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5 Reasons Why Your Snake Is Scared of Its Food

why is my snake scared of its food?

Snakes are typically predators and aren’t scared of most things. Yet, in a weird turn of events, there are several instances where a snake can get scared of its own food!

Snakes can get scared of their food due to various reasons. The most common reason is when there is a sudden change of diet. For instance, if you provide your snake with live prey suddenly, it may get scared. Some other reasons include – stress, shedding, and improper enclosure conditions. 

In fact, in a poll conducted amongst the snake owners community on Reddit, we found out that 33 out of 60 snake owners have seen their snakes being scared of their own food.

Read on to learn more about these reasons and how they can affect your snake’s eating habits. 

Why Your Snake Is Scared of its Food

Snakes are one of the most instinctive reptiles. If there is even a slight change in their routine, nutrition, or environmental conditions, you will notice immediate behavioral changes in them. 

Similarly, if your snake is suddenly scared of their food, it’s because of a significant change in its lifestyle. Certain snake species that are known to get scared of their food include:

  • Ball Python 
  • Corn Snake 
  • Royal Python 
  • King Snake 
  • Milk Snake 

Let’s elaborate more on why they feel scared of their food. 

1. Sudden Change of Diet

Nobody likes change, including your pet snake. Therefore, if you have introduced your snake to a new diet suddenly, it could be the main culprit of them being scared. 

For instance, most snakes’ regular diets consist of frozen prey, like frozen mice or frozen insects. Now, if they are used to that, and you suddenly give them live prey, like live mice or insects, they may feel threatened.

Let’s try to understand why that happens. 

Naturally, snakes are defensive in nature instead of offensive. They use their bite to kill the attacker. However, when snakes are trying to feed, their main attacking weapon (i.e. their mouth) is preoccupied.

So, in such a situation, if you’re trying to give them live prey, they may easily get frightened and hesitant to eat. 

2. General Behavior 

Snakes look like a type of species that won’t fear anything! But, that is not the case. Just like any other animal or reptile in the wild, some snakes can get scared of certain animals too. This might be specific to your snake’s general behavior. 

So, if your snake is scared of its food, it might be because they instinctively fear that particular food item, or feel threatened by it. For instance, some snakes might feel threatened by crickets, and not feed on them. 

There is also another possibility where your snake is not scared of the food, but the way you give it to them. To give you an example, this situation might arise if you’re trying to feed your snake using tongs. 

snake shy eater

3. Stress 

Have you recently brought a new pet snake home? If this is the case, then stress is the most likely reason why your snake is scared of its food. 

According to research, snakes are wary of humans. Consequently, they can easily get stressed if you’re standing near them while they’re about to eat. They might also feel suspicious about the food that you’re feeding them. 

Certain snake species, like Ball Pythons, are also more susceptible to stress compared to other species. 

You can look out for other signs of stress to rule out this reason. Some of the most common signs include:

  • Hissing 
  • Striking 
  • Heavy breathing 
  • Flinching (when touched)
  • Trying to escape the enclosure 
  • Rattling of the tail 

You can read more about the signs of stress in snakes in this detailed guide

4. Improper Enclosure Conditions

It is possible that your snake isn’t scared of the food, but it has lost its appetite. Consequently, it may try to retract back into its enclosure, making it appear as if it is scared of the food. 

Why is my snake acting hungry but won't eat?

Improper enclosure conditions are one of the main reasons why your snake might lose their appetite. Keep in mind that snakes are cold-blooded in nature. They cannot regulate their body temperature and instead, depend on the temperature and humidity of their surroundings. 

If you get the enclosure conditions wrong, like temperature and humidity, the snake’s body will react almost instantaneously. 

There are some warning signs, apart from the loss of appetite, that indicate improper conditions within the enclosure. 

Enclosure Issue Warning Signs in Snakes
Low Temperature Hypothermia, vomiting, regurgitation, lethargy
High Temperature Snake wrapping itself on water bowl, spending more time near the cooler side, aggression, loss of balance 
Low Humidity  Dehydration, irregular shedding 
High Humidity Scale rot symptoms such as swollen scales, cracked skin, discolored skin near the tail or abdomen

Apart from humidity and temperature, you should take care of the enclosure size too. Snakes may get stressed if they’re kept in extremely confined or open spaces.

We suggest keeping small snakes in 20-gallon tanks, whereas large snakes are better off in 40-gallon tanks.

5. Shedding 

Shedding may cause your snake to lose interest in its food. It may act uninterested in its food which could be mistaken for fear. Now, why is that so? 

When a snake is shedding or is about to shed, it develops a hazy vision due to the secretion of a lubricant. This affects its self-defense abilities – hence, it tries to avoid feeding due to the fear of getting attacked by its prey. 

Some other signs of shedding that you should look out for to rule out this reason include – dull skin, increased aggression, and snake rubbing itself on water bowl, decorations, etc. 

How to Make Your Snake Feel Less Scared of Their Food?

Any concerned pet snake owner won’t want their snake to feel scared of its own food. There are certain ways to prevent this from happening. 

  • Provide frozen prey instead of live prey. Don’t forget to thaw it by keeping it in the refrigerator or keeping it in warm water. Avoid using a microwave for thawing frozen prey. 
  • If you want to introduce your snake to live prey like mice, start with baby mice. The snake might not feel as threatened with baby mice as it does with adult ones.
  • Change the way you feed your snake. Use tweezers or feeding forceps instead of tongs. You can try to simply keep the floor on the bottom too, instead of holding it using tweezers or tongs. Avoid using your hand, as your snake might mistake your hand for food.
  • Check the enclosure conditions. Try to re-adjust temperature and humidity settings as per your snake’s species.
  • If you have purchased a new snake, make it feel comfortable. Give it space when it’s feeding. Try to get out of the room, or close the lights. 
  • If your snake continues to be scared of its food, and experiences loss of appetite, consult a reptile veterinarian immediately. It might have an underlying medical condition. 

Final Thoughts

Most of the time your snake being scared of their food isn’t a huge cause of concern. As discussed in this article, it usually happens when you make a sudden change in its diet. So, try to provide your snake with its usual food, or introduce new food slowly. 

You should also look out for any stress-related, temperature/humidity-related, or shedding-related causes if your snake looks hesitant to eat its food. 

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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