Members of the Pythonidae family have a reputation for being deadly wild snakes. So, people who are considering getting a ball python (python regius) may wonder if their life is going to be put in danger from a ‘lethal’ ball python bite. Well, ball pythons aren’t venomous (poisonous), so they present no risk of envenomation or harm to a healthy person.
Ball pythons kill their prey through constriction, not venom. A ball python’s squeeze isn’t strong enough to kill an adult, but precautions should be taken around small children and pets. A non-venomous bite from a ball python needs to be sterilized to prevent infection.
We’ll explore the various risks associated with owning a ball python. We’ll start by looking at how ball pythons kill their prey without producing venom, and whether this process presents a risk of harm to humans. If your ball python acts aggressively, there will be a reason for this behavior.
Table of Contents:
Do Ball Pythons Have Venomous Bites?
Ball pythons are not venom-producing snakes. The only venomous snakes in America are rattlesnakes, coral snakes, water moccasins, and copperheads. Obviously, none of these snakes should be kept as pets.
Snakes, when they feel threatened, will naturally become defensive. They will hiss loudly and rear up in readiness to strike a predator. As you might expect, some species of snakes are more aggressive than others.
When scared, ball pythons will curl up into a tight ball to protect themselves. They hide inside their protective coils. Ball pythons still have the instincts of wild animals. If you mistreat your ball python consistently, then it will bite you as an act of self-defense. Conversely, if you treat it well, it will learn that you’re not a threat in any way.
How Do Ball Pythons Kill Their Prey?
Ball pythons are constrictor snakes. This means that they squeeze their prey to death rather than trying to kill it with toxic venom. Constriction in ball pythons works in the following way:
- The ball python will strike out at its prey, grabbing hold of it and not releasing its grip.
- The snake will then quickly coil itself around its prey using its tail end.
- At this point, the snake will start to squeeze.
- As the snake increases the pressure, the prey’s heart can’t pump blood to its extremities. As the coils get tighter, the pressure becomes so much that the heart can’t pump blood at all.
- At this point, because the prey can’t get any blood to its brain, it loses consciousness. The snake will then eat their prey.
The only exception is when a ball python tries to eat another ectotherm—an animal that relies on external heat rather than internal heat. There are cases of a ball python trying to kill an iguana, constricting it for an hour before giving up.
But as a small mammal, you’ve only got a matter of seconds to live once the snake starts coiling around you. Fortunately, ball pythons are nowhere near large enough to constrict and kill humans.
Are Ball Pythons Dangerous to Small Dogs?
There’s no way that a ball python, even a large one, could kill a dog. If you’ve heard horror stories about pythons eating pets, there’s a good reason for that. Some species of pythons are big enough to do so.
There was an example reported in the Daily Telegraph of a scrub python eating a chihuahua. The snake also ate a cat and a pet guinea pig. But this scrub python was 17 feet long, whereas ball pythons only reach 3 to 5 feet. Ball pythons are relatively small pet snakes.
There’s no way that a ball python is big enough to kill a small dog. Just keep your snake in its enclosure and both pets in different rooms.
Are Ball Pythons Dangerous to Cats?
Cats have an in-built, anti-snake reaction. Snakes don’t like cats sneaking up on them, and cats dislike snakes appearing from nowhere. These two types of animals instinctively distrust each other, and with good reason.
Snakes can bite cats, and cats are able to defend themselves with their teeth and sharp claws. Don’t keep cats and snakes together in the same room, especially unsupervised, as there is a significant risk of injury.
Can Ball Pythons Kill Humans?
Ball pythons lack the size, strength, and venom to kill humans. Let’s take a look at each of the ways that a ball python could ‘potentially’ harm you:
Ball pythons aren’t venomous. So, in terms of getting bitten, you can’t be envenomated. You won’t need to go to a hospital for antivenom.
If your snake was to bite you, it won’t hurt much more than a nip from a cat. Wash and sterilize the wound to avoid getting a bacterial infection.
If you’re worried about getting constricted, this isn’t going to happen either. A ball python won’t consider you to be a food as you’re too big.
The biggest food that you can feed a ball python is a medium-sized rat. A snake can eat something that’s one and a half times the size of its head.
Even with young children, a ball python won’t be able to hurt them. Unless the snake is fully grown—and a particularly large specimen—it won’t be big enough to harm an infant.
However, you should err on the side of caution and never leave babies or very young children in the company of snakes.
Reptiles, including ball pythons, can have salmonella on their skin. According to Animal Planet, 92% of snakes carry one of 500 serotypes.
This is a bacterial disease that causes damage to the intestinal tract. Salmonella causes can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, fever, and headaches. Always wash your hands before and after handling snakes.
Ball pythons don’t have a venomous bite, so they are unable to inject venom into your bloodstream. They aren’t large constrictor snakes, so they lack the bodily proportions to kill or hurt humans. Here’s our complete guide to caring for ball pythons as pets.