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If you have a snake as a pet, it can be worrying when it suddenly refuses food. However, snakes are known for their sometimes finicky eating habits. In this article, we’ll explore possible reasons why snakes may occasionally stop eating, and provide tips on how to encourage your pet to eat. You’ll also learn when it’s advisable to visit a vet. 

Harmless Reasons for Refusing Food 

  • Shedding Process: Many snakes refuse food before and during shedding. You can tell the shedding process is imminent when their skin becomes duller and their eyes milky. During this time, snakes usually prefer to be left alone. 
  • Breeding Season: During the breeding season, snakes may also stop eating as their attention is entirely focused on reproduction. 
  • Egg-Laying: Female snakes may stop eating before and during egg-laying, as their focus is on nesting. 
  • Seasonal Changes: Some snake species eat less or stop eating entirely in winter, a process known as brumation. 
  • Adaptation to New Environment: Snakes newly introduced to a terrarium sometimes need time to adjust to their new surroundings before they start eating. 
Striped snake shedding its skin
image: sipa – pixabay.com

When to Visit the Vet? 

A visit to the vet is advisable if: 

  • Your snake has not eaten for an extended period (several weeks to months, depending on the species) and is losing weight. 
  • You notice signs of illness, such as lethargy, unusual discharge, or changes in the skin. 
  • You suspect that a foreign body or a disease is affecting the eating behavior. 

Tips to Encourage Eating 

  • Adjusting the Food: Experiment with different types of prey or their presentation. Some snakes prefer live prey, others only accept certain types of food animals. Some snakes may also refuse white mice and prefer colored mice. 
  • Optimizing Environmental Conditions: Ensure that temperature and humidity in the terrarium are suitable for the species. Unfavorable conditions can affect eating behavior. 
  • Reducing Stress: Avoid frequent disturbances and provide a calm, secure habitat. 
  • Rethinking Feeding Rhythm: Some snakes eat better when fed less frequently. 
  • Offering ‘Hunting’ Food: Some snakes prefer food animals that they can ‘hunt’ themselves. This includes feeder rats or mice that are released in the terrarium. 


Refusal to eat in snakes can have many harmless causes. It’s important to be observant and closely monitor your snake’s behavior. However, in cases of persistent problems or signs of illness, it is important to seek advice from a knowledgeable veterinarian. With patience and proper care, hopefully, your snake will soon be eating regularly again.

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