Ball Python Won’t Eat? Here’s 7 Possible Reasons & how to Fix Them Fast

Ball pythons are a common first choice for many people who are new to snake keeping.

In many ways, they make great beginner snakes for the following (plus many more!) reasons:

  • They’re incredibly docile
  • They’re small enough to handle safely
  • They’re not so little that they’re fragile
  • Enclosure’s ideal temperature and humidity parameters are easy to achieve
  • And they are available in an amazingly wide array of colors and patterns

However one reason that they might NOT make a good pet? Well, the inexperienced snake owner may struggle with their tendency to go on hunger strikes. And let’s be frank, LITTLE ELSE will make a snake lover worry about their beloved slithery pal like seeing him or her go for weeks and weeks without food.

Rest assured, this is a WIDESPREAD occurrence for ball pythons, and it doesn’t always mean that anything is wrong.

You see, ball pythons, like most snakes, can safely go for months without any food.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should just sit back and let your pet starve. It just means that you have time on your side to figure things out.

Keep reading to find out exactly why ball pythons go through fasting periods, and how you can fix the issue(s).

If you're looking for a reliable snake food and supplies online store, we recommend Chewy! It is the most trusted and convenient online destination for reptile pet owners. Click here to save 30% on your first order. I may receive a small commission if you purchase after clicking. This does NOT change what you pay or what I recommend. It does help fund the research we put into the site, and I’m grateful for any support!

How Long Can a Ball Python Go Without Eating?

As we mentioned previously, you have a decent amount of time to figure things out.

Almost every ball python can survive for a minimum of six months without a single meal. Many individuals can go much, much longer.

Of course, this is assuming there is not something else going on with your snake’s health and its husbandry needs are being met.

Lack of appetite is one of the BIGGEST red flags when it comes to illness and disease in snakes, so it is essential to rule them out first.

However, sometimes even healthy, well-cared-for snakes will go off feed. But as long as you provide the right conditions and have followed this troubleshooting guide, you can rest assured that your snake will stay healthy until he decides to start eating again.

⭐️ Fun Fact: The longest any snake is believed to have gone without eating is 21 months, and it was – you guessed it – a ball python. Hopefully, this will give you some peace of mind if your ball python has gone weeks or even months without eating.

7 Reasons Why Your Ball Python Won’t Eat

Now that you have a keen idea of just how long your ball python can sustain itself without eating, let’s dive headfirst into the seven potential reasons why ball pythons won’t eat.

Bear in mind these reasons are simply the most common culprits behind a ball python not eating, so there’s no guarantee they’re why yours is abstaining from food. After all, every snake is different.

However, they should, at the very minimum, give you a fabulous place to start!

Reason #1: Parasites and Disease

snake mites on snake
Sickly snakes that are suffering from parasites, such as the ball python above with snake mites, are much less likely to demonstrate a healthy appetite than those that are healthy.

Illness is the most pressing reason why your snake may not be eating.

If your snake is displaying any other symptoms, such as diarrhea, discolored scales, wheezing or “clicking” sounds when breathing, or oral or nasal discharge, please take them to a veterinarian straight away.

If the only symptom your snake is displaying is a lack of appetite and they appear otherwise happy, this issue will require a little more deliberation.

Stress often causes snakes to stop eating, and a trip to the veterinarian can cause even more stress and exasperate the situation.

It’s usually better to wait it out unless OR until there are other accompanying symptoms, or it has been several months, and you’ve tried everything else.

Reason #2: They’re Feeling Stressed

Stress is probably the MOST common reason your ball python won’t eat. Fortunately, it can also be the easiest reason to remedy. 

This scenario is especially common if you just got your snake, took your snake on a trip, or changed your snake’s enclosure.

Try implementing the following changes over the next few weeks:

  • Access to hides. Your ball python should have access to a minimum of two suitable hides, one on the warm side of its enclosure, and one on the cool side. Access to even more hides is ideal. These hides should be large enough for the whole snake to fit inside, but small enough for the snake to feel it touching on most sides. Ball pythons like to hide in tight spaces.
  • Minimize handling. Avoid handling your snake as much as possible until it resumes eating. Although they may not appear to be stressed by frequent handling, it can cause them to stop eating. If your snake starts eating, then stops again once you start handling it again, you know that this issue is the culprit.
  • Limit music and loud noises. Snakes don’t have ears like ours, but they do sense loud noises as vibrations. Try to limit loud disturbances in the vicinity of your snake’s enclosure.
  • Limit feeding frequency. Instead of offering your snake a prey item every week, try offering it every ten to fourteen days. This will give your pet time to get hungry and recover from the potential stress of the last meal time attempt.

Reason #3: Temperature

Another common mistake, especially with beginner snake owners, is not offering sufficient heat – day AND night!

The basking area should reach 88-92°F, and the cold end of the enclosure should never get any lower than 75°F.

You can use a combination of a heating pad, lightbulb during the daytime, or a ceramic heat emitter to attain these temperatures. How many and what wattage of heating devices you need will depend on the size and type of your snake’s enclosure, and the temperature in your house. You should always use a thermostat with any heating element so that the temperature doesn’t get too high.

All ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, including ball pythons, need adequately high temperatures to digest. If it is too cold, their body and metabolism will begin to slow down.

NO snake will eat if it’s unable to digest its food. This is a survival instinct because any food that isn’t digested runs the risk of rotting inside the snake and making it sick.

Reason #4: It’s a Specific Season

sleeping ball python
Don’t let the lack of eyelids fool you… your snake definitely sleeps! This becomes even more prevalent as the Winter months approach and they go into brumation, during which they will most likely have little to no appetite.

Many ball pythons have a sort of internal clock that tells them to stop eating when Winter is approaching.

In the wild, and with many captive keepers, they will go through a period called brumation, which is similar to hibernation. They will become inactive and stop eating for a few months.

After brumation, most snakes will take at least a few meals, but some may begin fasting again as the breeding season commences.

Females that are ovulating and males that are eager to find ovulating females just aren’t interested in eating. Many healthy captive pythons only eat for a few months out of the year due to these seasonal changes.

Reason #5: They’re Picky About Their Food and Feeding Techniques

With all of the above issues taken care of, still, some ball pythons can be incredibly finicky in how AND what they eat. This is especially true for wild-caught ball pythons.

Luckily, there are SO many captive-bred ball pythons available, this issue is becoming slightly less common.

However, it can still happen with the odd wild-caught or captive-bred python.

When you first purchase your pet, be sure to ask the person that you are buying it from:

I. How often is it eating?

If you are purchasing an older animal that the current owner is only feeding every three weeks, it should be no surprise when the snake doesn’t accept your weekly offering of food.

II. Is it eating live, fresh pre-killed, or frozen?

This is a big one. Some ball pythons are actually afraid of live prey, or they don’t know how to dispatch it efficiently, get injured in the process, and then develop a fear.

In fact, some animals don’t even view an already dead animal as food without having to hunt it down. Other animals develop pickiness about the smell of frozen prey, but will readily eat a fresh-smelling pre-killed rat.

III. How and where are you feeding it?

This is another biggie in terms of what the ball python is used to and what it prefers.

There’s such a wide variety of possibilities here that it can be impossible to predict without having it spelled out for you by someone who has been taking care of your animal.

Some snakes prefer that you wiggle the prey around while it’s offered. Others prefer to be left overnight in a dark paper bag with their pre-killed food. I once purchased a terrestrial gopher snake that, at first, would only accept food if he was “hiding” underwater in his water bowl. He certainly thought he was an anaconda!

Just like you and I have our preferences, so can each ball python, so it’s imperative to get this information from the previous caretaker.

IV. What prey are you using?

Ball pythons typically prefer rats over mice. Some ball pythons will even hold out unless they’re offered an African Soft-Furred Rat, a specialty feeder that is one of this snake’s natural prey items in the wild.

Particularly picky pythons may even turn up their nose if you offer the same type and size of feeder but from a different rattery or supplier.

Reason #6: Their Enclosure is Messy 

Cleanliness is one rarely considered factor. Ball pythons in the wild are ambush predators – they wait in burrows for their prey to come to them.

And rodents, their main prey item? Well, they have a VERY advanced senses of smell.

Whenever a wild ball python defecates or sheds, it will leave its burrow and find a new one because the excrements and skin leave behind an odor easily detected by mice and rats.

Some ball python keepers have had success resolving their picky eaters’ habits by thoroughly cleaning the cage after every shed and defecation.

They completely change the substrate and even scrub down the enclosure to remove any trace of the snake’s odor. The theory is that they will eat more readily when they can’t smell themselves.

This might be worth a try if you’re struggling with your own habitually picky eater.

Reason #7: They’re About to Shed

ball python shedding skin
Is your ball python exhibiting ashy colored scales, lethargy, and hazy blue-capped eyes in addition to their lack of appetite? If so, fear not… they’re most likely just preparing to shed! In fact, one of the MOST common culprits behind a ball python not eating is an impending shed.

This factor is out of your control, but most ball pythons will NOT eat when they are getting ready to shed.

You can usually tell when this is about to happen by an ashy, dulled out coloration on their scales, and hazy gray-blue eye caps.

In this situation, all you need to do is offer the proper humidity level and possibly soak your snake so that they can shed comfortably.

And once they’ve finished shedding? Simply offer food a day or two later.

Other Tips Techniques for a Ball Python That Won’t Eat

Looking for a little extra help in terms of how to get a ball python to eat? No worries, I’ve got you covered!

Here are some other tried and true tricks that might peak your python’s appetite:

Prey temperature

Ball pythons detect their prey with their heat-sensing pits, so go beyond simply thawing that frozen rat and let it sit in a waterproof bag in hot water

The rodent needs to be much warmer than room temperature to be detected by your snake.

Prey type and scenting

As we discussed before, different snakes have different preferences. You can try these variations, but only try ONE different or new thing at a time.

If you try more than once without giving your ball python a little chance to recover from any possible mealtime stress, it will be much less likely to eat.

Start with any of these suggestions to give your ball python a variety if new prey and scents to spark their appetite:

    • Offer different sizes of rats, mice, and African soft-furred rats.
    • Offer each species and size as frozen and as pre-killed.
    • Thawing frozen rodents with a chicken bouillon cube, or dip it in chicken noodle soup. If you’re not squeamish, you can even try “braining” the rodent – using a sharp instrument to open the skull and expose the odor of the brain, which can be tempting to some individual snakes.
    • Only use live prey as a last resort, and always make sure to supervise so that the rodent doesn’t injure your snake, but this final attempt may finally trigger your ball python’s hunting and eating instincts.

Feeding technique

Again, only try one new method at a time. If your ball python doesn’t eat, wait seven to fourteen days, then try something else.

To add a little a variety into your feeding technique, try one these techniques:

      • Wiggle the prey near them until they become interested
      • Try feeding them during nighttime hours or with the lights off.
      • Don’t take them out of their enclosure or even their hiding spot to feed them.
      • Leave them overnight in a paper bag, in their enclosure, with the pre-killed prey item.

Wrapping Up Ball Pythons That Won’t Eat

If you’ve followed the above guidelines, you’ve made sure the lighting, heat, and humidity parameters are followed to a T, and your ball python STILL won’t eat, please don’t stress!

Again, I want to reiterate that it is PERFECTLY NORMAL and that most ball pythons start eating on their own again without any intervention.

The most important thing is to not cause additional stress to your snake by trying to force or over-coax them to eat.

Have hope that they will resume eating when they’re ready, watch out for other warning signs of parasite or disease, and don’t stop trying.

Good luck!

If you're looking for a reliable snake food and supplies online store, we recommend Chewy! It is the most trusted and convenient online destination for reptile pet owners. Click here to save 30% on your first order. I may receive a small commission if you purchase after clicking. This does NOT change what you pay or what I recommend. It does help fund the research we put into the site, and I’m grateful for any support!

13 thoughts on “Ball Python Won’t Eat? Here’s 7 Possible Reasons & how to Fix Them Fast”

  1. We have two snakes that have not eaten in 2 months I am not sure if it is the rats that we are feeding or if it is that we don’t handle them as much as we did when they stopped eating. Can someone help, please. email me at [email protected],com

    Reply
  2. I have a ball python the last meal I offered it protected its self and bit the snake in the mouth I just learned that it now has a infected bite in its mouth I have been using antibiotics gel to heal it question is will the python still eat it has not had a meal in a month I was giving it live food but since that bite I switched to thawed rats I have not fed it since the bite. I found out about the bite a week ago should I leave it be or try and see if it will eat

    Reply
  3. my ball python is under a year old and has not eaten for about 3 weeks. it rejected two meals with no interest and is losing weight now. he is more lethargic and isn’t hiding in his hide anymore. temp is good, he’s not shedding, i feed frozen thawed and he has taken it readily before.

    Reply
    • Any progress with your animal? I just read your comment today (9/13). I also have a male, 10 months old and I’m having the same problem. Last meal 8/26, showing no signs of going into blue. Just refuses his weekly meal.

      Reply
  4. I have two baby ball pythons that were eating the frozen mice at petco. One of them eats fine but the other one isn’t eating. He’s ate one time (9/24) in the 2 months that we’ve had him and hasn’t ate since. He barely comes out from his hiding place now. He doesn’t seem to be shedding. We’ve even tried live mice, but he seemed to be scared of it. We tried poking a hole in the frozen one’s brain and still nothing. When we first got them he was a little bigger than the other, but now he looks smaller so i’m really worried.

    Reply
  5. I have had a ball python going on three years now it has never refused food in the past has always eaten through every season now all of a sudden for the past two months he is not wanting to eat any food he eats live prey and he is avoiding it. No sights and husbandry is the same as usual nothing has changed except his feeding

    Reply
  6. I’ve had my girl for almost 3 yrs now and she has never refused food not even when she was going into shed. But all the sudden she has refused her food for past 2 weeks. She usually eats every week on Friday like clock work. It is becoming winter time here. But even in previous years she always ate. Nothing has changed everything has remained the same except we bought a male Python. Who has recently got out his enclosure. Please help

    Reply
    • Has your ball python ate yet? Mine still hasn’t going on 4 months now. He has never done this before and I have don all the tips still nothing.

      Reply
  7. I have a ball python. Captive bred, male, about 20+ years old and I’ve had since a baby. He has only ever eaten frozen.

    He used to eat fantastically when young, but the last 10-15 years he’s completely picky. It’s fairly common that he’ll only eat 6 times in a year.

    Initially I came to the conclusion it was a dislike of moving up to rats and so I reverted to multiple large mice which worked for a while.

    Now I am more convinced it is also something around the breeder or smell. He comes out looking hungry and searching for the food but will quite simply ignore it. I will end up buying packs of 10 large mice and he wont touch a single one. Another pack of 10 and again, won’t touch a single one. Then all of a sudden I get a pack and he strikes it as soon as it’s near and will demolish the whole pack (often 2 or 3 at a time at weekly / 2 weekly intervals). Then the next pack of 10 arrives and he won’t touch them.

    I’ve had packs come slightly thawed (yet still below 5C) and also packs that are certainly still completely frozen with loads of dry ice still packed in there. There is no correlation between the two. I have ordered from the same suppliers and different suppliers and again, doesn’t seem to correlate.

    My next plan is to hold back one or two mice from a pack he likes and then mix it in with the next pack that comes and see if that somehow helps.

    However, as far as I’m concerned… he’s 20… he still looks as strong and healthy as he ever has, I just keep going as I am. My biggest bug bear is that I throw 80% of all the mice I buy in the bin!

    Reply
  8. In a past I had a ball python which went off food for 9 months. I was so worried that force feed him twice and then when I have lost hope he started to eat again. NEXT snake will be Boa.

    Reply
  9. My girl (1.5y.o.) stopped eating in October 2020 and I was told by snake “experts” your ball should “NEVER MISS A MEAL”. If it misses a meal then something is wrong.
    I would offer an appropriate size meal once every couple of weeks and she would refuse.
    The vet told me as long as she wasn’t losing a substantial amount of weight, she’d be fine. She gets weighed every week.
    She started eating 2 weeks ago and on Sunday I noticed she was in blue, so after her eyes cleared up, I did offer a meal, because sometimes she would eat as soon as her eyes cleared up during her shed cycle. She hissed at her food! LOL!

    Reply

Leave a Comment