How to Use Rodents as Snake Food

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 26, 2009

Snakes make great pets, but if you’re thinking of getting one, there are some things you should know first. Snakes are carnivores (well, except for the tentacled snake, which also likes to munch on water plants for a bit of variety). The rest, to be more accurate, are predators (no, not that ugly creature that hunted Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Predator), so they eat living things such as fish, snails, birds, spiders, insects, eggs, and even large animals. Their diet is mostly dependent on the species of snake and the food available in their natural habitat.


However, if you're thinking of getting a snake as a pet, then your best bet is to feed it some rodents.

Don't worry, though, you don't have to go and put out mice or rat traps around your home. Live and frozen rodents can be found at the local pet store. But, how exactly do you feed a rodent to your pet snake?

Live Food for Snakes: It’s a Preference

In general, snakes prefer their dinner alive and kicking. However, they are also unpredictable: they may play with their dinner, ignore it, or nab it immediately. We like to think of snakes as the prima donnas of the reptile world.

Safe Feeding for Snakes

You don’t want dinner escaping if your snake isn’t interested, so close the cage after offering the rodent. More importantly, if the snake doesn’t eat his food straight away, you must stay in the room, keeping an eye on things. And remember to toss some dog food into the cage for the rodent -- as they need a constant source of protein -- or you may find your snake becoming the dinner, instead.

If after two hours the snake still hasn’t made a move to eat his dinner, then remove the rodent and place in a cage with dog pellets and water. You can either try again later or the next day, depending on the species of snake.

Although you may be tempted, don’t drop the mouse in the cage. Use tongs (similar to what you use with the barbecue) to lower the rodent into the cage by its tail. After all, no one wants any bite incidents between you and your hungry snake.

Prekilled and Frozen Dinners: The Convenient and Safe Option

Most people feel it’s safer to feed a snake frozen rodents, as they do not fight back. It’s also much more convenient having a slew of frozen rodents on hand rather than buying live rodents for each feeding. And let’s be honest, you may find you are less squeamish.

How to Defrost Your Snake's Food

You should never feed your snake an actual frozen rodent. Snakes aren’t into mouse popsicles. They like their food at room temperature, just like a live dinner would be. However, you should never warm the frozen rodent using a microwave or oven; it will cook the meat and the snake won’t eat it—or, if the snake does eat the cooked meat, it may become very ill. Simply let it defrost in a bowl of warm water.

One safe method that works for warming prey is to take the baggie the prey is stored in and dip it into heated water for about an hour (boiling water can melt the plastic baggie, so take care with the water temperature). If you are taking the prey from frozen, place the baggie in warm water for a couple of hours, with a dish or coffee mug on top of it to keep it submerged. 

Feedin’ Time

The method for feeding frozen food isn't very different from feeding it a live rodent. First, let it thaw and wipe down the rodent with paper towels. While wearing gloves, lower the defrosted rodent in, giving it a wiggle or three, since snakes like moving target. If your snake gets fussy, toss the rodent away after two hours.

And there you have it how to feed your snake both live and frozen food. Good luck!

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