Do Snakes Show Love?

You have probably done your best to make sure your pet snake is well cared for. You religiously ensure they receive the right food at the right time. With military precision, you constantly monitor the temperature and humidity in the pet enclosure. You also remove the droppings and ensure your pet has access to clean water. Having devoted a big part of your life loving and caring for your pet, can your reptile reciprocate that love?

Well, unlike other home pets such as dogs, birds, and cats, snakes are not able to show much affection. Biologically, a snake’s brain doesn’t develop the crucial parts responsible for emotions such as affection and love. However, keeping a snake pet is still one of the most rewarding hobbies.

Do snakes feel affection for their owners?

A snake’s mental capacity and emotions don’t resemble that of humans or other mammals. A snake’s brain is very primitive; it is wired to focus on survival and reproduction instincts. Although your pet snake may not physically love you, they still feel a lot of pleasure whenever you provide them the necessities for survival, such as food, water, and a safe place to hide.

The snake’s primitive brain can only experience emotions such as:

  • Fear when faced with danger.
  • Pleasure when they are eating
  • Emotions associated with breeding
  • Aggression to protect themselves from predators.

Besides, your pet snake can learn that when you handle them, they are safe, and with time, they will start enjoying the warmth that you provide. It is advisable to devote more time to learn what your pet enjoys. It would also help if you also understood what is stressful and unhealthy for your pet. When you improve your husbandry practices, you increase the chance to bond better with the reptile.

If your pet snake doesn’t show affection towards you, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. You are definitely expecting too much, yet your pet snake is not capable of displaying such emotions. You should avoid judging your interactions with your snake based on the margin of affection.

Can snakes feel affection for each other?

In the wild, snakes don’t feel much affection for each other. However, in captivity, some couples can exist together. Snakes are not social animals and are incapable of holding on to a relationship for so long. The only way to establish some affection towards another snake is by constant interaction in the enclosure. Housing two snakes means you can save on costs and minimize cleaning.

However, before you rush out and add another pet snake, there are vital things to consider first. These include:

1. Species 

Some species can tolerate other snakes while others view each other as threats that must be fought. Before you put two snakes together, research on the inter-species interactions. 

For example, it is possible to put two female corn snakes or a pair of garter snakes together in an enclosure. However, Kingsnakes should never be housed with other snakes. They fight and eat other snakes, including copperheads.

2. Sizes and gender 

It is not a good idea to keep different sizes together as this often results in the fighting. The larger snake will also eat all the food from the smaller one. Similarly, different genders should not be kept together to prevent breeding.

3. Feeding 

Snakes that are housed together should be fed separately. Combined feeding time will lead to bullying and fighting.

Snake of same species that have little affection for each other and which should never be kept together include:

  • Kingsnake
  • Rosy boa
  • Ball python
  • Pet snakes of different species

How do snakes bond with owners?

Some snakes can tolerate a lot of handling, while others can’t. Before you establish a rhythmic pattern of interaction, it is essential to understand the handling level of the species you are keeping. The thumb rule when handling a pet snake is to stay cool, calm, and collected. The following tips will help facilitate the creation of a lasting bond with your pet:


Confidence is crucial for a lasting bond. It is crucial to confidently handle your pet snake, without fearfully jerking your body, hesitantly approaching, and timid interactions that may lead to the pet reacting negatively towards you. Your body language will dictate the response you get. If you are uncertain and fearful, your pet will respond in kind. If you are not confident, it is hard to enjoy your pet’s true potential.  

It is also essential to get your timing right. For example, when you feed the pet snake a sizable meal that can’t be digested in a single day, it is best to limit handling. Stress in the abdomen can result in regurgitation and aggression. Don’t handle the pet if you notice a visible lump unless it is absolutely necessary.

Allow the pet to get used to you first.

When the pet snake is introduced to a new home, they need time to get used to the new environment. Leave the snake in the enclosure for one week before you start interacting with them. While you are waiting, you can occasionally rearrange its enclosure so that your pet snake can start getting used to your presence. By moving its water dish, and branches, the pet will start getting comfortable with you.

Wash your hands

You should always cleanse your hands with warm soapy water before handling your pet. Cleaning your hands gets rid of food scents on your hands. If your hand smells like a rat, the snake may confuse you for food. Washing of hands also prevents the transfer of germs and diseases to the pet. After handling the pet, it is also essential to thoroughly wash your hands using warm soapy water. This helps prevent salmonella infections.

Woman washing her hands at the kitchen sink. There are vegetables out of focus in the background.

Hold a hand in front of the pet.

A snake uses smell to recognize things. For a new pet to get comfortable around you, they need to get used to your smell first. A great way for your pet to achieve this is by holding your hand about 3 to 4 inches away from the pet. If you notice it getting an S position, move your hand slowly out of the enclosure before it strikes. If it doesn’t react, move your hand closer. You can also wear gloves if you are worried about getting bites.

Touch the snake while inside the tank

Once your pet snake has gotten used to their environment and your presence, give them a light touch on the back of its body. Start from the tail rather than the head. This movement will give the snake time to get comfortable. Slowly work closer towards their head. Don’t ever grab the snake by its tail. They will feel threatened and spin around to bite.

Handle the middle of its body

Scoop the pet by the middle of the body. When picking it up, remember to act confidently. A snake can sense anxiety, and it is crucial to stay consistent and firm while handling them. Slide one hand underneath the reptile and squeeze it lightly to get a firm grip around its body. Then slowly and firmly pick them up and out of its enclosure. Use your other hand to provide support to the rest of the body.

If your snake is a constrictor like a boa or a ball python, allow them to wrap themselves securely around your arm. They will feel the warmth and comfort that your body provides. If the pet is a thinner species such as a garter, or corn snake, wrap the back of their head on your fingers to prevent them from slithering away. For the larger species that are more than 4 feet long, seek help from another person when holding it.

Take the snake out 4 to 5 times a week.

When you handle the snake often, they will start getting used to you. You should aim at handling the pet for at least 20 to 30 minutes every day. When you are interacting with your pet, let it slither near you. Similarly, when you are holding it, set it on your lap, and allow it slither around your body. Additionally, when you are relaxing, reading, or watching TV, you can keep the pet on your lap for it to spend time with you.

Understanding the Typical Behaviors That Snakes Exhibit When Bonding With You

There are common behaviors that snakes exhibit when boding with their owners. Understanding these behaviors will help you interact with your pet better and create a lasting bond:

Tongue flicking

Snakes have a poor sense of vision and hearing. Despite these shortcomings, the reptiles boast of an impeccable sense of smell. Whenever you notice your pet flicking out their tongue, they are picking up scent particles in the environment, which are then transmitted to an organ called Jacobson’s located at the top of its mouth. The Jacobson’s organ is responsible for processing the scents.

Snakes depend on their sense of smell to determine if the creatures within their environment are prey or predators. The snakes can become habituated to your smell and associated it with certain stimuli. For example, when they pick your smell, they may conclude they are about to receive food. They also flick their tongue to learn more about you and become more comfortable in your presence. It is vital to ensure you don’t have the scent of prey when you are bonding with your pet.

Wrapping/snake hug

Snakes don’t have arms and legs to support them. They use their bodies for balance and secure themselves when they are lifted to a higher position from the ground. They also have an innate fear of falling and thus prefer to tightly wrap themselves around your arms or body when you are carrying them. Besides, pet snakes simply enjoy wrapping themselves on your wrists and necks because they are very warm. A snake’s hug can feel warm and comfortable. It also helps you feel closer to your pet emotionally and physically. Provided the pet is not too big to hurt you, and it is safe for both you and the pet, you should encourage and enjoy the wrapping.

The snake that is approaching you

When bonding with your pet snake, you may notice them exploring the environment before turning back to you. Your pet is returning due to the scent since that is what is most familiar and safe to them. Snakes in enclosures may also approach you to determine whether you are bringing food. If your pet can’t smell the food, they may turn back to their previous activity or go into hiding. Besides, like all reptiles, snakes can’t produce heat on their own and are naturally attracted to ideal sources of heat. Your body radiates a generous amount of heat, and it is one of the reasons for the snake’s approach.

FAQs About Snakes’ Emotions

What are the common emotions that snakes exhibit?

Almost all living and moving creatures possess some level of feelings and emotions. Although the emotions and feelings that snakes exhibit are less complicated compared to those of mammals, they are primarily geared for survival. Common emotions of the pet snake include:

  1. Fear

Fear is crucial for the survival of a snake. Both wild and pet snakes experience the emotion of fear. It helps the snake hide and retreat from approaching predators. If the snake was not characteristically fearful, they could quickly end up being attacked and eaten. Fear triggers the instincts to flee and look for safe cover when faced with threats. Certain situations may also trigger fear in your pet snakes. These include:

  • Exposure to strange and unfamiliar environments
  • When you are mishandling the pet
  • Feeding the snake on live food. Some pest snakes are afraid of live rodents especially if they had a nasty bite experience before.

2. Sadness

Snakes can be depressed too, only that they don’t experience the sadness the same way we do. Snakes are not social animals and thus may not feel lonely. They will not also cry whenever they are sad or bored.

3. Boredom

Boredom in pet snakes is common. When your snake is not actively engaging their primitive brain, it may slow or shut down. The pet will then become disinterested in eating, become active, and in some cases, grumpy. To avoid this problem, you can provide an ideal environment to help mentally stimulate your pet. You can provide enrichment objects and hides to keep the pet content, active and healthy while inside its enclosure.

4. Pain

Snakes undoubtedly experience pain. Their brain can process pain when it is inflicted on them. When your snake is in pain, it may do one or all of the following:

  • Hissing
  • Biting
  • Escaping
  • Coiling up

When inside the enclosure, your pet may feel pain from the following situations:

  • If you squeeze too tightly or drop it during handling
  • If the enclosure door accidentally crushes the snake
  • If enclosure decorations fall on them
  • If they are exposed to improper humidity
  • When the reptiles are exposed to inappropriate temperatures
  • During medical procedures like surgery, the vet needs to administer pain medications during surgical procedures.

Can a pet snake recognize their owner?

Most snake species can’t see or hear well. They may, therefore, find it challenging to tell people apart. However, as we said before, these reptiles have a wonderful sense of smell. Your pet snake can smell the difference between you and another person, side by side.

Do snakes know their names?

Most snakes have a poor sense of hearing. However, some species can hear anywhere between 80 to 300 Hz. Typically, your speech is around 250 Hz, and the idea that your favorite pet can hear you call out their name is not based on a myth. Although they may not process and remember the name you keep calling, the pet can become habituated with your voice like the way they do with your smell. If you frequently call out to your pet, the sound of your voice will draw them out.

What are the friendliest snakes to keep?

The snakes considered mostly friendly and ideal for beginners include corn snakes, gopher snakes, ball pythons, and rosy boa. These species are easy to handle and tolerate a lot of petting. However, ensure you provide the snake with proper dietary and housing needs.

Can my pet snake cry?

Snakes typically cannot cry. However, just like other reptiles, snakes produce tears. The tears, however, are not from their eyes but rather from glands situated in the roof of the snake’s mouth. Snakes have no reason to cry because they only feel primitive emotions such as pain, hunger, pleasure, and fear.

According to insurance information institute, close to 4.5 million households keep reptiles in the USA, and a significant percentage of these are pet snakes. Although a snake pet is incapable of showing love the way you would like them to, there are still many benefits for keeping the reptile. As long as you feel a form of connection with your pet, that is all that matters. Remember, whenever you spend more time with your pet snake, the more comfortable they will be in your presence and share an even greater bond.

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