I’ve done some research, and found the life expectancies of the most popular pet snakes breeds. I’ve had lots of pets over the course of my life. Now that I’m a mom with a son who will someday want a pet of his own, I like to know just how long each type of pet will live for.
So, how long do most popular breeds of pet snakes live? The lifespan of a pet snake varies depending on the breed, but the average life expectancy is 15-30 years. Some of these popular snake breeds include Corn Snakes, Ball Pythons, Boa Constrictors, Burmese Pythons, Garter Snakes, and the California King snake.
Snakes are hardy creatures that can go weeks without food. This is in part because snakes have the ability to lower their metabolic rate by about 70% (meaning that they can conserve energy and don’t need to eat food as often). This also means that owning a pet snake can be quite the time investment since snakes live so long and need special care and habitat upkeep.
How to Care for Your Snake Species
Now, I know that snakes live a long time, but what does that entail for you as the pet owner? Is the care of a pet snake really that laborious, and how can you make it easier on yourself and your pet snake? Don’t worry! I’ve been researching snakes for a while, and I can help walk you through the basics of caring for a pet snake.
There are lots of elements besides a feeding schedule that you need to be aware of when you buy a pet snake. You will need specialized supplies, locks for cages, and the proper diet for your new snake.
I once had a Venus Flytrap, and I thought I could feed it anything, but I was wrong. Snakes are the same. They can’t, and often won’t, eat just anything you catch or buy to give them. Certain snake species require specialized diets while other snake’s diets are more simplistic.
Let’s get right into the nitty-gritty of what you will need to make sure your snake lives a long and happy life.
Let’s start with the most basic necessity for your snake. Let’s say that you have decided to buy a snake. You are committed to having it around for 15-20 years, and now, you just need to create the right habitat for your snake.
One of the first things that you will need to create that habitat is a terrarium. Terrariums are large glass tanks that are sturdy enough to house a snake and make it hard for one to escape. Make sure that when you buy your terrarium that it will be big enough to house your future snake when it is fully grown, especially since some pet snakes can get up to 6 feet in length.
After you’ve acquired your terrarium, you will need to fill it with basic items your snake will need. One of these is a water dish. Your snake will want to drink and may occasionally want to go for a dip, so make sure you have a dish that is big enough to accommodate these
You will also need something to line the floor of the terrarium. What you use to line the cage can often be determined by what snake you chose to purchase. Research the type of snake you are interested in to find what material it would be most comfortable with.
The next item you will need is a hiding home of some kind. This can be any type of shelter where your snake can retreat to when it needs a moment of peace. These are key, so you don’t want to skip this item. Heat lamps are also a necessity since snakes need warmth and temperature control to make them comfortable. A thermometer would also be a worthwhile purchase, so you can easily monitor the temperature of the enclosure.
Another thing you might want to consider including is climbing furniture to place around the tank. Once you have the habitat set up to make the snake comfortable, you move on to the next most important snake preparation item, the diet.
You should spot clean your snake’s habitat about one to two times a week and replace the water in the water dish daily. You should completely replace the lining of the terrarium at least once a month.
This one can be a bit more tricky, but it will be worth your time to make sure that your pet snake has the proper food. This will not only keep your snake well-fed but also healthy.
Diet often depends on the species of snake, but here are a few basic examples of certain snake species and their diets:
- Ball Python diets mainly consist of pre-killed frozen or thawed rodents. Be sure to feed your Ball Python an appropriately sized portion based on their size. Ball Pythons may also go through periods where they eat less.
- Burmese Pythons often prefer to eat warmblooded meals, but as the snake grows, you can teach it to eat pre-killed food. Some of the recommended meals include mice, chicks, small rabbits, and rats.
- Corn Snakes will eat a rodent that is properly sized for their age/size. However, baby Corn Snakes will also eat frogs, mice, and lizards.
- California Kingsnakes that live in captivity will typically eat mice and rodents.
- Rosy Boas prefer live mice as food, though they will need smaller mice when they are younger.
Unlike dogs, which need to be walked and loved as well as fed and sheltered, snakes are relatively low maintenance once their basic habitat and diet needs are met. If you want to make sure your snake lives a long and healthy life, be sure they meet these requirements above all else.
Popular Snakes That Are Easy to Raise
If you are a first-time snake owner or even a veteran snake owner that wants an easy-tempered low-maintenance snake, I’ve put together a list of popular snakes and their temperaments to help you choose a snake that you will want to have around for a long time.
- Garter Snakes are small in size and docile in temperament. This makes them a perfect fit if you are looking for a small snake to take care of without worrying about an aggressive temperament.
- Ball Pythons are one of the most docile snakes but are larger in size than a Garter Snake.
- Corn Snakes are small like Garter Snakes and also very docile.
No matter what snake you choose, it is always important to be aware of a snake’s natural disposition. This will help you raise a healthy snake and enjoy doing so.
How to Know When Your Snake is Sick
Now that you have your pet snake, you will probably want to make sure that it lives as long as its life expectancy says it should. No one wants to get a pet just to have it become sick or unhealthy. This could ultimately lead to you losing your beloved pet, but if you know what you are looking for, you can spot health problems in your snake before it’s too late.
Snakes don’t often regurgitate their food, so if your snake starts vomiting, this could be a sign that something is wrong. To help prevent regurgitation in your snake, do not handle them for a while after they have eaten. Low temperatures can also sometimes cause your snake to vomit. If regurgitation continues, seek help from a veterinary specialist.
Scale rot and mouth rot are two similar illnesses that can be treated differently. If your snake is experiencing mouth rot, you should examine the mouth for any signs of origination of the rot.
- Mouth rot: like scale rot, can be caused by poor living conditions or may even be a small side effect of a larger health problem that your snake is experiencing.
- Scale rot: is usually caused by poor living conditions and improper humidity and temperature levels.
It can be treated by creating a cleaner living environment with proper humidity and temperature levels and using an antibiotic ointment on your snake (be sure that the product is meant for snakes).
You can easily spot respiratory problems in your snake by inspecting its nose. If there is unusual discharge, this could be a sign that something is wrong with your snake. This discharge can stem from a number of different causes and should be inspected by a veterinarian who is familiar with snake care.
Another way to identify that your snake is having respiratory problems is if they begin breathing with their mouth open. This is never a healthy sign and should be examined immediately.
If your snake stops eating suddenly and continues to refuse to eat for a long period of time, there may be something wrong with your snake. Like respiratory problems, the cause could be a number of things ranging from mites to stress.
If you brought a wild snake into captivity and it stopped eating, this could be a sign that it is not handling captivity well, and some wild snakes have been known to starve themselves to death.
Keep an eye on your snake’s feeding schedule, but never force your snake to eat.
How your snake sheds its skin is another important health condition that you should be aware of. A healthy snake will shed its skin all at once, but an unhealthy snake may shed parts of its skin and have a remainder of skin left across its eye. Be sure to closely examine your snake for potential shedding problems, so you can get help soon.
Other general signs of illness to keep an eye out for in your snake is a lack of energy, lack of reaction to human interaction, and weight loss. All of these signs could let you know that there is something wrong with your snake, and no one wants to have an unhealthy pet on their hands.
Snakes in Captivity vs. Snakes in the Wild
I have talked about this in a previous article, but it is often better to buy a captive bred snake rather than catch one yourself. But why? What is the difference between catching and buying a snake?
Well first off, a captive snake will be used to human interaction, especially when it comes to feeding. Captive snakes also have a more fixed diet, so you don’t have to worry about going out an catching something that your wild snake might eat. Sometimes, if you catch a wild snake it might refuse to eat to the point of starvation.
While some wild snakes may settle down and become used to human interaction, others may lash out even if they are known to be a more docile species.
You cannot examine the nature, behavior, and health of a wild snake like you can a captive bred snake. Have you ever heard the phrase “try it before you buy it?” This is good advice for snake owners, especially first-time snake owners.
It is always a good idea to go to the store or breeder you will be getting your snake from and inspect the snake. You could even ask a professional to show you how to handle and examine it, but you can’t do this with wild snakes. When you catch a wild snake, you may be able to tell if it’s healthy, but you won’t be able to examine the eating habits and behavior ahead of time.
Wild snakes are also used to hunting for their food and may not be satisfied with frozen substitutes. Also, wild snakes may tend to eat more because they are used to a survival lifestyle. You could, in theory, feed them live food, but in captivity, this is more likely to put your snake at risk of injury.
Unlike wild snakes, you can anticipate a captive bred snake’s feeding schedule and make sure that it is getting the proper amount of food. Both wild and captive snakes may use heat sensing to locate and kill their prey, but some captive bred snakes who are only used to eating frozen food may lose this instinct over time.
There is also a cost difference that you will face between catching and buying a snake. Captive bred snakes are often less expensive because it is easier to care for them. Captive snakes are often healthy too, so you won’t need to pay for any unnecessary veterinary bills to keep your snake healthy. Since you can’t determine the age of a wild snake, you might end up needing to replace your pet snake sooner than you wanted to, which can be another unfortunate cost.
In some snake species, there are color variations between captive bred snakes and wild snakes, though this varies greatly depending on the species. Most wild snakes will have more of a brown coloring while captive snakes can be bred to look more attractive to the owner.
Snakes caught in the wild often come with a higher risk of containing parasites or salmonella, though captive bred snakes could have this too. The parasites on a wild snake are used to living with the creature they inhabit, but if a wild snake caught and put into captivity, the parasites on it might multiply rapidly and become deadly.
In some cases, there are also legal issues that come with catching a snake and trying to raise it in captivity. Be aware of laws in your state or country that might restrict you from catching a snake in the wild.
For example, some states may have a law making it illegal to remove a wild snake from its natural habitat. Some states make it illegal, but you might be able to get a permit to catch a wild snake.
There can also be ethical repercussions for removing a snake from the wild. In some cases, removing a snake from its natural environment can harm the natural ecosystem and how it functions.
If you want your pet snake to live a long time and remain healthy, it is best to buy a captive bred snake over catching one in the wild. This will ensure that both the snake and you are pleased with your new owner-pet relationship.
Are pet snakes dangerous? This is largely subjective, but overall, snakes are dangerous creatures and often, do not make good pets. This is because they carry salmonella, a bacteria that can be fatal for humans. Though not all snakes are poisonous, some do constrict and bite which could harm a human. However, not all bites will severely wound you.
What is the oldest that a pet snake has lived to be? From what records indicate, the oldest pet snake lived to be around 48 years old. The species was a Ball Python.
Do pet snakes recognize their owners? A pet snake may be able to recognize their owner by his or her smell, but there is no other conclusive research to indicate that pet snakes of any species recognize their owners. Even if they did, however, it is not likely that your pet snake would always greet you with a friendly demeanor.