Ball pythons are known for their calm and docile nature. This, along with a reasonable size, is one of the reasons that they are so popular in the pet trade. However, some owners find that their ball pythons don’t seem very mellow at all, instead choosing to hiss at them.
Ball pythons may hiss at you because they’re scared, they’d rather be left alone, they are defining their territory, or they are uncomfortable or anxious. If your ball python not only hisses at you but randomly hisses, they may be suffering from a respiratory infection.
Here’s what you need to know about why your ball python may hiss at you or hiss in general, as well as some tips to reduce hissing behavior.
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1. Your Ball Python May Hiss Because They Are Scared
The primary reason that your ball python may hiss is that they are frightened. Ball pythons are rather small compared to you and they do not have venom to rely on to protect themselves.
Therefore, they may hiss in order to frighten away what they perceive to be a potential predator: you. If your ball python hisses when you approach or try to pick them up, especially if they also flatten, ball up or try to get away, it is likely that fear is causing the behavior.
Many ball pythons will also hiss from their hiding place when you approach in an attempt to convince you that they are a larger and more threatening snake than they really are.
2. Your Ball Python May Hiss Because They Want to be Left Alone
Hissing may have started with fear, but if your ball python realizes that you tend to leave them alone when they hiss, they may utilize hissing to create distance or get some alone time.
If you notice your ball python hissing when you try to approach or handle them after a meal or when they are about to shed or just finished shedding, it may be that they just want some space.
3. Your Ball Python May be Defining Their Territory by Hissing
Ball pythons frequently hiss at one another if they feel that their territory is being encroached upon. They may also hiss at you or other animals that approach their enclosure for the same reason.
If your ball python hisses when you approach the enclosure but is calm and relaxed when you take them out, the hissing may be territorial.
4. Your Ball Python is Uncomfortable and Anxious and Therefore Prone to Hissing
Ball pythons may be more likely to hiss when they are feeling uncomfortable or anxious in their space.
If your ball python is generally very mellow and easy-going but is hissing after being placed in a new enclosure or after you have allowed them to explore a new environment, it may be anxiety that is the culprit.
If your ball python settles down and stops hissing after some time in the environment, it was likely their anxiety in a new space that caused the hissing behavior.
Why Might a Ball Python Randomly Hiss?
If you have heard a hissing sound come from your ball python’s enclosure when everything is calm and neither you nor anything else is approaching the enclosure or interacting with your ball python, you are surely wondering what’s going on. Is your ball python imagine something?
It is possible that your ball python may catch a glimpse of their reflection in the enclosure wall and hiss.
However, what is much more likely is that your ball python has a respiratory infection.
When a respiratory infection begins in your ball python, they may struggle to breathe, resulting in a wheezing sound that is very much like hissing.
If your ball python is randomly hissing, the first step should be to bring them to the veterinarian and have them cleared for a respiratory infection.
How To Find Out Why Your Ball Python is Hissing at You
If you’re not sure why your ball python is hissing and if they are not improving with time, positive reinforcement, and gently acclimating them to your presence, it may be best to have them checked by a vet to make sure that they aren’t in pain or suffering from an infection that is causing the behavior.
How to Get Your Ball Python to Stop Hissing at You
If you have a new ball python that hasn’t yet been acclimated to people, hissing is a perfectly reasonable reaction from them in the presence of a very large animal that may be a predator to them.
Here’s what you can do to encourage them to stop hissing:
1. Move slowly
Slow, gentle movements are less likely to cause your ball python to see you as a predator. Never move quickly or with jerky movements around your ball python.
2. Feed them when your present
Many ball pythons are reluctant to eat when you are around at the beginning, but if you continue to feed them while you are calmly in the same room, they will gradually begin to associate your presence with food, which will cause them to have a more positive association with you.
3. Make handling pleasant
Always support your ball python’s entire body when you handle them and don’t expose them to cool temperatures or stressful events when they are handled.
Placing a ball python on an interesting houseplant or letting you explore something under your supervision is a good way to make them enjoy being handled.
Enjoy a More Mellow Ball Python
Ball pythons are known to be easygoing snakes. However, ball pythons may occasionally hiss at you for the reasons we’ve gone over here.
Be patient and make sure that your ball python is in good health and you’ll likely find that they stop hissing soon.