Snakes are carnivores. They eat meat only. They are also predators. They eat other animals. However, they do not spend all their time slithering around in the wild searching for mice to eat. Some days they just sunbathe all day. While some snakes do eat mice or rats only, there are also species that eat various other animals. It’s essential to know exactly what type of food animals your pet snake would eat before buying one. There are simply different snacks for different snakes.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SNAKES EAT DIFFERENT THINGS
There is no universal diet for snakes. Many species of snake eat many different things. Some snakes have special dietary needs and eat exclusively one type of prey, like the egg-eating snake. The egg-eating snake only eats animal eggs. They have a special spur on the inside of one of their vertebrae that breaks the egg after they swallow it whole. They crush all the yolk and egg contents and spit out an empty eggshell. Don’t expect them to help with Easter egg preparation however; snakes are moody and unreliable as assistants for decorating except on Halloween.
Some snakes eat fish, worms, termites, birds and bats while other snakes, like the king cobra, will even eat other snakes. Some adaptive snakes are truly opportunistic eaters and are prey generalists. The Eastern Indigo snake eats anything they can catch and fit into their mouths. They will eat rattlesnakes, young tortoises, frogs, rodents, cats, puppies, chickens and other birds. The generalist snake eats just about whatever they can strike at and take down.
Every species has a different diet. Their diet cannot have plant material. As carnivores, their teeth are not designed for plant consumption nor does it provide them with nutrients. Most pet snakes eat varying sizes of rodents that are easy to find at pet supply stores and online sources. It’s completely normal for a snake to skip a meal here and there and if a snake is one that enters brumation, a state of dormancy for several weeks or months in the colder part of the year, it will skip meals for a longer period. If your snake that is not in brumation ignores a meal for 4 full weeks, it is suggested to check the snake to an exotic pet veterinarian for a checkup. The average snake eats every five to 14 days.
WHAT TO FEED A SNAKE?
Since a snake’s diet can vary so widely, it’s important to do some research before buying one yourself. In captivity, the common guideline is to feed your snake humanely killed prey that has been frozen. Freezing prey kills bacteria and frozen rodents are clean and nutritious food. The previously frozen prey item should then be thawed and warmed for the snake. There are many feeding guides available.
There are several reasons to make sure your pet snake will eat frozen food. Some feel it is cruel to feed your snake live prey. Sometimes the prey often goes through more pain than is needed to give the snake nourishment and people of sensitive temperament who insist on having a snake as a pet will prefer the more humanely killed prey and not see the struggle of the hunt and struggle of a live animal being eaten.
Some snakes won’t eat pre-killed food, so make sure your potential pet snake has already been on a diet of pre-killed, frozen-then-thawed food before bringing it home. There are some exceptions to this rule. Young snakes that eat the baby stages of mice rarely will eat them unless they are moving; so for them, live prey is acceptable. Sometimes a snake will not eat a warmed thawed mouse after brumation and live prey must be switched to get a snake back into activity and eating when it wakes and is looking for prey.
Live prey can sometimes fight back against the predatory snake and can harm it. A rodent can bite the snake while the snake is attempting to kill it. The snake usually wins this contest of wills however it can be injured and require medical care. The risk of contaminated live prey from a specialty pet store is low but it is still possible to get a sick rodent that can in turn make your snake unwell. Frozen food also tends to be cheaper. You can always buy a rat 12 pack and keep it beside the ice bag and the frozen peas.
WILL MY SNAKE EAT?
Knowing the diet of the specific species of snake you’re buying is required. It’s best to give it several types of food, like live crickets, fish and small mammals like mice and rats if it’s a generalist and opportunistic feeder, and all of these should be readily available at your local pet store. If the species you’re looking to buy is a specialist and only eats one type of food you must ensure you always have your snakes chosen special food on hand or in freezer. When hungry, it will eat, if it’s a healthy snake.