When you look at snakes, they don’t exactly scream “affectionate pets”, do they? But can you actually treat them like other pets? Do snakes even like being handled or touched?
To answer this question, I’ve asked a few experts and some of my dear friends that have owned snakes all their lives, and here is what they told me;
So, do snakes like to be held, touched, or stroked? Snakes can enjoy being held, touched, or stroked if they are used to their owner and trust them, and you can tell by how your snake reacts to your touch what they are feeling, for example, if your pet snake rubs itself on your hand when you touch it, it probably likes it.
To understand how your snake feels about your touch, when you can touch it, and how to touch them so that they like it, keep reading.
Do Snakes Like Being Touched?
When you pet a dog, it will wag its tail, lick your hand, and try to get more attention from you. When it comes to snakes, they do not generally seek physical contact the same way dogs do; however, it varies from one snake to another.
Some snakes enjoy being petted, while others do not. As a pet snake owner, it’s important to know if your pet snake likes to be touched, how to touch it safely, and when not to touch it.
If your snake does not seem to like being touched, then you need to stop. If you force physical contact on your snake, it can lead to stress and may eventually cause the snake to bite.
You can determine that your snake likes physical contact if it doesn’t struggle or bite you when you touch it; however, it’s not always a sure thing. Some snakes eventually become used to being touched and handled. They can feel it when you touch them, but it doesn’t feel as good for them as does for other pets.
Physical contact between snakes and each other is more common than it is with humans; they rub against each other to remove dead skin when shedding and during mating rituals, so, when a snake’s body is touched, it’s usually for a specific reason.
Snakes also like to squirm in their bedding if it has just been changed, seeking out substrates and surfaces that feel nice for tactile sensations.
Do Snakes Like Being Held?
Holding a python or boa constrictor is very different from holding other types of pets, such as dogs and cats. It’s best to avoid direct contact with your snake if you can’t hold it safely.
When you do hold your snake, do so gently and support its body. Do not try to pick up a snake by its head or tail. If the snake is coiled around your forearm, it’s best to cup your hand over the top of its head to avoid being bitten.
Many people think that all snakes like to be held, but this is not the case. Some snakes like to be held and some do not. You will have to experiment with your snake to see what it prefers.
Do Snakes Like Being Stroked?
Just as there are many different ways of petting a snake, there are also many different ways of stroking one. The best way to find out how your snake likes to be stroked is by trying several different types of strokes.
For example, do you pet your dog or cat on the top of its head? You should not do this with a snake because it’s likely that they will interpret this as an attack and strike at you. There are many ways in which you can do this, just use your imagination.
Do not try to hold a snake near the tail as it may interpret this as an attack and strike at you. If you want to stroke part of its body and they do not seem frightened or agitated by what you are doing then go ahead but remember to do so gently without squeezing too hard.
Some snakes do not like to be stroked at all, so always be aware of your snake’s body language and react accordingly. If the snake seems agitated or frightened by what you are doing, stop immediately.
How Do You Pet a Snake?
If your snake seems to enjoy physical contact, then it’s okay to handle and pet it from time to time. Some snakes respond well to light stroking, belly massages, head touches, or even chin scratches.
The preference for physical contact varies from one snake to another as they have distinct personalities. So, it’s important as a pet owner, to be kind and respect your snake’s preferences.
If notice that your snake is hissing, trying to squirm away, or trying to bite you, then you must stop stroking it. These are clear indications that it does not want to be touched.
Snakes do not like to be held the way other pets do because they do not have limbs, so holding them should always be done gently and with respect for their body language.
If you are able to hold your snake without it feeling threatened by your touch or if it tries to strike at you then that is great, but do not do anything that makes your snake uncomfortable or afraid.
Keep in mind that the proper way to stroke or pet your snake is by going over its body gently, starting from its head to its tail, and never go against the direction of its scale as this can cause it a lot of discomfort.
If you are not sure how your snake feels about you, make sure to check out this post on how pet snakes really feel about their owners.
When Not to Pet a Snake?
There are certain times when it’s not safe to pet your snake, such as when it’s shedding.
When shedding, your snake’s skin will be extra sensitive, and you could inadvertently damage the new skin layer by removing old skin too soon. Your snake will also be too stressed to welcome your touch.
Another time when it’s not safe to pet your snake is during its mealtime. Putting your hands into your snake’s cage, much less attempting to touch it, when it’s feeding is definitely not a smart idea as your snake may end up biting you instead of its food.
Speaking of feeding time, you should take a moment to learn if feeding your snake live mice is a good idea here.
Finally, when your snake is sick or injured, it’s best to avoid touching it in any way. You need to let it rest and keep it warm instead of subjecting it to additional stress or discomfort through petting.
What Not to Do When Petting Your Snake?
Do not do any of the following when you are petting your snake:
- Do not hold your snake by its tail because this will confuse it and may cause it to become frightened or agitated.
- Do not try to pick up a snake by its head or neck, as this could hurt both you and the animal itself.
- Do not pick up a snake that is in the shed or around any place where it might be shedding. It’s common for snakes to rub against objects when they’re in the process of removing old skin, which can cause them injury because their eyes are still sensitive during this time.
As we mentioned earlier, snakes do not like to be held the way other pets do because they do not have limbs. This is why it’s important for you as a snake owner or lover to take into consideration your snake’s body language and adjust accordingly if they’re struggling with your touch.
As long as you are gentle and respectful of their boundaries, most snakes will enjoy being petted on occasion. If you follow these tips closely, you’ll never make a mistake when trying to give affection again!
Secrets of Snakes: The Science Beyond the Myths by David A. Steen
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