Ball pythons are arguably the most popular pet snake in the United States. These reptiles are calm, do not grow too large, and make low maintenance animal companions. Despite this, many people remain skeptical about the idea of keeping a pet snake.
However, that is not to say that you can be blasé about ball python safety. Like all snakes, these reptiles can and will escape their enclosure if given the opportunity. We will explain everything you need to know about how to care for a ball python safely.
- 1 How Often Do Ball Pythons Bite?
- 2 What Happens if a Ball Python Bites You?
How Often Do Ball Pythons Bite?
A ball python, especially one born and raised in captivity, is usually a well-behaved pet. These snakes are not aggressive, and as members of the constrictor family, they’re not hardwired to bite.
A python in the wild is more likely to constrict prey than strike and bite. This is because the ball python is a nonvenomous breed. A ball python is not incapable of biting, however. These reptiles have teeth – though thankfully, not fangs.
Is a Ball Python’s Bite Poisonous?
No, the ball python cannot pass poison or venom through biting. Their teeth may break the skin, but there will be no need for an antivenin.
A more significant concern is the ball python’s ability to crush and squeeze prey. Pythons are too small to hurt a human, but other pets may be at risk.
Why Would My Ball Python Bite Me?
Ball pythons bite in self-defense when feeling threatened, or to protect their food and territory. It will be a rare occurrence, but your ball python could use its teeth.
Some of the things that may inspire a ball python to bite a human include:
- Surprise and Fear. Let your python learn your scent before you handle them, especially if they are a hatchling. Ball pythons have poor eyesight in the conventional sense. They will not recognize you by sight, but they will come to know you. Until then they will fear you as a potential predator.
- Food Aggression. Ball pythons can sometimes get excited when it’s time to eat. If a ball python is hungry, they may mistake anything in their habitat for prey. This includes your hands – especially if they smell like the food in question. Do not handle your python at feeding time.
- Handling After Eating. Leave your python alone for a few days after their feeding. It can take a ball python up to five days to digest a mouse. They prefer to be left alone during this time.
- Handling During a Period of Skin Sensitivity. A snake’s skin can feel very sensitive when they are shedding. When this time arrives, try to leave your python alone. If you need to drop them into a warm bath to encourage shedding, you should wear thin gloves. Here’s some further information on how a ball python sheds its skin.
- Discomfort. A snake that is uncomfortable and unsettled will become aggressive. Is your snake’s habitat heated to an appropriate temperature? Are they comfortable with their substrate? Are they struggling to shed their skin? Is there too much light or noise in the room? Snakes are very easily stressed and unsettled. You will need to replicate a python’s natural environment, even if they were born in captivity.
- Aggression. Sometimes, ball pythons will bite for no good reason. This could be because they were not sufficiently tamed as hatchlings. Maybe they are in a bad mood or pain. Like all animals, a python may bite from time to time. Thankfully, the impact when they do is minimal.
Overall, however, avoiding a bite from your ball python should be comparatively simple. Just remember that every snake is different, and has their own personality. Learn your pet’s habits and routines, and act accordingly.
Does My Ball Python Bite Me Because They Do Not Like Me?
A ball python will not forge a bond with a human akin to a dog. That does not mean that they will dislike you either, though. The truth is, a snake’s brain is not wired to feel one way or another about a human. The reptile brain is concerned with simple survival, not making friends.
To add to this, remember that your snake is more than likely extremely afraid of you. Snakes in the wild keep themselves to themselves, hiding underground to avoid predators.
Your python doesn’t understand the notion of being a pet. They sense a very large mammal around them and are immediately terrified of being eaten.
Your ball python may eventually come to recognize your scent. This doesn’t mean that they love you, but they’ll stop fearing you. If your snake considers you to be a provider of food, so much the better.
Don’t panic if your python spends hours in their hiding box, or burrowing in the substrate. A snake hidden from view is typically a safe, content and happy snake.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can take your eye off your ball python. An escaped snake can be dangerous to pets and potentially scare your neighbors. Treat these reptiles with care and respect to ensure that you share a positive relationship.
What Happens if a Ball Python Bites You?
If the event of being attacked by a ball python, bite care is relatively routine. There is no need to panic and rush to the emergency room. However, a tetanus shot may be advisable if it has been ten years since your last. Your doctor can arrange this – again, there is no need to rush to the ER.
Never yank a snake backward when they bite. Snake’s teeth are backward in their jaws, and you could do more damage this way. You will essentially be dragging sharp teeth across your skin. This is the only way you are likely to sustain injury.
If a python bites and seems reluctant to let go, you should gently open their mouth. You can use something to leverage this. Once you are free, return your python to their habitat and clean yourself up. Don’t hold a grudge against your python. They do not know any better.
When a ball python bites, it may hurt a little. It depends on how hard they sink their teeth in. A hatchling ball python will have little impact – certainly less than a puppy or kitten. An adult ball python may puncture the skin, and cause minor bleeding.
If they do, wash the puncture wound with cotton buds. It may also be worth applying an anti-bacterial solution, in case the snake’s mouth was unclean.
The risk of long-term injury is virtually nil. In most cases, you won’t even need a Band-Aid. You’re more likely to feel surprised and indignant than pained when bitten by a ball python.
What Happens if a Ball Python Bites a Child?
Even children will not suffer from the bite of a ball python. Just be particularly vigilant about ensuring that the child in question has a tetanus shot. Also, ensure that your child does not experience a reaction to bacteria in the snake’s mouth.
Overall though, children are no greater risk than adults. Being nipped by a kitten or bitten by a hamster provides training for the sensation.
Would Two Ball Pythons in the Same Tank Attack Each Other?
Ball pythons aren’t pack animals. They are primarily solitary and prefer to keep their own company. Two ball pythons may be able to live in harmony, but it will not be their preference. You will be placing both snakes under stress, which increases the chances of confrontation and aggression.
Would a Ball Python Bite Another Domestic Pet?
Just like ball pythons fear humans, seeing us as potential predators, they’re terrified of other pets. Cats, in particular, are natural enemies of snakes. If your ball python escapes their enclosure, a cat is likely to hunt them down.
If this should happen, a ball python may bite in self-defense. This will solely be to buy time for an escape, however. In a straight fight between a python and a housecat, the snake will almost always lose. Both animals are aware of this and behave accordingly.
Dogs and cats are less likely to interact, but it’s still possible. Dogs are not quite the apex predators that cats are, but they can be curious. If they catch a snake’s scent, they will want to investigate.
Some may even try to make friends. A canine is likely to be bitten for this, so you should keep the animals apart. Remember, any aggression from either animal is borne of fear.
If you have young pets, such as a puppy or kitten, they will be more at risk from a ball python. There is every chance that the snake will still be afraid of these animals.
However, they may attack by wrapping their bodies around the pet and cutting off their blood flow. This is how pythons subdue prey in the wild.
A hungry python may take a chance on a kitten and consider them a snack. It’s rare, but it does happen. To this end, always ensure that your ball python is very firmly secure in their vivarium. All snakes are escape artists, and this may end badly for the python or other pets.
What Happens if a Ball Python Bites a Domestic Pet?
In theory, a python biting a cat or dog will cause a yelp of pain. As no venom is transferred, the worst that should happen is the mammal limping. The ball python is almost certain to come off worse. This is especially likely if they attack a cat. If your pet is acting strangely, you should see a vet. They may be having an allergic reaction, or the python may have bacteria in their mouth. Similarly, your pet may be in shock after the attack.
Smaller domestic pets will be at higher risk. Rodents such as hamsters are just as capable of escaping their enclosures as ball pythons. Should these two pets meet, it’s likely that the hamster will become a snack. Pet mice and rats are also at risk. The same could also be said for small birds, whether they are pets or wild. Even if your ball python is not interested in eating, they may bite in self-defense. This could leave a small animal in shock, which is often fatal.
If you keep other lizards or smaller snakes as pets, they could also become prey. Remember, these ball pythons are docile and will rarely instigate the confrontation. However, they are still reptiles and act on instinct as a result. If a ball python has escaped their enclosure and has not eaten, they may attack. This is why it is vital to prevent your snake from escaping their vivarium.
Ball pythons are popular pets with snake enthusiasts for a good reason. They are docile – if not friendly – and pose a limited danger to children, pets or adults. However, they are still snakes. Just because their bite is not deadly, it does not make them completely harmless. Also, think about the snake in all this. If they attack somebody or something, it’s because they are afraid. Nobody wants their pet to feel uncomfortable.
Any novice snake enthusiast that is looking their first pet, however, should consider a ball python. This breed is undeniably calm, and will not make waves in a home. It’s quite a commitment, as captive ball pythons can live up to thirty years. Anybody ready for this, however, will find the ball python to be a docile and passive pet. Alongside garter snakes and corn snakes, they are the least dangerous snakes that are commercially available.