Are Snakes Smart? [Tests + 12 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

From these recent studies, scientists have found that snakes appear to be more intelligent than we first thought. This is because snakes tend to have a really good ability to learn. For example, they are great trackers and can even learn boundaries of different territories.

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.

Older snakes are more adaptable

A study revealed that, based on the average age of the snakes studied, younger ones were more adaptable in utilizing a variety of methods to get out of a tub, whereas older snakes relied on what they had learnt in the past and were less likely to be creative.

Snakes have adapted to live in our cities

Snakes have had to modify their behavior in order to survive in humanity’s altering of the planet. This is especially true since humans are frequently hostile towards snakes.

Snakes are certainly not going to be fed in the same manner as birds and squirrels. Since adaptability is frequently seen as a sign of intellect, snakes should be considered smarter than we previously thought.

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 protect their young

Snakes are frequently mistaken for being cold-blooded, not only as a physical characteristic, but also because they don’t care about the well-being of their young.

Some snakes, like the King Cobra, 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

In a study, when 24 corn snakes were placed in a tub in a brightly lit room, they sought out the tub’s perforations.

When snakes were guided towards a hole by researchers, it was discovered that they could find it again faster the next time. In fact, they appeared to pick this ability up rather quickly.

On the first day, the snakes required more than 700 seconds to discover the escape passage, but by the fourth day of training, they had reduced this time to around 400 seconds. This shows snakes can indeed remember cues, learn, and change their behavior accordingly.

Some Snakes are more intelligent than others

Snakes, as we all know, are famously instinctive. If snakes were truly just following their instincts like many people have believed in the past, we would expect to see all snakes solve problems with comparable skill.

This isn’t always the case, though. With practice, some snakes were able to get out of a tub within 30 seconds, but the majority required 400+ seconds.

This shows that snakes have a wide range of intelligence, which may indicate that they are not as instinctive-driven as previously thought.

Snakes can work together

Animals that work together as a team are frequently considered more intelligent than those who do not.

Snakes have long been thought to be solitary creatures with little socialization beyond reproduction, but it has been discovered that the Cuban Boa operates in loosely organized groups to capture prey.

Snakes of different species may also collaborate to capture food, especially when they learn they can hunt more food if they work together.

Snakes can intentionally control their venom delivery

It has also been shown that several poisonous snakes have the ability to control whether or not they inject poison when attacking. They may elect to deliver a dry bite without releasing venom in order to frighten or intimidate their opponents, conserving their venom supplies.

Snakes can be trained to work an apparatus

The Indigo Snakes were able to figure out how to press a key in order to get a positive result, which was the presence of water in this case.

The belief that these snakes are highly intelligent stems from their ability to learn how to obtain something they want in captivity, which would never happen in the wild.

Snakes can learn to associate a stimulus with results

Garter snakes were observed to learn that lemon-scented chips represented a food reward. They might also be taught to trade the food treat for entrance into the unscented chamber.

Because the scent of lemon has nothing to do with food, this indicates a higher level of intellect than that previously thought to be possessed by snakes.

Snakes adapt to being handled

Almost every pet snake owner can attest to the fact that snakes have the ability to learn to accept and even seem to enjoy being handled.

Snakes’ capacity to learn to accept handling in captivity may indicate their potential to adapt to unforeseen situations in the wild.

Since being lifted and handled by a large creature would be deadly in the wild, snakes’ ability to learn to tolerate contact might imply their capacity to adapt to various circumstances than they would anticipate in the wild.

However, as a snake owner, you must know how to condition your snake to be handled, which you can do here.

Snakes can have friends…sort of

A very interesting study has found that Garter snakes seek out the company of other snakes and prefer some snakes over others, implying that they may form social friendships quite similar to those observed in higher animals like humans.

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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