Ball Python not eating
By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, DABVP
Q: I take care of a ball python we keep as part of our lab’s living vertebrate collection at my university. From everything I know, ball pythons seem to be finicky eaters, but I’ve exhausted every possible avenue I know to bring this ball python out of a 3-month fast. He is not losing mass, but I’m still worried. I’ve tried raising the humidity and oil baths, which seem to help the ball python shed but have no effect on feeding. I’ve monitored temperature, although we’ve been battling boiler problems. I’ve even tried feeding the ball python in the dark. Our university does not allow us to use live mice for feeding, so I use mice thawed in hot water with a beef bouillon cube. The ball python has a separate feeding enclosure but, nowadays, he’s mostly interested in escaping from it. Is there anything else I can do for him? Thanks.
A: I am concerned about the habitat’s temperature range. If your facility is battling problems with heating the room in which the ball python’s habitat is kept, then you need to make sure his cage has the appropriate heating equipment to keep his area warm enough.
Ball pythons are often very shy snakes, and they are nocturnal, so they will do best if offered their prey item at night, in the dark. You should be feeding your ball python at night – you said you even tried feeding him in the dark, but you didn’t say if this occurred at night. It is best to leave a ball python alone to eat, and try not to disturb it at feeding time. I don’t think you need a separate feeding enclosure, but your ball python should have a hide box or some sort of visual barrier so he is afforded some privacy for mealtimes. Some ball pythons will feed better in an appropriate-sized paper bag.
Also, make sure you are keeping your ball python within the correct temperature gradient – 75 degrees Fahrenheit at night and 85 to 90 degrees during the day, with a focal hot spot of 95 degrees – and humidity – 70 to 80 percent relative humidity. You should have several accurate digital thermometers/hygrometers located near the bottom of the enclosure where your ball python hangs out to ensure he is warm enough. A sluggish/lethargic snake is not likely to eat. Make sure your ball python has a container filled with water and that it is large enough for him to entirely soak himself whenever he wishes.