Snakes are captivating creatures. Their slithering bodies, hypnotizing eyes, and the occasional tongue flicker have always inspired fascination for humans. But, why do they seem to look right into your soul?
Why do snakes stare at you? Snakes will stare at you if they’re hungry, sensing heat, wants to protect their environment, lacks trust, or are asleep, or it could be a symptom of the stargazing condition which is serious and required medical attention and treatment.
In this article, we are going to briefly discuss each of these reasons so you understand which one it is in your case and whether you need to do something about it.
Let’s get to it…
Why do snakes stare at you?
Snakes have poor eyesight, making it a secondary sense for inspecting their food or detecting any changes in their environment.
We, humans, always believe that animals must perceive their environment as we do, but that’s almost never true. Even our closest friends, the dogs, don’t see the world as we do. Our closest genetic relatives, the apes, also see the world differently.
No animal is more different from us than snakes, and naturally, they have a completely unique way of seeing the world. For starters, they don’t see the world with their eyes, but with their noses and tongues.
Yes, snakes are using their tongues to lick the air and smell the world. You can learn more about this in this post on why snakes lick.
Now let’s look at the main reasons why your snake could be staring at you.
Snakes do not have eyelids
Snakes do not have eyelids, so they may have this open-eye gaze that makes them look like they are staring at you when they actually are not.
Since snakes do not have eyelids, they can’t really blink, which is why we think they are staring. But don’t worry, your snake does not find you that interesting anyway.
One of the most common reasons why snakes stare at you is because they’re hungry. When your pet snake gets hungry, it will start to look around for food.
It’s especially important to be aware of this if your snake is housed in a glass tank since they may start looking at you as potential food!
If your snake is staring at you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s hungry. It could be looking at any movement in the environment as a potential food opportunity.
Most probably, though, your snake is staring at you because it wants to get your attention so you can feed it.
While snakes can’t recognize their owners by their looks, if they can detect your scent, they will know it’s you and they will have associated your presence with food, so they are most likely to be tracking your movements up close and standing in their cage as a way to tell you “heyyyyy, I’m hungryyy dude, feed me, like right now”
By the way, you should not feed your snakes live prey, and you can learn why your snake shouldn’t be fed live mice here.
One of the ways snakes detect their prey is by sensing heat. This is why they’re usually found near warm objects or climates.
When you’re in the same room as your snake, it’s likely because you’re giving off heat and the snake is attracted to that.
Just like with being hungry, if your snake is housed in a glass tank, it will be looking at you since you are, in fact, something warm that may work as food.
The best way to combat this is by providing your snake with a heating pad or by keeping its tank in an area that doesn’t have a lot of extra heat.
Staring as a Defense Mechanism
As we mentioned earlier, snakes don’t really rely on their vision to communicate like humans do. Instead, they use other methods such as body language and pheromones.
One of the ways snakes may be using their vision is as a defense mechanism. When they feel threatened, they will stare at the person or animal that is threatening them.
This is usually enough to scare away the predator, but if it doesn’t work, the snake will usually resort to other defenses such as biting or hissing.
Lack of Trust
I realize you adore your snake, however, you should know by now that it doesn’t really feel the way we do. Because we’re social creatures, trust is important to us. In reality, most species of snakes are solitary animals that have not evolved close interactions.
Snakes can not be trusting in humans or loyal to their owners the way other pets can. This is why they are usually territorial, and why you shouldn’t handle them too much.
If your snake doesn’t trust you or it’s not used to being handled regularly, it will become stressed when picked up. This can cause the snake to start staring at you in an aggressive manner to show you that it’s not okay to approach it or handle it at this time.
The solution to this problem is easy; take things slowly and start building a stronger relationship with your snake so it can trust you.
Protecting its territory
The majority of snake species are not territorial by nature, but since they can’t move to another place when they are trapped in a cage, they may display territorial behavior, although it’s safe to assume that it’s more protective than territorial.
There is actually surprisingly little research on this point, and even the scientific community doesn’t have a clue whether snakes have territorial aggression when they are in captivity, so let’s hope they can do some research soon and have some final answers for us.
I’ve saved the worst and most important till the last. If you notice your snake looking up from its cage, it’s not because it’s admiring you; it’s a more serious condition called stargazing.
If your snake suffers from this condition, its cervical muscles will contract, pushing the head and neck into a vertical posture. It may appear to be looking up at you if you are standing over the cage, but it’s really compelled into that position.
Here are the common causes of stargazing;
- Infections – Bacterial or viral
- Blood infections
- Inclusion Body Disease (incurable and fatal to some snakes, commonly found in boas and pythons)
- Organ dysfunction (probably due to malnutrition)
- Head trauma
- Drastic temperature changes
If your snake displays signs of stargazing, you should take it to the vet for diagnosis and treatment. As with diseases in humans, early diagnosis can play a huge role in the survival chances of your snake, so you should not wait at all.
Snakes are not like other pets. They have their own thoughts, feelings, and desires that we should take into account when interacting with them.
While some of the reasons why snakes stare at us may be easy to fix, others could potentially lead to death if left untreated. It’s important to be as knowledgeable as possible about your pet.
When you do interact with your snake, always be aware of what its body language is telling you.
If it seems to want more space or doesn’t like being picked up, back off and give them time to calm down before trying again. Snakes can become defensive in the blink of an eye so always stay alert when handling them.
Study sheds light on snake vision
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