With a little training, snakes can make fun pets.
They are fascinating to watch, and they don’t require a lot of maintenance.
You need to remember that most snakes are not naturally social animals (although we will be listing some exceptions to the rule below), so playing with your snake will not be like playing with a kitten or a puppy.
Some Basic Rules for Pet Snakes Owners
There are a number of things you can do for fun with your pet snake if you follow these five basic rules.
Choose a Snake that Likes to Play
If you’re planning to get a pet snake that would also enjoy some playtime with you, consider the following snakes:
- African Egg-Eating Snakes
- Ball Pythons
- California King Snakes
- Cape House Snakes
- Carpet Pythons
- Children’s Pythons
- Common Boa Constrictors
- Corn Snakes
- DeKay’s Brown Snakes
- Garter Snakes
- Gopher Snakes
- Kenyan Sand Boas
- Milk Snakes
- Rainbow Boas
- Rat Snakes
- Ringneck Snakes
- Rosy Boas
- Rough Green Snakes
- and Western Hognose Snakes
All these snakes enjoy being handled, making them easier to play with
Corn Snakes are especially even-tempered, and California King Snakes are well adapted to captivity (even though they tend to be escape artists).
Choose a Snake that You can Handle
If you have a smaller home, you need a smaller snake.
If you have limited experience dealing with snakes, you don’t want a snake that is large and ill-tempered.
Learn to Deal with Your Snake (especially important with kids)
Happy experiences with snakes are most likely to occur when everyone in your household knows how to handle the pet snake.
Children need to understand that snakes aren’t toys. They are living creatures that need to be treated with respect.
If you have young children, there is no danger of being bitten by an African Egg-Eater, and Corn Snakes and Ball Pythons can’t deliver serious bites.
However, Babies and pet snakes don’t usually mix very well. Pet snakes and toddlers aren’t a good combination, either.
Also read: 10 Pet Snakes that Don’t Bite (Easy to Keep)
Leave Your Snake Alone When it is “Brumating”
Some snakes, like Corn Snakes and Rubber Boas, naturally slow down in the fall to prepare themselves for a winter rest.
Technically, these snakes brumate, rather than hibernate, because they still get up to drink water, and they are capable of responding to threats.
But if you have a non-tropical snake (tropical snakes don’t brumate), just leave it alone in the winter until it becomes active again in the spring.
Pay Attention to Your Snake’s Reactions to Playtime
Even friendly snakes don’t really like to be handled, although they may enjoy wrapping themselves around your fingers, hands, or arms (because they are warm).
Just like people, snakes sometimes just don’t want to be bothered.
Here’s how to tell when your snake wants to be left alone:
- Striking out at you without biting you isn’t a love kiss. It’s a sign your snake wants to go back into its cage. Handle your snake by its midsection as you put it back in its enclosure
- Hissing is also a sign your snake doesn’t want to play. Put it back in its enclosure
- Anytime your snake seems to be distressed, let it go back to its enclosure to hide
Fun Things to Do With Pet Snakes
Now let’s take a closer look at eight fun and enriching activities for your pet snake.
For some of these activities, you will be an active participant. For others, you will watch your snake having fun.
Enjoy Some Glide Time
If your snake is comfortable being touched, another game to play is letting it glide between your fingers, hands, and arms.
You need first to gain your snake’s trust (feeding him several times usually does that) so there is no discomfort when you touch him.
Handle your snake for very short periods of time at first. Just a minute or two may be all a young snake can enjoy comfortably.
It’s a good idea to start handling your snake when it is young and manageable, so it will be easier to handle the rest of its life.
Keep these things in mind before you let your snake out of its vivarium for glide time.
- Do glide time on a padded area like a couch or your bed, so your snake won’t be injured if you accidentally drop it.
- Close all doors and windows before the game, so your snake can’t get loose or escape. It can take hours to get a snake back in its cage if it can roam freely around your home. Snakes can move very quickly when they get loose.
- Touching sessions should be limited to five minutes or less even with older snakes. Then just let your snake “hang out” with you on your bed or couch.
It isn’t just important for your snake to be comfortable with you. You also need to be comfortable with your snake.
Handle your snake when you feel relaxed. Return your snake to her tank before she becomes agitated.
Let Your Snake Slither on You
A tame snake may enjoy curling up under your shirt or coat or balling up in your pocket.
Snakes may like to wrap around your arms or legs or lie down next to you on your bed.
Keep in mind that your snake isn’t all about affection. Your snake is cold-blooded, you are warm-blooded, and you’re a great source of heat.
But once your snake is comfortable with glide time, then longer contact is OK.
Snakes love this game, although they don’t participate in the seeking part.
Just remember that you want your hide-and-seek session to be enjoyable for your snake, too.
Keep these guidelines in mind:
- Most snakes don’t like to be around crowds of people. At most two people at a time should play hide-and-seek with your snake.
- Always play this game in a secure room, where your snake can’t escape to the outside world. It’s OK for your snake to hide behind your sofa. It’s not OK for your snake to hide in your neighbors garage.
- Choose a quiet room for playing hide-and-seek. Keep other pets out of the game. Don’t let children who like to get loud play this game with your snake.
You can also enjoy watching your snake play with its toys.
Take Your Snake on a Swim
No, we don’t mean you should toss your snake in your swimming pool, or someone else’s swimming pool.
And you are likely to lose your snake if you place it in a creek, stream, lake, or river.
But some snakes enjoy a visit to a children’s wading pool—without the children.
This is an OK activity in your own backyard in warm water and during warm weather if you can place the wading pool in an escape-proof location.
Give Your Snake a Cork Tunnel to Hide in
Natural cork is cut off the tree in sheets that are easy to roll up into a cylinder. You can buy natural cork rounds for your snake’s vivarium.
These cork tunnels don’t have to be large enough to hide your snake completely.
It can be interesting to see what your snake does with a small round of cork. And your snake will enjoy the natural scent of wood from the cork.
Your snake may not hide inside its cork round. It may decide to bask on top of it, or to slither through repeatedly to help shed its skin or just for stimulation.
You can even put artificial plants on top of the log to make it more natural.
Cork rounds need to be sterilized every time you clean your snake’s cage. Bake them in the oven to kill the bacteria.
Install a Vertical Rock Cave
In the wild, Ridley’s Beauty Snakes, Children’s Pythons, and Rat Snakes live in caves and cracks in rocky cliffs.
They thrive inside vertical rock caves stuck to the tops of their enclosures by suction cups.
Other kinds of snakes like vertical rock caves, too, especially Corn Snakes, Garter Snakes, Hognose Snakes, and juvenile Ball Pythons.
These pet accessories for snakes are made from plastic but painted to look like actual rock formations.
Because the toy is stuck to the top of the enclosure, your snake has to climb to get inside.
This gives your snake an opportunity for exercise.
If you mount the vertical rock cave in the bottom of your snake’s cage, its flat top becomes a basking spot under a heat strip or artificial light.
There isn’t a lot of room inside most models of this toy. Larger snakes will only use it for basking.
Give Your Snake (an artificial) Jungle Vine
Some kinds of snakes, like Green Tree Pythons, love to climb vines and trees.
In nature, you would rarely see them when they were not wrapped around a branch of a jungle tree.
Even some kinds of snakes that spend most of their lives at ground level, like Ball Pythons, enjoy climbing a vine to explore their cages.
Artificial jungle vines are about the thickness of your finger, but they can be twisted into interesting shapes.
You can twist jungle vines together to build a sturdier perch for your snake. It’s possible to make a very realistic-looking toy jungle vine from the Exo Terra Jungle Vine.
Repeated twisting will wear off the coating on this product. You need to shape or twist this product before you place it in your snake’s enclosure.
Put Driftwood Inside Your Snake’s Tank
No two pieces of driftwood are exactly alike, so you can give your snake an interesting area to climb and explore.
Rubbing against driftwood can help your snake to shed.
Be aware that pieces of natural driftwood sometimes aren’t as large as you expect them to be.
Don’t substitute scrap lumber, which may be treated with creosote or arsenic.
Add Artificial Plants to your Snake’s Terrarium
Real plants don’t work very well inside your snake’s enclosure. They require soil and water, which can become a home for infectious bacteria.
They can interfere with the humidity in the snake tank, which affects your snake’s ability to shed its skin.
Artificial plants, also known as silk plants, are a better alternative. Artificial leaves and branches give your snake new textures to explore.
Artificial plants come in different shapes and sizes, and look very realistic.
When Not to Play with Your Snake
There are two times that you shouldn’t try to play with your snake, and your snake won’t want to play with its toys in its terrarium.
One is the first day or two after it has eaten.
The other is when its eyes have turned blue or it is shedding its skin.
Few Days After It has Eaten
The biggest reason not to hold your snake the first day or two after it has eaten is that your snake may regurgitate its meals.
A snake needs about 24 hours to start digesting a small meal, so it is less likely to be regurgitated.
If your snake has eaten a larger meal, so it has a lump in its belly, then you should wait 48 hours or longer before handling it.
If you have fed a larger snake, like a Reticulated Python, a larger animal, like a rabbit or a small pig, then you want to wait 72 hours or longer before handling it.
Some snakes may require even longer periods after a meal before they can be handled.
Regurgitation doesn’t just make a mess. When a snake regurgitates partially digested food, stomach acids come out with it, and it also irritates the lining of your snake’s throat.
The acid can cause lesions in the snake’s throat, and any half-digested bones can scratch your snake’s throat.
If this happens, you need to wait at least a week before feeding your snake again, because a new meal can keep injuries in the throat from healing.
Wait two full weeks before feeding after regurgitation. This allows wounds to heal, and it allows stomach juices to replenish themselves inside the snake.
When it’s Shedding or Its Eyes are Blue
Snakes produce an oil beneath their skin about a week before they shed. Their eyes will turn blue for a few days, and then the skin will come off.
Snakes can’t see very well when their eyes are blue.
Most snakes will stress out if they are handled in this phase. When a snake is stressed out, it will let you know.
However, there are some snakes that are OK with being handled when they are shedding if they are especially used to being handled.
Knowing when to handle your snake requires knowing your snake’s personality.
The more time you spend with your snake, the better you will know when to start playtime and when not.
So there are some of the fun things that you can try with your pet snake.
Other articles you may also like: