Do Pet Snakes Need Exercise?

Your Western Hognose Snake will never learn how to catch a Frisbee. Your Ball Python will never go jogging with you.

Some snakes thrive on occasional supervised time outside their cages, but others are fine spending their entire lives in their enclosures.

Most pet snakes don’t need a lot of exercises.

Most small pet snakes are fine with a piece of driftwood to climb in their enclosures.

Larger tropical snakes may enjoy a swim in a kiddie pool (minus the kiddies, who should not be invited to join them) once in a while.

What Snakes Do Need Exercise?

While most pet snakes don’t need exercise, there are a couple of exceptions to this general rule:

  • Breeding female Anacondas, Boa Constrictors, Rainbow Boas, Sand Boas, and Tree Boas give live birth to baby snakes. A female of these species that has spent her entire life curled up in a small enclosure will have trouble finding the muscular strength to bear her young.
  • Some female Pythons will lay eggs even if they have been in the same enclosure as a male. They need good muscle tone to pass the eggs out of their bodies. Breeding Pythons also need to have some spent time getting exercise outside their cages to have the muscle strength to lay their clutches.

The snakes that need exercise are females of the larger tropical species.

But most snakes seem to enjoy time outside their enclosures in physical activity.

Some of them, of course, enjoy time outside their enclosures so much that it is hard to get them back inside.

What Kinds of Exercise Are Beneficial for Pet Snakes?

One way to give any snake an opportunity to exercise is to put it in a large cage.

Room to dig in the substrate and to explore wooden and plastic plant features and maybe a rock to the sun on, under a heat lamp with a thermostat, will give most pet snakes all the exercise they need.

Not everyone who owns a pet snake, particularly beginning snake enthusiasts, has the cash to buy a large enclosure decked out with toys for their snake.

If you don’t have money to give your snake more room, take it swimming!

There are a few things you need to know about swimming and snakes:

Don’t take your snake swimming in your bathtub. It’s not really large enough to give a tropical snake like an Anaconda, Boa, or Python a lot of exercises.

Snakes aren’t house-trained, and cleaning your bathtub might be unpleasant.

Even if your snake doesn’t poop in the tub, its scales can be full of E.coli or parasites, and you would need to give your tub a thorough cleaning before people could use it safely.

Also, you don’t want your pet snake to think of your tub and shower as a playtime destination, just in case, they were to get out of their cages.

Don’t take your snake to your gym, or somebody else’s gym, a health club, or public swimming pool, or a backyard pool, even if you have permission.

It can be very difficult to get a powerful snake out of a large pool when it is time to go.

If the snake decided to hold you or a smaller person in your family in its coil, the results could be tragic for your family member, your snake, and yourself.

Only let one snake swim at a time. Keep any other snakes you own while each snake is swimming.

Don’t let your second snake out until the first snake is back in its cage or carrier. It can be very difficult to confine two snakes at the same time.

Don’t let any other pets join your snakes for their swim. Don’t have them in the yard when the snakes are out of their enclosures, even while they are busy in the water.

Let your snake swim in a kiddie pool, as previously mentioned, without any kiddies.

A kiddie pool is large enough for your snake to get some exercise swimming against the resistance of the water. It is small enough to make recapture easy.

Disinfect the kiddie pool after every use by your pet snake or snakes. Snakes can pick up E. coli from their poop inside their cages.

They can leave mites and parasites, such as Cryptosporidium, that are too small for you to see.

Don’t run the risk of infecting your other pets or yourself by letting used water stand in your kiddie pool. If possible, have one pool that is only used for exercising your snake.

Snakes Need Opportunities for Isometric Exercise

Have you ever wondered how a Boa Constrictor or a Python develops such powerful muscles if all they do is lie around all day?

The simple fact is that snakes don’t just lie around all day. They get nearly constant isometric exercise by clinging to trees and crouching in hiding places.

Snakes have lots of muscles but very few tendons. Their muscles stretch over multiple joints, so their power is amplified.

Each muscle acts like a cantilever bridge that can work with various joints as the snake moves, multiplying its power as the snake moves across the ground in a sinusoidal, S-shaped pattern or as it coils around its prey.

So, how do you give your snake opportunities for isometric exercise?

Give it a Hide Box

Hide boxes are just what their name suggests. They are places for your snake to hide and feel secure.

Hide boxes are smaller than the snake that hides inside them. The snake has to hold itself in a coil or a ball to completely fill the space where no predator can attack it.

A hide box can be as simple as a shoebox. It can be as ornate as a carved snake house that has been sealed and waterproofed.

It’s OK to give your snake an elaborate hide box as decoration for its enclosure.

Just keep in mind that you will periodically have to clean all the cracks, nooks, and crannies in a decorative hide box to make sure your snake isn’t reinfecting itself with skin bacteria, skin fungus, or skin mites.

Remember that snakes grow as they get older. A hide box that is your pet snake’s favorite place when it is young can become a death trap as it gets older.

This is particularly important to remember if you are keeping a kind of snake that can grow quickly, like a Ball Python.

Give Your Pet Snake “Toys”

Snakes don’t interact with toys the same way as other pets.

A snake’s use of its toys seems passive, although the snake is actually actively exercising its hiding and stealth instincts.

A good toy for almost any snake is an overturned flower pot with an opening cut to make it possible for the snake can get in and out without cutting, scratching, or scraping itself.

File or sand down any edges on the opening you make in the pot to keep your snake from harming itself.

Snakes enjoy “playing” with plants in their enclosures. Snake owners like to give their terrariums a natural look with real plants, but only baby snakes will let real plants live.

For mature snakes, add plants made with feathers that can stand up to aggressive snake activities without being torn apart.

Climbing features, especially real driftwood, add a natural look to your snake’s terrarium.

Any wood you collect in the wild needs to be sterilized by soaking boiling hot water or baking in a 200 degree Fahrenheit (about 100 degree Celsius) oven for 30 minutes before you put it in your snake’s cage.

(Don’t turn the oven temperature any higher to avoid burning the wood.)

Choose driftwood that has no splinters, sharp edges, or tiny notches that could cath your snake’s scales.

Make sure any wood you put in the enclosure is strong enough to support the weight of a fully grown snake.

It is not easy to free a snake from wood that has broken under its weight.

Make sure the wood is placed in the cage secure;y to keep it from falling while your snake is climbing on it.

Many pet supply stores sell faux driftwood made from smooth plastic for snake terrariums.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Snakes and Exercise

Q. My snake is a couch potato. Is it OK just to sit and watch TV with my snake?

A. Television sets provide light, color, movement, and if they are large enough, the warmth that holds the interest of the snake.

There is no evidence that snakes understand what they are watching, with the possible exception of animal shows featuring snakes.

Your snake gets no exercise from watching TV with you, but it may be a good opportunity for bonding with your snake.

Q. Are there any times that exercise is harmful to snakes?

A. The two main times you should not encourage your snake to exercise are for a day or two after it has eaten, and while it is shedding its skin.

If your snake hasn’t shed yet but its eyes are blue, let stay in its enclosure quietly.

Q. Is holding my snake exercise. Can I hold my snake every day?

A. Letting your snake wrap around your arm or your shoulders is a mild exercise for your snake.

You don’t want your pet snake to exercise too vigorously when it is in contact with your body.

Don’t hold your snake every day until you have had it for at least two or three weeks, and it is comfortable in its new home.

Try holding your snake once a week for a few weeks, then twice a week, and so on, until it is comfortable being held every day.

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