It can be a little concerning when your snake is active all of a sudden. Snakes, and reptiles aren’t energetic creatures. Since they’re cold-blooded, they need to save their energy and use it only for crucial activities like hunting, mating or ‘running’ from predators.
The most common reason for higher-than-average activity in snakes is hunger. Your snake is ‘exploring,’ searching for food. There could also be a problem with the enclosure, in that it’s too hot, cold, humid, or dry. If your snake is a wild-caught snake, it’s not unusual for them to be more active than snakes that were bred in captivity.
If your snake is overactive, assess their enclosure. Usually, the reason they’re overactive or not active enough is a problem with how you keep them. Failing that, it could be something to do with their diet, shedding, or a lack of enrichment.
Why Is My Snake More Active Than Usual?
There are two reasons why a snake might be more active. The first is natural reasons. For example, your snake has just finished their shed.
It’s natural for them to be more active once they’ve shed their old skin, so it’s nothing to worry about. The same applies to increased activity before they feed.
There are unnatural reasons. These are things that make your snake more active than usual, and which may be a sign of some worse problem.
Perhaps your snake is going crazy, trying to get out of their enclosure. It could be because it’s too cold or hot for them, and they desperately want to get out. That’s something to be concerned about.
1) Snake Active After Eating
For a snake to be active after they eat is unusual behavior. That’s because a snake will typically head somewhere quiet to digest.
Too much activity can cause them to regurgitate or vomit their food. And if they’re disturbed, they may even force themselves to regurgitate before trying to get away (at least in the wild).
So, for them to be active after they eat is unusual, but why might it happen? The most likely reason is that they’re still hungry. Snakes in the wild are the most active when they’re hungry, and searching out food. Snakes grow quickly in their first two to three years. It can be difficult to know when to start feeding them bigger portions, or if you have to feed them slightly more frequently.
They may be trying to find somewhere to settle down, but are unable to do so. Their hide might be too cold for them to digest, so they feel the need to find somewhere else. The area inside an enclosure is limited, so this might encourage repetitious active behavior.
Snakes need somewhere warm to rest because the heat breaks down the food they’ve eaten. If it’s too cold, the food may rot before it’s digested. That’s why snakes don’t eat during winter.
2) Snake Active and Not Eating
In the wild, if your snake is somewhere that’s too cold for them, they’ll explore the area nearby to find somewhere to warm themselves up. That might be in a rock formation where they can hide from the worst of the weather, or a rock that was warmed in the sun. They might be ‘searching’ for somewhere like that. You need at least two hides for your snake’s enclosure.
The same applies to humidity. Each species of snake has its own humidity requirements. Corn snakes like 40-50% humidity, for example. Boas need more humidity because they’re from more humid parts of the world, like South and Central America. As such, they need about 60%. Again, if their enclosure doesn’t meet that standard, they’ll ‘search’ for somewhere that does.
In severe cases, where the snake is exceptionally stressed, they begin to display repetitive behaviors. In particular, they’ll rub their nose against the glass or plastic side of their enclosure, almost as if they were trying to shed. They can keep this up until their nose is red raw and bleeding if they’re highly stressed. Anorexia co-occurs with stress in snakes, so your snake wouldn’t be eating at this point.
3) Why Is My Snake Active at Night?
It’s perfectly normal for snakes to be active at night. Many snake species are nocturnal, which means they’ll be roaming at night anyway.
- Kingsnakes are diurnal, meaning that they’re active during the day. However, they may also be active at night on occasion.
- Corn snakes are mostly nocturnal. You can expect them to be active during the night anyway.
- Boa constrictors are nocturnal too, although they’ll often come out during the day to sun themselves if it gets too cool for them.
- Ball pythons are different again. They’re ‘crepuscular,’ which means that they’re most active during either dawn or dusk.
Snakes tell the difference between night and day by the presence of light. They can’t read the time like humans. So, if you leave a light on during the night—be it a heat lamp or a regular lamp—that can confuse a diurnal snake.
Try turning that lamp off during the night and see if your snake becomes less active. If they need the warmth of the heat lamp, you could consider switching to a heat mat instead.
This isn’t something you can change, either, through forcing them to adopt a new habit. According to BMC Evolutionary Biology, diurnal snakes’ eyes are different from those of nocturnal snakes.
4) Are Wild-Caught Snakes More Active?
Most pet snakes used to be wild caught. Today, breeders and pet shops usually only sell captive-bred snakes instead. Captive-bred snakes have had their whole lives to get used to people, and aren’t as fazed by being kept in a small enclosure. It’s what they’re used to, after all.
But a wild-caught snake has lived a free life, and not spent any time around people. As such, if you catch one and keep it, it’s not going to like its new life. They’ll be uncomfortable around you, because they think you’re a predator or a threat. They’ll show that to you through their behavior, by getting defensive when you approach, and even lashing out at you.
And because they’re not used to having such a small range, wild-caught snakes are less comfortable in an enclosure, too. They can show that by incessantly searching for a way out. It will take a long while before they’re comfortable both with you and their enclosure. Unfortunately, though, they’ll never be as ‘tame’ as a captive-bred snake will be.
5) Are Shedding Snakes Less Active?
Snakes going through the blue phase are less active than usual. That’s because they can’t see very well, as they have two eye caps instead of just one as they develop their new skin underneath the old one. But, when it comes to shedding their skin, they become more active than usual.
This is so that they can start shedding. By moving around more than usual, your snake is trying to encourage their skin to peel. They’ll go around their enclosure, rubbing their nose against the walls or anything else that could start their shed. They’ll keep going until their skin starts to peel.
If your snake is more active because they’re trying to shed, this might be a sign that they’re struggling. Snakes should be able to shed their skin in one, smooth go. If their shed is coming off in small patches, it means that their skin is too dry. You can fix that by either providing them with a small bowl to bathe in, or bathing them yourself manually.
Once they shed, they’ll need to eat. Once they’ve eaten, their activity levels will return to normal.
6) Are Sick Snakes Less Active?
Sick snakes are less active than when they were well. This is known as lethargy, and it’s a symptom associated with a wide range of conditions, including:
- Respiratory infection
- Mouth rot, scale rot, and sepsis
- Inclusion body disease (IBD)
- Anorexia (not eating)
- Severe cases of mite or tick infestation
When your snake has a health problem, they move around less. It’s because they don’t have the energy to. Think back to any time that you’ve had the flu, or something serious like chickenpox or shingles, you likely didn’t have much energy either.
If your snake is getting over a condition like this, then they’ll be more active than usual. Not only will they be more active because they overcame their lethargy, but they’ll likely be hungry too, as they weren’t eating while they were ill.
But are there problems they might have that make them more active? Could they be more active than usual because they’re sick? The only potential cause is IBD. While IBD makes them less active overall, it can make their movements change.
A snake with IBD can no longer balance properly, and they might shake, which leads to erratic movement. Other than that, illnesses only make snakes less active, not more active.
7) Why Is My Snake Not Hiding?
If your snake isn’t hiding, there could be an issue with their hide. Their hide may let in too much light, and therefore not feel like a hide for them at all.
A hide has to be somewhere that they feel secure, somewhere enclosed where they won’t feel threatened. If there are several holes in the enclosure, and each of them lets in light, then your snake may not like hiding in there.
Alternatively, their hide could be too warm or too cold, as we said above. Snakes need a place to sun themselves, and when they’re done, they want somewhere they can go to cool down.
If both of their hides are warm, then they won’t want to go in there when they need to cool down. They need a variety of temperatures in their enclosure instead.
8) Do Snakes Get Bored?
This is one of the misconceptions about snakes. Snakes don’t get bored like humans. They don’t have advanced emotional needs like other pets do, and they do not need socialization. They don’t play games, or enjoy spending quality time with you. They won’t get ‘bored’ because they want to spend time with you or other snakes, or because they don’t have any games to play.
Of course, snakes do still need enrichment. They need to be able to interact with and, in part at least, control their environment. They need at least one hide, and benefit from having something to climb and sit on, too. Besides that, they should have a small amount of undergrowth (real or fake) that they can hide underneath. This should give them everything they need in an environment.
However, none of this is because the snake gets bored. It’s because they want an enclosure that replicates or mimics their natural habitat. The more similar it is, the more comfortable they’ll be in there. If you recently introduced something new into their enclosure, they’ll likely be more active as they sniff it, climb it, sniff it and come to terms with the change in their environment.