You need to know how to feed and care for a rat snake. Colubrid snakes are good pets, and we’re going to show you how to look after one properly. Before we get into the how-to’s of snake care, let’s learn the facts about rat snakes and better understand their suitability as pets.
Rat snakes are non-venomous Colubrids that kill their prey by constriction. There are over 50 species, including the corn snake. Rat snakes are easy to care for and have a mild temperament. Most species of rat snake grow to 5 feet long, making them good pet snakes.
In this guide, you’re going to learn about rat snakes, from their appearance and temperament to their suitability as pets. We’ll look into caring for rat snakes, including feeding and housing.
- 1 A Complete Rat Snake Pet Care Guide
- 2 How to Set Up a Rat Snake Vivarium
- 3 Heating and Humidity
- 4 The Substrate (Bedding)
- 5 Vivarium Accessories
- 6 Maintenance
- 7 Rat Snake Feeding Guide
- 8 Rat Snake Interesting Facts
- 9 Should I Get a Pet Rat Snake?
A Complete Rat Snake Pet Care Guide
Rat snakes are Colubrids. They are part of the family Colubridae, which is the largest family of snakes. It contains, according to The Reptile Database, almost two thousand species of snake.
Rat snakes span across various genera in the Colubrinae subfamily. They can be found in the wild across most of the Northern Hemisphere.
Rather than injecting their prey with venom, rat snakes are constrictors. They move incredibly quickly, strike and grab their prey with their teeth, and then squeeze it to death. Their hunting technique is similar to that of boa constrictors.
As their name suggests, rat snakes feed primarily on rats, though they can eat other small animals too. Younger rat snakes typically go for mice and voles, as they’re smaller.
As far as size goes, rat snakes tend to be medium to large. Some species can reach 8 feet long, but the species kept commonly as pets are on the small side.
Old World vs. New World Rat Snakes
- Old World species are mostly found in Asia and aren’t as popular as pets.
- New World species are common in the wild throughout the Americas. Though almost all species of rat snake are nonvenomous, not all of them do well in captivity.
Many species of New World rat snake can be tamed and are quite docile in temperament. The Old World snakes, by comparison, are much less placid and tend to be much more aggressive.
Rat Snake Species
Although there are over 50 species of rat snake, some are more popularly kept as pets than others. We can’t list every type of pet rat snake here, as there are so many. Many species even contains several subspecies, all of which are slightly different.
The most popular rat snakes which are often kept as pets include:
|Rat Snake Species||Interesting Facts and Species Information|
|Corn Snakes:||They belong to the genus Pantherophis, which contains several species of rat snake. They are rarely referred to as “red rat snakes.” They come in many color morphs, but “normal” corn snakes are orange and red with black lines.|
|Black Rat Snakes:||These can also be found in the wild throughout most of North America. The nickname “black rat snake” can refer to both Eastern and Western varieties, which are quite similar. Juveniles are brown and patterned, while adults are solid black, with white lower jaws.|
|Gray Rat Snakes:||They are typically light gray in color, with darker grey blotches along their bodies. Gray rat snakes that originate in the north of America are typically much darker as adults than those from the south.|
|Texas Rat Snakes:||These originate from Texas. However, they can also be found in the wild in Oklahoma and Louisiana. They are typically tan in color, with brown markings.|
|Everglades Rat Snakes:||These are native to the Florida Everglades. They’re bright yellowish-orange in color and are quite striking to look at. They may be a subspecies or color variation of the black rat snake – herpetologists are not agreed on the matter.|
Rat Snakes vs. Corn Snakes as Pets
Many people wonder whether they should get a rat snake or a corn snake, and what the difference is. Well, as you know by now, corn snakes are a type of rat snake.
They don’t differ much in terms of care. Most rat snakes have roughly the same requirements in terms of food, temperature, and humidity.
In terms of their suitability as pets, each species of rat snake is about the same. Captive-bred corn snakes and rat snakes from competent breeders should all be docile enough to handle.
Find a decent rat snake breeder and speak to them about your preferences – they’ll be able to guide you on which would be best for you.
The only thing we’d advise you not to do is “adopt” a rat snake from the wild. While it is legal in some snakes to capture and keep wild rat snakes, it’s not a good idea.
Wild rat snakes could be carrying parasites such as mites, and of course, they won’t be tamed. You’ll end up stressing the snake out, and may get bitten in the process.
Rat Snake Morphs
So, let’s get into the interesting part – rat snake morphs. “Morphs,” if you didn’t know, is a term popular in the snake-owning community meaning “color varieties.”
Morphs come about from natural mutations, such as albinism. Breeders take these mutations and selectively breed them into their snakes, to come up with new colors and patterns.
Different species are available in different morphs. Out of the most popular species, corn snakes have the most extensive variety of morphs.
Let’s have a look at some of the most popular corn snake morphs:
|Corn Snake Morph Types||Color Information and Markings|
|Anerythristic (“anery”):||Corn snakes lack red pigmentation in their skin. This results in them appearing almost greyscale in color. They’re typically grey with black saddles, and occasionally some yellow.|
|Caramel:||These are a caramel color rather than the normal orange-red. They’re typically pale golden-yellow with dark caramel-brown saddles.|
|Albino:||Corn snakes lack the pigment melanin. They are typically whitish to pale yellow with bright red markings.|
|Blood Red:||They are a very vibrant, deep blood color. Some of them have darker red markings, whereas others are one solid color.|
|Lavender:||They are a beautiful pale greyish-purple color. Some specimens are more on the grey side, whereas others are brighter. Hatchlings can have some brown markings, but they tend to dissipate by adulthood.|
|Abbott’s Okeetee:||These are similar in color to “normal” corn snakes: orange with red patches. The difference is that okeetees have characteristic thick, black borders around their markings.|
Of course, the above morphs are a small selection of the available corn snake morphs. There are hundreds available, including combinations.
The other species of rat snake, such as the Texas rat snake, are available in limited morphs. For example, almost all breeds of pet snake come in an albino variety.
Be aware, though, that morphs of snake often cost a lot more than the “normal” varieties of rat snake. While they’re pretty, their distinct features come at a price.
Are Rat Snakes Dangerous to Humans?
For the most part, no, rat snakes pose no threat to humans. They’re non-venomous. Even if a rat snake bit you, you wouldn’t feel any ill effects from the bite. They possess no venom to cause illness.
And, besides, rat snakes are typically very tame. If you met a rat snake in the wild, such as a black rat snake, they might act aggressively. However, rat snakes bred in captivity and handled frequently are not usually aggressive at all. Corn snakes and the like are quite curious about humans and are generally very docile. You’d be able to handle a pet rat snake with no ill effects.
Though they constrict their prey, you’ve no danger of a rat snake trying to squeeze you to death. Most species of rat snake stay relatively small, reaching around 5 feet at their maximum. For this reason, a rat snake would never see you as a potential meal – you’re too big!
The only danger that rat snakes pose to humans is salmonella. This is a type of bacteria that can cause illness in humans. It’s commonly known for being present in raw chicken and eggs, but it’s also present on the bodies of most snakes. This is why it’s essential to wash and disinfect your hands before and after touching any snake.
Are Rat Snakes Good Pets?
Overall, we’d say rat snakes do make excellent pets. This is for three main reasons:
- Temperament: The rat snake temperament is exceptionally conducive to being kept in captivity. They’re not aggressive, and won’t strike or bite you unless you are irritating or frightening them. All of the popular rat snake species are friendly and tolerate handling well.
- Ease of Care: They’re relatively easy to care for as long as you know what you’re doing. They don’t require as high temperatures or humidity levels as some other popular snakes, such as boa constrictors. They generally take food well.
- Size: Unlike other popular snakes, rat snakes never grow particularly large. They can reach 5-6 feet in length at their longest, which is a good, manageable size for a pet snake. Their bodies never get unusually thick or heavy, making them easy to handle.
How to Set Up a Rat Snake Vivarium
Now that you are familiar with the basics of rat snakes let’s get into the care guide. To start with, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about rat snake vivariums (habitats). While rat snakes are quite easy to care for, they do require specific conditions in which to live.
Types of Enclosure
There are various options when it comes to snake enclosures. You can use a plastic box, a glass tank, or a wooden vivarium. Let’s have a look at each option individually:
- Glass tanks are the most visually appealing. They tend to be quite expensive and are of course very heavy. They don’t work well for species that require tropical conditions, like boa constrictors, because heat escapes relatively easily. However, they can work well for rat snakes. Make sure to continually keep a check on temperature and humidity, as it’ll be more difficult to maintain. Don’t use an aquarium designed for fish, as these won’t offer enough ventilation.
- Plastic boxes are available in various sizes so that you can size up as your snake grows. They’re by far the most budget-friendly option and contain heat and humidity very well. However, some people aren’t fond of the way that they look. If you want a “pretty” looking display vivarium, plastic isn’t the best choice.
- Wooden enclosures generally offer the best of both worlds. A wooden vivarium usually has glass sliding doors and looks very stylish, without the drawbacks of glass. They contain heat and humidity well. However, wooden vivariums tend to be the most difficult to clean. If it’s not sealed correctly, water absorption and rot can become an issue.
Security should be your primary consideration when choosing a tank or enclosure. Rat snakes are fast, excellent climbers, and can squeeze themselves through tiny gaps.
Some herpers refer to rat snakes as “escape artists.” If there is any way for them to escape from their vivarium, they’ll figure it out. Bear this in mind when choosing a habitat.
If you’re buying a rat snake hatchling (baby), try not to overwhelm them with a colossal enclosure right off the bat. Baby rat snakes (like most snakes) tend to feel stressed in large, open vivariums. In the wild, they’d naturally live in small, enclosed spaces to avoid being spotted by predators.
The general rule that you should follow is that your snake should have enough room in its enclosure to stretch out fully, but not much more. Baby rat snakes are quite happy living in small plastic tubs about a foot long. You’ll need to increase the size of your rat snake’s enclosure as they grow.
Most species of rat snake tend to reach a length of around 5 to 6 feet. For an adult, a vivarium between 4-6 feet long is usually about right. Just make sure always to provide a small, secluded hide somewhere in the vivarium.
Heating and Humidity
They are one of the least demanding when it comes to heat and humidity. However, they do still require their vivariums to be reasonably warm. A rat snake kept in a cold or dry enclosure could become seriously ill or even die. To heat your rat snake’s vivarium, you have a few options:
- Heat lamps
- Ceramic heat bulbs (which don’t emit light)
- Heat tape
- Radiant heat panels
Whichever option you select, make sure your snake can’t come into contact with it. This goes particularly for heat lamps and ceramic bulbs.
You should acquire a thermometer to monitor the temperature carefully. A thermostat, which can regulate the temperature, is also a great idea.
You may have also seen heat mats advertised. While these do provide belly-warmth, they can’t maintain the overall temperature of the enclosure. Therefore, they must be used in combination with one of the above methods.
Your rat snake’s vivarium should have a cooler end and a warmer end so that your snake can regulate its body temperature better. The warm end should be roughly 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the cool end, your normal room temperature should be ok (as long as you don’t keep a particularly cool home). Aim for the mid-to-low 70s, as a guide.
With regards to humidity, rat snakes are not particularly demanding. Unlike boa constrictors and the like, most rat snakes are fine with humidity levels around 40-50%.
This should be easily achievable just by placing a water bowl in your snake’s habitat. When your rat snake is showing signs of shedding, increase the humidity to 60-70%. You can do this by misting the enclosure, or adding a humidity box.
The Substrate (Bedding)
Every snake owner has a preferred substrate that they like to use with their snakes. Here are some of our recommendations for rat snakes:
- Newspaper is the cheapest and most basic option for rat snake substrate. However, rat snakes like to burrow, so you may find that they get underneath the newspaper. It’s also necessary to replace the entire substrate when your snake makes a mess.
- Aspen shavings and beech chips are relatively cheap and attractive. This type of substrate allows for airflow and doesn’t hold too much humidity. It also allows for rat snakes to burrow. However, pieces of wood can get into your snake’s mouth during feeding. So, if using these substrates, feed your snake outside of the enclosure.
- Cypress mulch and coconut fiber look attractive and allow for burrowing. They are more expensive, however. Also, they hold more water, so make sure to monitor your enclosure’s humidity levels.
Be sure not to use anything too fine, such as sand or soil. This is because this is easily ingested and can cause impactions. Also, steer clear of oily and odorous woods, such as cedar and pine.
The most fun part of setting up a vivarium is choosing all of the accessories to go inside. The main things that you must provide for rat snakes are:
|Vivarium Accessories||Description and Purpose|
|Hide:||Your snake needs somewhere enclosed to hide away. This could be a cardboard or plastic box, or upturned plant pot with a hole cut out. Purpose-made snake hides are also available. For aesthetic purposes, some snake owners prefer to use (real or artificial) hollowed-out logs. However, these are difficult to clean, so be cautious.|
|Water Bowl:||Rat snakes love the water (and of course need to drink). Choose a water bowl which is easy to clean and provides enough space for bathing.|
|Shelves & Climbing Apparatus:||Rat snakes are semi-arboreal and do enjoy climbing. You could use tree branches for a more natural appearance.|
|Artificial Plants:||Real plants pose a slight risk as their soil harbors bacteria.|
|Backdrop:||Artificial stone walls are popular, though you can also buy landscape posters.|
|A Light:||Rat snakes don’t strictly need any lighting in their enclosures. However, it is nice to be able to see your snake more clearly. If you do choose to add a light, make sure your snake can’t touch it as they could experience burns. Monitor your vivarium’s temperature closely so that it doesn’t get too hot. Finally, switch the light off at night, so that it doesn’t disrupt your snake’s circadian rhythm.|
Snakes might seem like very clean and sanitary creatures, but they create a fair bit of mess. Rat snakes pass both urine and feces regularly. When this happens, you’ll need to spot-clean the area, removing all substrate that has been urinated or defecated on.
Clean the water bowl every day. Water can harbor bacteria and other microorganisms, which could make your snake sick. Once a day, clean the water bowl out using a toothbrush and a solution of 25% vinegar. Then, rinse it thoroughly and top it up with fresh water (ideally filtered or bottled).
You should also periodically clean the vivarium thoroughly, while your snake stays in a separate container. Do this at least once a month, preferably twice. Most snake owners prefer to use chlorhexidine-based cleaners.
Make sure to clean all surfaces inside the tank, all hides, and accessories, and completely replace the substrate.
Rat Snake Feeding Guide
Now that your rat snake has a home, you’ve got to think about feeding them. Let’s go over rat snakes’ typical diet, how to feed them, and how often. We’ll also touch upon whether rat snakes eat other snakes (like venomous copperheads) in the wild.
What Do Rat Snakes Eat?
If you went purely by the name “rat snake,” you’d probably believe that their diet consists entirely of rats. However, that’s not entirely true. Though rats do make up a large portion of a rat snake’s diet in the wild, they can eat other animals, too.
A wild rat snake may feast upon mice, voles, reptiles, or even birds. A 2010 study in Ecological Applications found wild black rat snakes to be voracious predators of songbird nests.
Stick to feeding them mice and rats. Rodents will provide everything your rat snake needs nutritionally. As a bonus, they’re easy to get hold of. Rat snakes usually have no problem whatsoever accepting mice and rats as food, so they’re the easiest option.
Select a rodent that is equal in girth to the broadest part of your snake’s body. This is, in fact, a great guideline to work from for almost any pet snake. Juvenile rat snakes usually begin with pinkie (newborn) mice and work their way up to adult mice.
Depending on which species of rat snake you own, you may or may not need to switch to rats eventually. Corn snakes, for example, rarely get large enough to outgrow mice.
Some other breeds – such as the Texas rat snake – grow larger. These may eventually need to move on to rats. Periodically keep an eye on your rat snake’s size, and adjust their diet accordingly.
How Do You Feed a Rat Snake?
Now that you know what rat snakes eat, how do you go about feeding them?
The process of feeding a rat snake is similar to other constrictor-type snakes, such as boa constrictors. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the rat snake feeding process:
- Source your prey. We strongly recommend using frozen-thawed (FT) rodents, rather than live ones. This is because live rodents can fight back, and hurt your snake. There are many sites online selling frozen rodents. Your local big-box pet store may also stock them. Choose a rodent approximately the same width as your snake.
- Defrost. Place the rodent into a cup of warm water for approximately 30 minutes. You can put it into a Ziploc bag first, though most snakes won’t mind their food being wet.
- Place your snake into a separate container (optional). Some people prefer not to feed their snake in their regular vivarium. This is because they don’t want their snake to associate their vivarium with food. If your snake expects food inside the vivarium, they may mistake you for prey when you spot-clean the tank (or remove your snake for handling).
- Offer the food using a pair of tongs. You may need to wiggle the rodent around, as some rat snakes prefer to catch their prey. When your rat snake accepts the food, he’ll constrict it for a while before eating it.
- Leave your rat snake alone for at least 48 hours. If you moved him into a separate container to feed, you should leave him for an hour before placing him back into the vivarium. Then, don’t attempt to touch or handle your snake for the next two days. Otherwise, he may regurgitate his meal.
How Often Do Rat Snakes Eat?
In the wild, a rat snake’s feeding schedule would vary depending on the availability of prey.
A rat snake would eat whenever it found a suitable animal to feast upon. In captivity, though, it’s best to stick to a more regular feeding schedule. This will keep your rat snake healthy, and prevent him from gaining or losing too much weight.
Like almost all pet snakes, rat snakes need to feed more frequently when they’re younger. This is because they grow quite rapidly when they’re juveniles, and need extra energy. As your snake gets older, he’ll need feeding slightly less often.
So, how often should you feed your rat snake? Here are our general guidelines:
- Hatchlings (up to 6 months old): Feed one rodent every five days.
- Juveniles (6 months to 2 years): Feed one rodent every 7-10 days.
- Adults (2 years +): Feed one rodent every 10-14 days.
There are lots of different species of rat snake. This is only a rough guide. You’ll find lots of conflicting information on the web from other rat snake owners. Some insist that once every three weeks is sufficient, whereas others feed once a week-long into adulthood.
Every snake is different, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule. You should use the health and size of your rat snake as your guide. If your rat snake appears to be getting too thin, they’ll have loose skin and a pointy spine. Signs of obesity include “scale spread” (skin showing between scales) and “hips” (large fat reserves just before the tail begins).
Will Rat Snakes Eat Other Snakes?
Rat snakes aren’t commonly known for killing and feeding on other snakes under usual circumstances. In the wild, a rat snake would always choose a small mammal, bird, frog or lizard over another snake. Snakes don’t form part of a rat snake’s usual diet.
Rat snakes don’t kill copperhead snakes. It’s a myth. If you’ve found a black rat snake on your property, it won’t keep venomous snakes away.
Almost all snakes will behave cannibalistically if the need arises. If a rat snake was hungry and no other prey was available, they may attempt to kill and eat a smaller snake out of desperation. This is why we never recommend housing two snakes together.
Rat Snake Interesting Facts
Let’s round up the guide with some interesting facts about rat snakes, presented as our most frequently asked questions. The more you know about them, the better you’ll be as a snake owner.
How Big Do Rat Snakes Get?
Rat snakes remain on the small side. The largest species of rat snake only reach 8 feet long. A rat snake will never reach the lengths of, say, a boa constrictor or reticulated python. However, since there are so many different species, it’s impossible to give this question a general answer.
We’ll split it into the most common pet rat snake species:
|Species of Rat Snake||How Big Will a Rat Snake Get?|
|Black or Gray:||These reach between 3.5 to 6 feet as adults. According to Marshall University in West Virginia, some specimens of black rat snake have exceeded 8 feet.|
|Everglades and Texas:||These are typically smaller and reach around 3 to 5 feet when fully grown.|
|Corn Snakes:||These tend to stay on the small side. As adults, they usually range from 2 to 5 feet in length. At their longest, they have been known to reach up to 6 feet. This is rare.|
It’s impossible to say how big your rat snake will grow. As well as its species, its eventual size will depend upon many factors.
In particular, its diet and feeding schedule, as well as its lifespan. Many rat snakes can live up 20 years when taken care of properly. Rat snakes continue to grow throughout their lives, so the longer your rat snake lives, the bigger it will become.
How Often Do Rat Snakes Shed?
Like most snakes, rat snakes need to shed their skin once in a while. This allows them to grow bigger.
When they’re young, rat snakes may shed their skin once every few weeks. As they get older and their growth slows down, they may only shed a few times per year.
Your rat snake will need slightly altered care during the shedding process. So, you should familiarize yourself with the signs that shedding may soon begin.
- Stage 1: You’ll notice your rat snake’s skin getting darker and duller. His eyes will turn a cloudy, milky blue color. This is called “blue phase.” At this point, you may notice your snake behaving more reclusively. From this point, avoid feeding or handling your rat snake. Keep an eye on the vivarium’s humidity and consider upping it to 60%.
- Stage 2: After the blue phase finishes, your snake’s eyes and skin will change back to normal. This is entirely normal, and it’s a sign that shedding will start within the next few days. During this stage, consider placing a container containing moist sphagnum moss or paper towels inside the vivarium. This extra humidity will help your rat snake shed adequately.
- Stage 3: They shed. You’ll notice your rat snake pushing his nose up against objects in his tank, to begin the process. The shed will start at the head and progress to the tail. Afterward, check to ensure that both the tail tip and the eye caps are present. If any parts of the skin haven’t come off, you can gently bathe your snake in water to help loosen it.
Do Rat Snakes Shake Their Tails?
Annoyed rat snakes have a pretty interesting warning signal. Just like rattlesnakes, some rat snakes vibrate their tails as a warning to back off. If you’ve ever met a rat snake in the wild, you may have encountered this particular greeting first-hand.
You don’t need to worry, though – rat snakes aren’t the same as rattlesnakes. They shake their tails to mimic them, as a warning to predators.
Their tails don’t have the characteristic segmented look that can be seen in rattlesnakes. Because their tails aren’t segmented, they can’t rattle. However, you may hear some noise if they shake their tail in grass or leaves.
If you ever notice your pet rat snake shaking its tail, it’s a clear sign that your snake feels threatened or angry. You should leave it well alone to calm down. Provoking it further may result in a bite.
Do Rat Snakes Have Fangs?
Rat snakes kill their prey via constriction – squeezing the animal to death. The purpose of fangs, in species such as rattlesnakes, is to inject venom into prey. Since rat snakes don’t have any venom, they do not need fangs.
Rat snakes do have teeth, but they’re tiny compared to the fangs of a viper. Their only purpose is to grab onto and restrain prey while constricting it.
However, just because they don’t have fangs, that doesn’t mean a rat snake can’t pack a punch. A study in Biology Letters found that rat snakes can strike and bite just as quickly as vipers – “faster than the blink of an eye.” Don’t worry, though. Your rat snake isn’t likely to bite unless you threaten him, or he mistakes you for prey.
Though the bite may hurt (and bleed), it won’t cause any significant harm. Rat snakes don’t spread diseases to humans through their bites, and of course, they’re venomless.
The only complication that you may arise from a rat snake bite is an infection. As long as you wash and disinfect the wound, you should be fine.
Can Rat Snakes Climb Trees?
Many people wonder whether they should put branches in their rat snake’s vivarium. Do they have any need for them? Can rat snakes climb trees?
According to research in the Journal of Experimental Biology, rat snakes commonly climb trees in the wild. Though they aren’t as fast as boa constrictors (their distant relatives), climbing trees is a popular means of locomotion for many rat snake species.
Some species, such as the red-tailed green rat snake, spend most of their lives in trees. These are called “arboreal” snakes. Even species such as the black rat snake, which spends most of its life on the ground, can climb trees.
Rat snakes can eat bird eggs when they’re particularly hungry. They usually save eggs as a last resort, but they can digest them. Being able to climb trees is an excellent help for raiding bird nests and boxes.
Placing large rocks, shelves, boxes and branches (both real and artificial) in your rat snake’s vivarium is a great idea. They’ll enjoy having the ability to climb and maneuver vertically, just like they would in the wild. Just make sure your vivarium has an extremely secure lid if it’s top-opening.
Can Rat Snakes Swim?
Yes, rat snakes are most definitely capable of swimming. There are various videos online of wild rat snakes swimming in ponds and even backyard swimming pools.
Many species of rat snake can survive happily in swamps and marshes, feasting on the amphibians that live there. Rat snakes can even swim across ponds and other bodies of water to reach hunting grounds on the other side.
A study in the Journal of Morphology found little difference in swimming ability between yellow rat snakes and Florida banded water-snakes. This goes to show how great at swimming they are.
Including a large pool in your rat snake’s vivarium is a great way to provide stimulation for him. Your rat snake will enjoy bathing himself and swimming if the bowl is big enough.
Your rat snake may even enjoy swimming in a bath or sink. This can come in handy when rat snakes are having problems shedding their skin. Just make sure that the water is the same temperature as their enclosure, and not too deep. Some snake owners also prefer to use filtered water.
Can Rat Snakes Live Together?
Rat snakes are quite docile and aren’t generally aggressive towards other snakes. Usually, a rat snake won’t attack another animal unless he a) feels threatened or b) thinks it’s prey.
According to the Maryland Zoo, black rat snakes in the wild often co-habit with other snakes during the winter. This allows them to share body heat during brumation, which is the serpentine equivalent of hibernation.
So, for this reason, two rat snakes could potentially live together without fighting. However, despite this, we never recommend housing two snakes together in the same vivarium. This is for the following reasons:
- A rat snake could mistake the other for food. Then, you’d have a fight on your hands. This is particularly likely to happen if one snake is smaller than the other, or one is particularly hungry.
- If a rat snake regurgitates its food, you won’t know which one it was. As you know, you shouldn’t feed a snake for two weeks after it regurgitates. If you don’t know which snake did it, it’ll cause problems.
- Snakes can transmit diseases, infections, and parasites to one another. If one rat snake got sick, he could spread the illness to the other.
- There’s the issue of mating. If a female snake breeds too young, it can result in her becoming egg-bound. This is where she can’t lay her eggs due to them being too big, and it can be fatal. Even if you think that both of your snakes are the same sex, there’s a chance that you’re wrong.
So, in summary, even though two rat snakes may get along, you still shouldn’t keep them in the same vivarium.
Should I Get a Pet Rat Snake?
A rat snake would make a great pet. A corn snake, in particular, would be an excellent choice for a first-time snake owner. They’re one of the most popular snakes for a reason.
Rat snakes are one of the easiest pet snakes to care for. They’re not aggressive, and though they aren’t as docile as something like a ball python, with regular handling, they become quite tame.
If you’d like to begin your foray into the world of snakes with something that won’t grow bigger than you, a rat snake would be the perfect option. They don’t get too long, which is appealing to many first-time snake owners. They’re also one of the easiest snakes to care for.
Bear in mind that (as with all snakes) there is a high level of commitment required. Rat snakes can live 20 years, so before purchasing one, decide whether you can realistically dedicate that much time to caring for one. And, of course, ensure that you have the financial assets to provide for it. If you do, we’re sure you won’t regret your decision.