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What Are the Best Tips for Feeding a Ball Python?

Kaiser Castro
Kaiser Castro

Ball pythons tend to be picky eaters, with some not eating for weeks and sometimes months on end when newly introduced to an environment. The debate over live food or feeding a ball python frozen food tends to be up for constant debate. These feeding methods, however, are all viable options. It will boil down to the snake, and its eating habits, as live food should be encouraged for snakes that are healthy, and frozen or freeze-dried food reserved for snakes that are sick or molting.

Live food tends to exercise the ball python's instinct to hunt. Some will readily eat live prey put into their cages, while some snakes will need some coaxing. Live food tends to offer a more complete nutritional value to the snake's diet, with the snake keeper being able to offer various small mammals to it. A baby ball python will usually do well with pinkies, while larger ball pythons can do quick work of adult rodents. Do not introduce a large rat to a small python, however; when feeding a ball python, always try to err on the side of caution and select smaller-sized food.

Rats can be fed to pythons.
Rats can be fed to pythons.

Offering frozen food is another viable option when it comes to feeding a ball python. Even though frozen or freeze-dried food may not stimulate the snakes predatory instincts, the caretaker can offer some stimuli by hiding the frozen animals in structures inside of the cage. Frozen food is also a good option for snakes that are too sick or tired to hunt, being especially beneficial for those that are molting.

Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.
Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.

Feeding a ball python during the day can be accomplished by simulating the night hours. Most pythons are nocturnal in nature, with them usually hunting and consuming their food in the night. If the caretaker needs to feed the ball python during the day for whatever reason, then the snake’s predatory instincts can be triggered by putting a blanket over the cage for a couple of hours during feeding time to simulate night hours.

Some caretakers will notice that most pet stores sell pinkies that are pale white in color. Ball pythons in the wild, however, do not typically experience albino rodents while hunting. Substituting the pinkies for colored rodents like gerbils or brown mice will give the snake more of the feel of a hunt. Alternatively, white mice can be rubbed onto a stored, refrigerated gerbil to transfer some of the gerbil’s scent to help to increase the consumption of the pinkies.

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Discussion Comments


I think most people who are not fans of ball pythons or snakes in general have a problem with snake owners feeding live mammals to the snakes. At least most people agree that certain mammals should not be part of a pet snake's diet. Not too many people get upset about mice and rats, but when you start feeding a snake gerbils and hamsters you're pushing the envelop.

The daughter of one of my friend's found some stray kittens in the family's barn and she advertised for homes for them online. One guy said he would take them all if it was okay to feed them to his pet snake. Definitely over the line.


I have a cousin who had a pet ball python for a number of years until she finally tired of it and sold it. Everyone in the family thought she was crazy for having a snake living in her house and calling it a pet. In my family, snakes are to be avoided, so my cousin was definitely the black sheep of the family when it comes to pet selection.

Anyway, she didn't like having to always buy mice for the snake, so when she heard that you could feed the snakes frozen food she was excited and she decided to give this a try. She tried off and on for a year to get the snake to take frozen food, but the snake simply would not eat anything but the live prey. I guess it really does come down to what the individual snake likes, just like people.


I didn't know frozen food was even an option for feeding snakes. I thought they would only eat food that they killed themselves. I have to admit that feeding a snake in captivity is going to be much easier when you can use frozen food rather than having to feed it live mammals.

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    • Rats can be fed to pythons.
      By: ksi
      Rats can be fed to pythons.
    • Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.
      By: mikemoore88
      Ball pythons are generally picky eaters.