Most people little understand the toilet habits of snakes. The organ that allows a snake to poo and wee has several purposes, and ss concealed away.
All snakes have a cloaca. This controls poop, pee, mating, and laying eggs. Snakes create a mix of both poop and pee at the same time. Snakes can hold onto their food for a year without going to the toilet.
A snake’s digestion is determined by how much it eats and how often it has meals. The more snakes eat, the more often they need to go to the toilet. But because of their diet and the way they digest food, there are some unexpected surprises when a snake goes to the bathroom.
How Do Snakes Poop? The Q&A
Snakes have most of the same apparatus that humans do for digestion:
- Snakes have a mouth to eat, although they dislocate their jaw and swallow their prey without chewing it.
- Snakes have an esophagus to swallow food, alongside a windpipe for breathing.
- Snakes have a stomach to digest food using acid. Their stomach acid isn’t much stronger than humans. They digest their food for longer.
- Snakes have a smaller and lower intestine to strip any nutrients from the food.
And when it’s time to go to the bathroom, snakes experience similar muscle contractions to humans. This moves the digested food along the digestive tract, and out of their system.
Where Does Snake Poop Come Out?
Snakes poop using a special part of their body called the cloaca. This all-in-one part of their body that enables them to poop, pee, mate, and lay eggs.
The cloaca is a small flap towards the tail end of the snake. Inside, it’s divided into three sections. Starting from closest to the head, the three sections of the cloaca are as follows:
|Coprodeum:||This is the part that collects poop from the digestive system. This is the largest part.|
|Urodeum:||This collects pee from the kidneys. This part (and the third part of the cloaca) are separated from the coprodeum by a strong muscle. This muscle stops any contamination, e.g., during mating. The urodeum is the smallest part of the cloaca.|
|Proctodeum:||This is a little bigger than the urodeum. Here, poop and pee come together before they’re excreted.|
All snakes also have a vent, which is the final part of the cloaca, which everything comes out of. Male and female snakes also have slightly different structures in the urodeum.
In males, this part connects to the testes. In females, it connects to her egg ducts. The snake uses the cloaca in much the same that humans poop, by using muscle contractions to push out anything it didn’t want to digest.
How Often Do Snakes Poop?
Snakes don’t go to the toilet as often as humans. In fact, they probably poop the least of any creature in the animal kingdom.
A paper written by three snake biologists took a look at why vipers, in particular, pooped so infrequently. They placed their findings in the context of how quickly other animals digest food.
The smaller the animal, the shorter the amount of time it takes them to digest. Birds, for example, digest their food in as little as one hour.
Bigger animals, especially ones that eat grass and leaves, tend to take longer. But what interested them was the fact that different snake species have the largest variation in digestion times. Their study found that:
- Captive blood pythons could hold onto digested food for over 1 year
- Green tree pythons only held on for 7 days
- Gaboon vipers took 420 days
This study looked at captive snakes which were fed on a regular schedule, so those snakes were holding onto all of that food, for all of that time.
Snakes can hold on to an enormous amount of mass before going to the toilet. They can feed many times before getting rid of it all in one go.
How Long After Eating Do Snakes Poop?
The study (above) seems to suggest that some snakes poop at regular intervals, regardless of whether they’re eating or not. But pet owners might suggest otherwise.
Colubrids (like corn snakes) generally didn’t take so long, which is backed up by snake owners whose pets usually take between two days and a week, depending on the frequency of feeding.
It’s all because of their rich biological history. Snakes eat less frequently than humans, so they poop less regularly. It’s an evolutionary advantage because it allows them to hold onto food for longer, and get every ‘calorie’ out of what they eat when food sources are scarce.
This means that they don’t have to expend as much energy hunting for food when they could be doing something else more useful, like mating.
What Color Is Snake Poop?
Snake poop contains pee. So, it looks slightly different from the kind of poop that humans produce. Snakes release urate, which is like solid urine.
It’s white and almost looks like toothpaste, having the same consistency. Snakes produce urates because it means they lose less water and won’t have to drink as much. This can be a significant advantage in the wild.
Snake poop is brown, long, smooth and soft. It’s quite large considering the size of the snake, which is something you can also say of their eggs.
The way that snake poop looks can vary. Sometimes it looks as we’ve described, and other times it looks almost exactly like bird poo.
Snake poo often has hairs in it, since snakes (and almost all animals) find hair impossible to digest. It may also contain certain other indigestible things like claws and teeth, although most snakes can digest the bones of their prey. However, the color will be regular brown with the occasional bit of chalky white urate mixed in.
Does Snake Poop Smell?
Runny stools smell far more than solid ones, but even so, you’ll be able to smell when they go to the toilet. It smells like normal poop and pee, although the smell does depend on your snake.
It smells worse if you don’t clean out your snake’s vivarium properly. If you use paper as bedding, this doesn’t hold onto the smell. If you use shavings, these do hold on to the smell to an extent before you clean it out.
The same applies if you have a ventilator, which can cause the unintended side effect of spreading the smell around the room.
Do Snakes Poop Bones?
Snakes’ digestive systems are powerful enough to digest bones, although there are still some things they can’t break down, like feathers and claws.
Snakes use hydrochloric acid to digest their food, starting in the stomach. Humans hydrochloric acid at around the same pH. The main difference is that humans digest foods more quickly, whereas snakes take their time.
After a few days, all that’s typically left of the whole prey that a snake eats is some matted fur, feathers, claws. or chitin (the material that makes up insect exoskeletons.)
At this point, the snake has two choices. It can either pass the undigested remains along with the rest of its poop or it can regurgitate it.
Snakes can digest bones easily, regardless of whether they’re small corn snakes that eat mice or boa constrictors that eat very large prey.
Does Snake Poop Deter Rats and Mice?
The idea is that mice and rats can smell the odor of snakes from their poop, and will know to avoid the area to avoid getting eaten.
Mammals, reptiles, and other animals have a ‘vomeronasal organ,’ which is part of the general olfactory system. It helps animals to identify smells.
But in some animals, it’s useful for identifying certain chemicals and pheromones that can help an animal survive in the wild. Male snakes use the vomeronasal organ to pick up on the pheromone trails of female snakes.
Rats and mice have a vomeronasal organ. A study in Chemical Senses found that CD-1 mice (a specific kind of mice used for scientific tests) responded to six sulfur-containing compounds that are secreted by mammalian predators. Another kind of mice responded to snake odors. The response of the mice was to avoid the area where they found the scent.
Another paper in Physiology & Behavior looked more specifically at the way mice responded to the smell of reptiles and snakes. Their study found that mice began to sniff and dig more frequently, which is behavior associated with fear. However, they found that a common response to the smell of other predators like owls—a reduction in pain sensitivity—wasn’t found with snakes.
Snake poop can deter rats and mice, but not as much as the poop of other predators. This is probably because snakes don’t pose as much a threat to the general mouse population as owls or carnivores, like cats.
What If My Snake Won’t Poop?
Snakes will go to the toilet around 2-3 days at a minimum after you feed them. Up until that point—up until a week, really—it’s best to let your snake do what it does best. Your snake will know when it needs to poop.
However, there are problems that might stop it from being able to poop or pee. These can either make it take longer or prevent it from being able to comfortably poop or pee at all.
Constipation in Snakes
Constipation in snakes is possible. The usual cause of constipation is that your snake isn’t getting enough water.
This often occurs when you feed your snake thawed frozen food. That’s because there is less water content in thawed food than in fresh food.
The majority of snakes, both in captivity and the wild, get their water from food rather than drinking. This leads to the content of their digestive tract getting drier, and this makes excretion more challenging.
Another factor is when the temperature is too low. This has a knock-on effect in that the snake tries to conserve body heat by keeping it in their core, around their organs and digestive system.
Again, this causes the contents of their digestive tract to lose excess water. Low humidity in their environment has the same effect.
The problem is that snakes don’t know this is happening. They’ll carry on eating which will only make the problem worse. If they keep eating, but not pooping, then they’ll become too full and can’t eat anymore.
Increase Humidity in Their Tank
You should have a monitor in the tank that tells you the humidity. Different species require different levels of humidity.
Corn snakes like between 40 and 50%, for example. Ball pythons prefer between 45 and 55%. Check what humidity your snake needs, and raise it (or lower it) to suit your snake’s requirements.
Give Your Snake a Bath
You can increase the amount of water your snake absorbs by bathing it. However, don’t just put your snake in a bowl. Follow these guidelines:
- Use water that’s the same temperature as its tank. If your snake likes its tank to be 80 degrees, make the water the same temperature.
- Don’t use any soap or shampoo. Your snake doesn’t need anything other than water for its bath.
- Use filtered or spring water to prevent potential contamination. Snakes can get parasites.
- Some snakes don’t like bathing, so don’t force them to if they seem agitated by the idea.
- If your snake is happy bathing, let it swim for 15 minutes. Don’t worry if it sits underwater. Snakes can hold their breath for 2-3 minutes.
- Make sure that the water is high enough for your snake to submerge itself, but not so high that it has to stretch its neck to get above the water level to breathe. For example, if your snake is two inches tall, make the water four inches tall.
Leaving it to bathe for 15 minutes will help it to absorb water. The warmth of the water can also soften the stool in its gut and make it easier to pass. That’s why many snakes like to pass their stools in water—you’ll often find their poop in their water bowl.
More Time Spent Handling
Something else that encourages snakes to poop is handling. The more time you spend handling your snake, the more likely it is to go to the toilet.
As you physically hold your snake, you put a little pressure on its stomach and gut. This helps it to digest food because it can move the digestive content up along the gut, and it also makes the stool softer.
Not only that, but the warmth of your hands helps. The heat softens the stool inside it, just like it does if it’s in a warm bath.
Consult a Snake-Savvy Veterinarian
A vet can administer a mixture of milk of magnesia and mineral oil to soften the stool and make it easier for them to pass. This can either be administered as an enema or oral laxative. The enema works faster.
If the snake is uncomfortable with either of these methods, it’s possible to coat prey in mineral oil and feed it that instead. If your snake prefers this method, then the results will take about a week to show.