Shy, docile, and calm, the ball python is an excellent choice for first-time pet snake owners. In the US, ball pythons get their name from their tendency to roll into a ball and tuck their heads whenever frightened. In Europe and other countries globally, they are known as royals because Egyptian royalties would keep them as pets, often wrapping them around their wrists. Under proper care, ball pythons can live up to 30 years, and some records show they can live longer. They grow by a foot yearly for three years, after which their growth spurt significantly slows down. Ball pythons grow up to between three and five feet. They hunt at night and mostly feed on rodents. However, in captivity, they can soon start to feed during the day.
The gentle disposition of a ball python makes them an attractive choice for a first pet snake. Their docile nature makes handling easy and caring for them more manageable. First-time pet snake owners are particularly enamored by their gentle nature. There are no notable differences in a female’s temperament compared to the male. Female ball pythons may, however, become more aggressive when guarding their eggs.
Get to Know Ball Pythons
When making a choice as weighty as which pet snake to keep, you need a comprehensive breed guide to broaden your understanding. Ball pythons are natives to West and Central Africa. In the wild, their natural habitats are grasslands, farmlands, and savannah. They naturally prefer to spend their time in burrows and are most active around dusk and dawn.
Are they poisonous?
Ball pythons are non-venomous and do not have fangs. A bite, therefore, wouldn’t be severe. They subdue their prey by constriction.
A ball python has a characteristically boxy snout and a flat head. This python is known for its black color accentuated with pale stripes on its face. Its body is covered with large brown spots that are outlined in black and white. These spots are green and yellow for young ball pythons, but the outlines are still in black and white. A healthy and well cared for ball python has a firm round body.
Ball pythons have labial pits on either side of the mouth, which acts as heat or infrared radiation sensors. These labial pits are vital in detecting and pinpointing prey. These snakes have no eyelids. Instead, their eyes are covered in a thin scale commonly known as “spectacle”. The spectacle is shed together with the skin. Ball pythons have anal spurs, which experts think are remains of vestigial hind legs. A ball python size is between 3 and 5 feet.
Ball pythons are housed in enclosures as wide as their length and twice as long. A typical pet ball python is about 4 feet, which translates to an enclosure of about 8ft x 4ft. Snakes are naturally sneaky and masterful escape artists. Ball pythons especially can be cunning and powerful in their break out attempts. Since they are ground-dwelling snakes with minimal climbing ability, the enclosure should be more elongated than it should be taller. The enclosure should be large enough to maintain the appropriate temperature gradient. Its material makeup should be non-absorbent and sturdy with materials like plastic or glass. When planning to go for a low maintenance enclosure, newspapers, or artificial carpeting are ideal. They are easy to clean, inexpensive, and safe. Irrespective of the enclosure you opt for, regular cleaning of urates and feces is crucial.
Ball pythons, like all other snakes, need a place to hide within the cage. A log or two best serves this purpose. One should be near the heat source with the other on the cooler end of the cage. These hiding places act as sanctuaries, and the snake should not be disturbed while there.
The temperature of the enclosure
Ball pythons are cold-blooded reptiles; thus, supplemental heat is needed in their vivariums. For a first-time pet snake owner, getting the conditions right can be challenging. Your ball python needs a basking temperature of about 95°F. The enclosure’s warmer end should be at about 85°F, with the cooler side not less than 70°F. For new ball python owners, a hot rock may sound like a brilliant idea; however, experts strongly advise against it. Hot rocks cause dehydration and may inflict burns on your reptile. Heating gradients that cannot be regulated are not ideal as they cause illness to your reptile. Temperatures that are very low slow down the python’s immune system, digestion, metabolism, and kidneys.
Ball pythons need a balance of 12/12 hours of light and darkness during winter and 14 hours of daylight during summer. As a ball python owner, setting a timer will help you the light and dark hours right. Ultraviolet light helps your python thrive because it helps in the production of vitamins, including Vitamin D3 that is vital in calcium metabolism. UVB/A fluorescents are ideal in providing these critical wavelengths safely.
Humidity is definitely one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to keeping. Even the keenest of pet owners sometimes fail to regulate the humidity of the enclosure. Inside their vivarium, ball python requires between 50-70% humidity. A simple way to regulate humidity is by placing a dish of water directly under the heat source. You could also spray the enclosure with water every 36 hours. Ideal humid conditions promote the health of your pet and allow it to regulate its hydration. You could also provide a water bowl big enough for your ball python to soak in as it pleases. This helps your pet reptile achieve the ideal humidity. Low humidity could result in dehydration and trouble with skin shedding. Extremely high levels of humidity can lead to skin disease and respiratory infections for your ball python.
Like most snakes, ball pythons are carnivorous. Their diet consists of fresh kills or thawed prey. Live rodents may especially inflict severe injury to your pet ball python through scratching. Ball pythons in the growing stage should be fed at least once a week. Adults should be fed once every fortnight to three weeks, depending on reproductive activity, size, and the food item.
In captivity, ball pythons are not known for their great appetite, but a vet should promptly examine any signs of anorexia. Feeding them more than recommended could lead to obesity. In the pet trade, rats and mice are the go-to food items. The food item’s size should be slightly smaller than the largest breadth in the snake’s body. If the rodents fed are healthy, there is often no need for mineral or vitamin supplements. During times of the year when temperatures fall below 70’s, ball pythons generally do not eat.
For first-time pet snake owners, handling can pose unique challenges. However, regular handling will make your python more familiar with human contact. Always be gentle, avoid sudden movements, and surprise contact. It is advisable to handle the snake with both hands, with one hand supporting the upper half and the other based on the snake’s lower end. Should the snake wrap around your arm, gently unwrap from the tail and never from the head. However, you should minimize contact with your pet when it’s about to shed as they are known to be more aggressive and ill-tempered during this period. Likewise, it is advisable to avoid handling your pet ball python immediately after or before feeding it. When transporting the snake, always place them in a cloth pillowcase then into a case, preferably a plastic case.
Reptiles or their prey have been known to spread salmonella spp, amongst other pathogens. As such, the CDC advises pet owners to wash their hands whenever they handle their pet reptiles or their prey. Additionally, anyone with compromised immunity and children under the age of five should be discouraged from handling the reptile.
If you have a new constrictor at home, experts advise owners to quarantine them for at least 3 to 6 months due to the risk of body diseases and parasites. During this time, vet checks should be regular to check for both external and internal parasites through stool samples.
On feeding, ball pythons are particularly inconsistent. Your constrictor may fast for a couple of weeks or months. However, as long as their general condition and body weight are normal, there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm. Should your python completely stop feeding, a close examination of their health, handling, and living conditions should be examined to ensure stress isn’t the reason. A weight loss of over 10% should be alarming. Always have a professional vet on call to help with this examination.
If necessary, use tricks to get your python to eat. Dipping prey in chicken broth is a great way to entice the python to eat. Other great tricks known to work include feeding them at night, using different colors of rat or mice, and exposing the prey’s brain before feeding them.
With the right husbandry, your pet ball python will live into its twenties. An annual examination of its fecal material is advised to check for any parasites. Respiratory diseases, mouth infections, trauma from rodent bites, and poor shedding are common conditions that your vet should keep an eye out for. Proper diagnosis and timely treatment will have your pet ball python back in shape in no time.
How Do I Choose a Ball Python?
Buying your first pet snake can be bewildering since there are so many factors to consider. As such, it is best to get your ball python in person. This will give you a chance to examine the python beforehand. It is important to understand a ball python affection and temperament before bringing it at home. Not all captive snakes are bred the same, and their temperament may vary.
Also, a visit to the pet store or breeder gives you a chance to ask the professionals about all there is to know about the particular snake you would like to keep. It also allows you to pick up complimentary items you might need for your pet, especially as a first-time pet snake owner.
Chain stores are a great place to get your constrictor, but buying your first pet snake requires expert knowledge that most store attendants don’t offer. Breeders tend to be informative on all fronts regarding their snake species.
Take the time to handle a ball python before getting one to make sure it is the right pet for you. Carry out thorough research and speak to existing pet snake owners. Research extensively on their needs, handling, and behavior.
Why Are Ball Pythons Awesome?
As you’ll find out soon enough, there aren’t a lot of costs involved in the upkeep for your new ball python. Other pet needs, such as optimal temperature and humidity, are inexpensive to acquire and set up. Since their feeding is at a weekly interval, you can set conditions at an ideal level and even take a short trip, and you’ll be sure your python will be fine.
Easy clean up
With a once week feeding schedule, you can already imagine how easy it is to clean up after your ball python. Keep the enclosure clean so that it doesn’t reek of foul smell.
They are calm
Generally, snakes are known for their unpredictability, with many launching surprise strikes. With ball pythons, you never have to worry about such surprises as they are slow and calm. Even as you play or handle them, they slither around your arms or even your neck at a slow pace. Their laid-back trait makes them an excellent choice for those buying their first pet snake.
Easy to Handle
Calm by nature, their handling is easier than you might imagine. At first, however, it is important to be patient as your python gets comfortable with you. In a new setup, your pet reptile may take a while to be comfortable enough to get out of its “shell”. But once it’s familiar with the surroundings, it will move around more confidently.
Beauty and Variety
Do you want a striped or a spotted python? Do you fancy one with black or red eyes? There’s always a ball python morph that will tickle your fancy with their enchanting beauty. From their body patterns to the color of their eyes, they are undeniably beautiful reptiles. Ball python morphs do not necessarily behave differently; they have different aesthetics.
The normal size of a ball python is between 3 to 5 feet, which makes their handling easy. In comparison to other species in the python family, ball pythons are small.
FAQ About Ball Pythons
Is it safe to own a ball python as a pet?
Ball pythons are one of the most popular snakes, especially for first-time pet snake owners. Their docile nature and inexpensive care make them a suitable choice for a pet snake. They are non-venomous and calm, which makes them a safe pet to have. However, it is vital to follow several checks and rules to keep them healthy and calm.
How much is a pet ball python?
In most pet stores and reptile shows, ball pythons go for about $50. They are easy to find in pet stores. Ball python morphs, however, go for higher at a starting price of around 200 dollars. When buying your first pet snake, it is always advisable to consider local stores over chain stores. Local stores’ staffs have a more personal interaction with the pythons and can offer vital information before you take one home.
Can a ball python kill you?
Pythons rarely kill humans and aren’t part of their natural prey. Ball pythons can inflict injury with its bite, but fortunately, it is not venomous. They are generally calm and very shy. In case of a threat, they curl up and hide their heads.
Are pet snakes friendly?
Ball pythons are very friendly and comfortable when handled by their owner at least once a day. However, they can’t process emotions as humans do. As such, they may not feel your affection or friendliness, but they do feel pleasure when provided with meals and contact.
I have kids. Is it safe to have one?
Yes, it is safe. However, it is important to observe extra precautions while handling the python around kids, especially those below five years. Ball pythons are generally shy and small. Their diverse colors are attractive to kids. Pet care lessons are vital to impart on the children how to safely handle the pet reptiles.
What does a ball python eat?
A ball python’s diet largely depends on age and size. Smaller pythons eat anything from crickets to fuzzies. As they grow older and bigger, their diet evolves to adult rodents such as rats and mice.
What are you waiting for? Ball pythons are one of the friendliest pet snakes and an all-time favorite for pet snake owners. Their calm, shy nature and minimal care requirements make them an excellent choice for pet owners. Their remarkable ability to adapt and agreeable nature makes them a great pick for both you and your kids.