Do Snakes Have Memory? [What Experts VS Owners Believe]

Humans have been around dogs for thousands of years, so we believe we have them figured out pretty well. We have also been around cats for a while and we believe we are beginning to figure them out pretty well as well.

Not snakes, though. We don’t know much about snakes, and with so many people starting to get snakes as pets, there are a lot of unanswered questions about them.

One of these questions that seem so simple and yet so puzzling is do snakes have memory? Snakes do have memory, but it is believed that they only have a short-term memory and can make associations but not remember things. A snake’s brain is not as developed as other animals and they don’t have the mental capacity for long-term memory.

Unfortunately, there is surprisingly little research about snakes in general, and even less so about snakes’ brains and memories. That could be because snakes are just naturally solitary and difficult to understand, and it could be because they are not as close to us as other animals.

Whatever it may be, I have dug into the research as much as I could, asked some experts, and surveyed plenty of my snake-owning friends to find the answers for you, so let’s dig a bit deeper into what kind of memories do snakes have and what you can expect your pet snake to remember.

Do Snakes Have Memory?

snake wrapped around owner shoulder to show how do snakes have memory

This is actually a more controversial question than you would expect among scientists and experts, and there is little research to answer this question in a clear way that leaves no room for debate.

However, the most commonly believed theory is that snakes do not have memories. There is no scientific basis to the theory that snakes can have memories, and that’s what most scientists agree on.

What science thinks about snake memories

The scientific community doesn’t believe that snakes can have a long-term memory. A Snake’s brain is simply not developed enough to the extent we see in other animals that we know can retain memories.

This makes a lot of sense because snakes are reactionary animals and don’t really have a need for long-term memories. Being reactionary means that a snake will strike a threat the moment it feels that this is a threat, and long-term memory can hinder that.

What owners believe about snake memories

Snakes owners believe they have a memory, but that snakes just don’t process it through an emotional response.

Emotions are stored in the long-term memory banks of the brain, not the short-term ones. So what they learn from experience stays with them (this animal is dangerous; this animal isn’t; this animal is prey; that one isn’t), but they don’t have an emotional response to those recollections.

It is difficult for humans to consider memory without the emotional attachments we normally have. Snakes lack a part of the brain that is able to imagine emotions, so what they recall are phrases like “last time I smelled this I was ed,” or ” last time I saw this I was hurt,” or anything as complicated as “the previous three times this animal was near me it caused me harm.”

So do snakes have a memory? The answer is yes and no. No in the sense that they do not remember things through an emotional response, but yes in the sense that they do remember things and associations from their experiences.

This leads us to a very interesting point; if snakes don’t have memories, can they remember their owners?

Can Snake remember their owners?

Snakes can remember their owners just not in the way you think of or the way other pets remember their owners.

Snakes can remember a person, in part, with their sense of smell, hearing, and sight. The degree to which they are handled will have an impact on how well they remember you.

Consider it a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Snakes may come to associate your scent and voice timbre with repeated handling and conversation. Nonetheless, if a lengthy gap in contact occurs, it might take some time to re-establish familiarity.

Snakes can also know their owners by recognizing them as the source of their food. The regular time, noises, and processes that are used when feeding on a set schedule especially aid the snake in connecting the owner as secure and attentive.

What snake owners say about their snakes’ memory

Here are some of the things snakes’ owners have said when they were asked if their snakes can remember them:

“I’m plenty sure that my snake has some kind of short-term memory because she knows she isn’t in danger when I handle her and she will always favor me over other members of the family, I don’t think she’d do that if she didn’t remember me in some way”

Anthony “aka; Anthonio”, a friend.

” I’m sure my boa has a memory. He remembers my son even though he only visits on holidays and on special occasions, but he will always stand up and stay fixed on my son as he moves through the house until my son goes to say hi”

Jennie, a Friend’s mom


Do snakes have a memory? The answer is yes and no. No in the sense that they do not remember things through an emotional response, but yes in the sense that they do remember things and associations from their experiences.

This means that snakes can remember you in some way, it’s just not the same way most other pets will remember us.

Helpful Resources

Secrets of Snakes: The Science Beyond the Myths by David A. Steen

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