Loss of Appetite

ball python not eating - funny comic

Art by Riley Moreno

Ball pythons are notoriously picky eaters, and many ball python owners pass it off as a “normal behavior” and that “they will eat when they get hungry.” Ball pythons get hungry just like humans and every other animal. If your pet isn’t eating, that means something is wrong.

Symptoms

  • ball python refuses 2 or more meals

Cause

  • incorrect husbandry
  • relocation stress
  • illness
  • too much handling
  • offering the wrong prey
  • the “Wall”

Treatment

Most ball pythons in the United States and Europe are captive-bred, but there are still some wild-caught individuals in the trade. The types of prey offered in captivity are very different from what ball pythons eat in the wild, so WC ball pythons are more likely to refuse meals.

  • First, check your husbandry. Do you have a proper temperature gradient? Is it too hot/too cold/too humid/too dry? Does the snake have enough hides?
  • If you move the ball python to a new enclosure for feeding, try feeding them in their “home” enclosure.
  • If you handle your ball python frequently, stop handling until it starts eating again.
  • Try offering a different prey item. For example, if you’re offering mice, try rats. If you’ve been offering rats, try mice. If they’re available, try offering an African soft-furred rat (preferred prey in the wild). A change in size may also be needed.
  • If your ball python still refuses to eat, they may have a preference for live over frozen-thawed or vice-versa. If you offer live prey, supervise the interaction carefully and do not leave the rodent in the enclosure for more than an hour at a time.

Some female ball pythons experience a phenomenon known as “The Wall.” Once they reach 800-1000g, they suddenly stop eating. It is believed that this happens because she is developing egg follicles, which makes her uncomfortable (think of it like snake puberty). Slow down how often you offer food and reduce the size of the offerings until she’s ready to eat normally again.

To ensure health during this period, invest in a kitchen scale and weigh the snake once a week. If the snake begins to rapidly lose weight, this could indicate other health issues, and you should make an appointment with your vet.