The thought of owning a pet snake makes some people’s skin crawl. Whether you’re a parent and your child has been begging for one, or you simply like the idea of having a pet snake, owning a ball python comes with a lot of misconceptions. Ball pythons are amazing animals, and taking care of one can be a rewarding process, but first-time owners aren’t always given accurate information about them.
This article will discuss some of the most common myths and misconceptions about these snakes and hopefully teach you the truth about how to care for and understand these gorgeous animals.
Top 5 Ball Python Myths and Misconceptions
1. You Can Keep Them in Small Enclosures
There are far too many sources online that aren’t giving out accurate information. Some even go as far as saying that large enclosures will stress them out—a ludicrous idea when you think about it. Ball pythons certainly do like tight spaces with lots of coverings and hides while still being able to climb and explore, and large enclosures without the appropriate number of items in them could make them feel exposed and lead to more stress. A small enclosure is not the answer, though.
If you decide to purchase a larger enclosure for them, like a 40-gallon tank, then you need to also provide an appropriate number of accessories. Things like toilet paper rolls, leaves, and wooden branches can make a bare space feel more like home.
2. Ball Pythons Are Slimy
People think of reptiles and automatically assume that these animals are slimy and would make a mess in the house. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Ball pythons have very smooth and soft skin. Amphibians like frogs, newts, and salamanders are covered in a thin layer of lubrication then helps them breathe, which is likely where this misconception stems from. Snakes lack this layer and thus don’t’ feel slimy at all when you hold and handle them.
3. You Must Feed Ball Pythons in a Separate Enclosure
There is no real reason to move your python to a new enclosure every time you feed it. Some believe that feeding them in their usual enclosure leads to aggression over time. This could happen if the only time that you ever open the lid is to feed them. However, if you regularly clean their cage, feed them, and handle them, this shouldn’t be an issue. The chances of this happening also decrease when you stick to a regular feeding schedule.
4. They Could Eat You or Your Pets
There is a tall tale that has gone around for years stating that there was once a snake that slept beside its owner every night in order to size them up and eat them. This is a popular, yet silly, myth that simply isn’t true.
Ball pythons in the wild wouldn’t have that kind of opportunity, so it’s not normal behavior for them in captivity. These snakes should also only be fed prey that is about the same size as their girth. While they can technically eat prey that is 1.5 times their body weight, large prey also can cause gut impaction and lead to death. Most snakes know this by instinct. This isn’t to say that larger species like the Burmese python couldn’t eat large prey, but ball pythons in captivity remain fairly small and don’t have any real desire to eat cats, dogs, or even you, especially when you keep their enclosure well maintained and prevent them from escaping.
5. They Strike Whenever Coiled
Ball pythons are strong, fast, and flexible snakes that can strike from nearly any position they want. They are only going to bite you if they are feeling stressed or threatened. In most situations, they coil as a defense mechanism. If you’re unsure about when they are going to strike, look for their tail and head instead. The head follows your every move and the tail tightens into an “S” shape. However, if you’re handling them properly, they shouldn’t have any reason to strike at you.
There are dozens of myths floating around that might deter you from owning a pet snake. These usually have no basis behind them and are used to scare you more than inform you. When you have the right information, you can make a more accurate judgment about owning a ball python as a pet. While the world often paints snakes as scary, dangerous creatures, caring for these animals is a heartwarming process that makes you even more empathetic towards all the animals of this planet.
Featured Image Credit: Ery Azmeer, Shutterstock