, they take over a rodent burrow, usually after eating the rodent.
Sometimes more than one ball python will occupy the same burrow during the rainy season.
When a female is getting ready to lay her eggs and then when she is guarding her clutch until they hatch, she chases any other ball pythons away to do guard duty.
She probably won’t eat while she is carrying eggs inside her body, because the weight of the prey animal could damage their shells.
She won’t leave her burrow to eat until her offspring hatch, but when they do, she will be very hungry.
For babies, also known as hatchlings, shedding their skin for the first time takes priority over eating their first meal.
Hatchling ball pythons don’t eat before they have their first shed, and maybe not for a week after that.
Once ball pythons take care of shedding, then they are ready to find and eat a small animal.
In the wild, they will find their way to an unguarded mouse’s nest or bird’s nest, or maybe catch a small lizard or a baby bat.
When you keep a ball python as a pet, the only food you have to give them is rodents, smaller rodents for smaller ball pythons, and larger rodents as your pet snake gets bigger.
Warmth and humidity are very important to ball pythons. In the wild, they live in areas that may have an annual average temperature of around 86° F (30° C).
The African countries where ball pythons live have a dry season and a rainy season.
Female ball pythons lay their eggs so they will hatch at the beginning of the rainy season, when humidity is high, and it is easier for them to shed their skins for the first time, and there is an abundance of food.
So, what has all this got to do with what you need to take care of your pet ball python?
Buying a Pet Ball Python
It is always a good idea to acquire your first ball python from a pet shop, at a pet expo, or from a breeder who specializes in an exotic morph you like.
And it is always a good idea to buy a ball python raised in comfortable captivity, not collected in the wild. Here is the reason why.
Always Buy a Captive-Bred Ball Python
Until about 30 years ago, most experts on ball pythons thought they were almost impossible to keep alive in captivity.
That was because most of the ball pythons sold in pet stores at the time were adult snakes that had been captured in Africa and flown to the final destination.
These snakes would simply refuse to eat and die of starvation.
Their new owners, of course, had no way of feeding them the same animals the snakes had hunted and eaten in Africa.
Finally, someone hit on the idea of shipping ball python eggs to pet distributors instead of adult ball pythons.
This way, it was possible to feed the ball pythons the same food from their very first meal, and starvation due to refusal to eat was no longer a problem.
Even better, ball python breeders noticed that these snakes have morphs and genetic variations that result in a variety of colors and patterns on the skin that make these snakes both beautiful and collectible.
When you buy your ball python, you need to make sure it is captive-bred, not wild-caught.
This way, you will know it has not been traumatized by being ripped out of its home and flown to another continent in a sack.
With a captive-bred ball python, you can be reasonably sure it is free of the parasites that can infest it in the wild. (You will still need to quarantine it for six weeks before letting it come in contact with other snakes just to make sure.)
You will know when it had its first shed, so you can estimate when you will need to be extra sure to provide it with humidity and privacy for its next one.
And you will know when it had its first meal, what it had for its first meal, and when you need to feed it again.
Best Places to Buy a Pet Ball Python
It’s always a good idea to buy your ball python from someone who knows a lot about ball pythons and cares about them as much as you do.
Pet shops are a great place to start. They usually have a lot of experience with ball pythons.
They will have a nice selection of morphs. At least as importantly, they will be there when you need to ask questions.
Pet expos are a great place to find exotic morphs. You are more likely to find a beautiful ball python that you just have to buy at a pet expo than in a pet shop.
But the sellers may not be available to help you out when unexpected issues arise.
Dealers are the best way to find exotic, colorful, beautiful morphs.
It is a good idea to spend a few years taking care of a ball python you bought from a pet shop, though, before you go off on your own with an expensive morph.
Ball pythons can live to be really old, so sometimes their owners need to sell them or give them away.
There is nothing inherently wrong with buying a ball python from a friend, but be sure to consider why the seller is letting their snake go.
Getting married to someone who doesn’t like snakes, going off to college, or moving to Alaska are all good reasons to sell your pet snake.
High vet bills they can’t afford to pay or being ordered to get rid of your snake by your probation officer would be red flags for you.
The Right Time to Buy Ball Python
Before you buy a ball python, you need to have its new home completely set up.
This means you need to have its terrarium with substrate, hides, toys, heating, lighting, and humidification devices all set up.
You need to have its water bowl and tongs for feeding. All of this has to be ready from the first minute you bring your new ball python home.
Then it is time to buy.
How To Buy A Ball Python
All ball pythons are not born equal. Some will make better pets than others.
Look For A Healthy Ball Python
Don’t take pity on a “poor little snake.” Let the experts nurse it back to health.
Instead, choose a snake that looks healthy. One thing to look for is whether the snake looks too skinny, too fat, or just right.
You should be able to see the outline of its spine if you look at it carefully. If you can’t see the spine at all, it is too fat.
If the spine forms an easily visible ridge on its back, it is malnourished.
A ball python with a triangle-shaped body could be sick, or its owner may not have fed it enough, or it may be refusing to eat.
These are problems you don’t want to deal with.
It is important to take a careful look over the snake’s skin to make sure it does not have blood mites. Just run your hand down the length of the snake.
If there are any little red dots on your hand, the snake has blood mites. Blood mites are very hard to get rid of, and they can easily spread to other snakes.
Find Out Whether The Ball Python Has Been Raised In A Terrarium Or A Rack
Ball pythons can be raised in terrariums. Especially when you buy a beautiful morph, you want your pet snake to be easy to see.
But ball pythons can also be raised in plastic containers on racks.
These containers are not see-through, so taking a ball python that has spent its entire life in a rack and putting it on display in a terrarium can stress it out.
Ask If The Snake Has Had Multiple Owners
It isn’t always a bad thing that a ball python has had several owners.
But sometimes this means that the snake is aggressive or has eating problems.
Find Out If Your Ball Python Has Papers
Some morphs come with documentation that tells you where the snake was bred and what kinds of parents it had. This is very important if you decide to try to raise hatchlings later.
Spider ball pythons, in particular, are prone to serious neurological problems that can end their lives prematurely.
If your ball python has spider heritage, and you want to breed hatchlings, you need to know whether genetics will be a problem for you,
Once you have some experience raising ball pythons, it is a great idea to get your second, third, or later pet snake at a pet expo, where you can spend time speaking with the breeder face to face.
For your very first pet ball python, it is best to work with a local pet shop and a veterinarian specializing in snakes so you will always have the knowledge you need.
Important Question To Ask Self – How Do You Feel About Feeding Your Ball Python?
There is one more important question to answer so you will know that a ball python is the best pet for you.
How do you feel about feeding your pet snake mice? And how would you feel if you learned that your pet ball python will only eat live mice?
Ball pythons, you need to know, don’t eat every day, and sometimes not even every week or every month.
But they need to eat whole animals when they do. For most pet snake parents, the whole animals they feed their snakes are pinkie, fuzzy, hopper, subadult, or adult mice.
Ball pythons do not need a varied diet, because they get all the nutrients they need by eating whole animals.
However, your ball python may be fussy about how its food is served.
Adult ball pythons that have always eaten live mice will insist on being fed live mice, or they won’t eat at all.
If you want the convenience of feeding your ball python thawed whole mice that were previously frozen, you need to start feeding them from your snake’s very first meal.
Having to feed your pet snake mice can be a deal-breaker for some ball python fans.
Be sure you are ready to feed your snake the food it needs before you commit to caring for your first ball python.
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