Are Snakes Smart? [Tests + 10 Facts + Experts and Owners Weigh In]

There are many things that make for a good pet; affection, obedience, maintenance costs, ease of care, and, of course, intelligence.

How intelligent a pet is can make a big difference in living with them, and how living with them is actually like.

since we have been living with dogs, cats, and most other animals we keep as pets for a long time, we have extensively tested and studied their intelligence, but that’s not the case for snakes, which we have only recently started keeping as pets.

So, what about snakes? Are snakes smart? Snakes are intelligent, but they don’t always show this intelligence in ways we can understand. Snakes are able to learn, recognize boundaries, and excel in tracking their prey, but more research is still required to fully understand snakes’ intelligence.

There is limited research into the intelligence of snakes, but from what we have studied, we can tell that they are pretty smart indeed.

In this article, we are going to discuss how intelligent snakes really are and what are the signs of this intelligence, so stick around;

Are Pet Snakes Smart?

snake from close to show are snakes smart

The capacity to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills is known as intelligence. Despite how disadvantaged they may look when compared to humans and most mammals, snakes are surprisingly bright. They have a remarkable ability to learn and put what they’ve learnt into practice in their everyday lives.

Although the precise degree of snakes’ intellect is a point of contention, no one disputes that they are capable animals. Still, some people feel that snakes have an innate level of intelligence, but it appears to us that they have the capacity to learn and apply new knowledge.

The main reason we don’t know how smart snakes truly are is that it’s quite hard to study the intelligence of snakes.

Why is it hard to test snakes’ intelligence?

Let’s start by establishing one thing: it’s quite tough to measure a snake’s intellect. Despite the fact that there have been attempts to verify a snake’s intelligence, the results and research are inadequate at best.

It’s difficult to measure the snakes’ intellect because they are not driven or motivated in the same ways as other animals. Because snakes don’t eat as frequently as other creatures and lack the ability to understand positive or negative reinforcement, neither food nor encouraging words work on them.

Another issue is that snakes don’t want to move unless they have to, which makes it difficult to measure their intellect. Snakes will stay in one place once they’ve discovered a nice area to sleep. Because it’s been so tough to measure a snake’s intellect, many individuals make judgments based on the size of its brain.

We can now get into what research tells us about a snake’s intellect after we’ve established that it exists.

Do Snakes Learn new things?

More scientists are presently interested in determining how intelligent snakes are, as evidenced by the fact that more research is being done on it. Intelligence is one of the most significant factors in determining an animal’s capacity to learn. Animals wouldn’t be able to learn new skills, avoid dangerous places, or protect their territory intelligently if they didn’t have the ability to comprehend and apply new information.

Snakes can become familiar with their environment and learn to avoid certain places if they experience something unpleasant, such as an electric shock or a bad encounter with another creature. Snakes also have the ability to recognize other snakes and creatures that pose no threat. This means that they possess spatial learning skills like those of birds and mammals.

One study found that snakes were able to learn and remember the location of food, which is a pretty significant accomplishment. The experiment entailed training juvenile corn snakes for 12 days before they were released into an enclosure with two identical chambers. One chamber held a rat and the other didn’t. Over time, the snakes began to prefer the chamber that had a rat in it.

It’s also been discovered that snakes can comprehend and apply new information even after they’re born. A study of newborn boa constrictors found that these snakes could discriminate between different objects placed near them, which means that their mothers weren’t teaching them to do so during the first few weeks before

In reality, many snake species have been shown to be able to reason, logic, and resolve issues in order to acquire their next meal and survive.

The king cobra is known for its smartness. When it comes to territory markers, defending their home, and more, it has the best potential to learn.

Are Snakes intelligent or instinctive?

Even though many studies claim that snakes are more intelligent than previously thought, many people still inquire if their skills are instinctual or intellectual. Many specialists feel that snakes are driven only by instincts and not intellect.

Snake experts who think that snakes are entirely instinctive point out that they appear to be interested only in eating, mating, drinking, and remaining alive. Furthermore, these specialists believe that a snake’s capacity to hunt and track is the result of instincts rather than intellect.

There are also people who hold that snakes are more intelligent than most other experts think. Although the snake’s natural instinct is to track down and navigate using its sense of smell, it must learn areas and avoid predators intelligently.

For example, a snake will avoid a large dog because it’s smart enough to identify that dogs are snake predators and can kill them, so snakes are more likely to avoid an area with a large dog.

Snakes don’t appear to be the most intelligent creatures, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Despite having incredibly strong instincts, they are also smart.

How smart are snakes compared to other animals?

Snakes, in comparison to other animals, aren’t that bright. Many other species, such as birds, mammals, rodents, and others, exhibit a much greater capacity for learning and applying new skills. Still, snakes are smarter than previously believed.

Perhaps snakes are more clever than we give them credit for. We know that testing a snake’s intellect is difficult, so we may not have a complete picture of their brains’ capabilities.

12 Signs of Snakes’ intelligence

Although we still have a lot to learn about snakes to determine accurately how smart snakes really are, snakes do show a lot of signs of their intelligence. Let’s quickly discuss some of them.

Snakes are Adaptable

Recent studies have shown that snakes are actually adaptable, and while snakes may not have memories in the same way we do, they can still remember cues from past experiences and use them to solve problems and achieve their goals.

Snakes have adapted to live in our cities

Our cities are unlike anything snakes can find in nature, but snakes have found ways to live in these very unnatural environments to them. This means that snakes had to learn new ways of surviving and some snakes have even thrived in these new environments.

One such example of how they adapted to living in urban environments is how they are able to find their ways in and out of our homes. You can learn how they can do that in this post on how can snakes climb walls or stairs here.

Snakes are protective of their young

Although snakes are thought of as heartless creatures that will leave their eggs once they are laid, the truth is that this is a myth, and that some snakes will care for their younglings for a while and will even stick around to protect them until they hatch and can venture out on their own.

Some snakes construct and defend their nest, illustrating their smarts in protecting their young. I discuss this in more detail in my article on do snakes recognize their babies here, and it’s definitely worth reading.

Snakes Remember Cues

Recent studies have shown that snakes may not remember paths but they do remember cues. A recent study of corn snakes placed them in a tub and then guided the snakes toward a hole by researchers.

The next time the snakes were put in the tub, researchers found that the snakes could not only find their way to the hole, but with each repetition, they could find it faster than the previous one.

This has shown that snakes can remember cues and then utilize them for faster results.

Some Snakes are more intelligent than others

Similar to every other species, some individual snakes were found to be smarter than their counterparts of the same species and age. For a long time, scientists believed that since all snakes relied on their instincts for everything, they must all be the same, but studies have found that some individual snakes can outperform others when tasked with certain things.

In the corn snakes study, while, on average, the time it took the snakes to get out of the tub dropped from 700+ seconds to 400 seconds by the final run, some snakes were actually much faster and could find their way out in only 30 seconds.

Snakes can work together

Scientists agree that working together as a team is a sign of intelligence in many species, and for centuries, it was sought that snakes never work together, but recent studies have found this to also be not true.

Snakes can work together in loosely organized groups to trap and take down prey. It’s still unclear how this cooperation is organized, but we know for a fact that it happens.

Snakes can intentionally control their venom delivery

Recent studies have also found that snakes have control on how can they inject their venom when taking down prey. Snakes can even choose to bite without delivering any venom at all.

Snakes can do so when the bite is not meant to take down prey but rather to scare away predators. Snakes can also choose to bite and not deliver their venom to control their venom supplies.

We can train snakes to perform simple tasks

Scientists were able to train snakes on how to press a key to get a certain outcome. In the study, the reward was the presence of water.

This study has also broken the traditional way of thinking about snakes as completely untrainable because while we may not be able to train them to perform complicated tricks like dogs, they can be trained using the same principles to perform certain tasks.

Snakes can learn to link a stimulus with a reward

In another study, scientists were able to train garter snakes to link chips with a lemon scent with a food reward. The snakes have learned to go to the chamber to get the food, although the scent of lemon has had nothing to do with their reward, but they could still make the association.

Making an association of a stimulus with a reward when the two are not obviously related is a sign of intelligence in many species.

Snakes can fake behaviors

Even though they aren’t poisonous, a number of snake species may shake their tails in imitation of a rattlesnake. When the Eastern Hognose Snake is threatened, it plays dead, which might suggest that it understands how it is regarded by predators.


While there is still much to be learned about the intelligence of snakes, it would appear that they are far more complex and intelligent than we once thought. This new information should cause us to re-evaluate our assumptions about these animals and consider them in a different light.

Helpful Resources

Snakes show a surprising ability to learn

Scientists confirm snakes can hunt in packs

Operant conditioning in Indigo snake

Conditioned discrimination of airborne odorants by garter snakes (Thamnophis radix and T. sirtalis sirtalis).

Snakes have friends too

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