Have snakes always fascinated you, but you were unsure if you could handle feeding your slithery pal a live mouse or rodent?
You may own mice or rodents, and can’t bear the thought of feeding your furry critters to your potential future snake. Perhaps as a vegan or vegetarian, you’d prefer a pet who aligned with your dietary beliefs and wanted to avoid feeding live animals to your companion.
Keep in mind that all snakes are carnivores and cannot survive as vegetarians. Fortunately, there are a few snakes who can survive solely on invertebrates, but that still does not make them truly vegetarian reptiles.
If your heart is set on owning a snake, but you’d rather avoid the nasty business of feeding live prey, or keeping rodents in your home, you’re in luck!
Since all snakes eat whole prey, there aren’t a ton of snakes who can thrive without a vertebrate diet. However, a few species are perfect for potential snake owners who don’t want to deal with live prey.
Oddly enough, some people are less squeamish about handling a snake than they are mice, which makes the following snake species ideal.
While there are many species of snakes who don’t need to consume birds or small mammals, few are available in captivity because they can be difficult to care for.
Although there are not many to choose from that are readily available as pets, some snakes listed are suitable for beginners. If you’ve been looking for a snake who doesn’t need mice or rodents to survive, read on for the best snake species to fit your needs.
In This Article
Garter and Ribbon Snakes
A common snake species, garter snakes may be as easy to find as checking out your own backyard.
With more than a dozen assorted varieties of garter snake species, they all have a key identifying feature—one or three longitudinal red to yellow stripes, with checkered splotches of color in between.
On the smaller side, they rarely measure longer than 39 inches, and are quite harmless, even when handled as wild snakes.
Ribbon snakes are in the same class as garter snakes and these species are often confused, but ribbon snakes tend to be more brightly striped.
Other key differences between the two species include:
- Garter snake bodies are usually stockier than ribbon snakes
- Ribbon snake tails are longer are one-third or more of their total length, whereas garter snake tails are about one-quarter or less of their total length
- Ribbon snakes have narrower heads
- Ribbon snakes have a white spot in front of the eye; garter snakes don’t have one
- Ribbon snakes have pure white lips, while garter snakes have dark marks
Garter snakes are a smaller snake class, but they will still tackle anything they can win against when hunting down a meal. But that prey drive lends itself to good use for reptile owners who prefer to avoid mammalian feedings.
Garter & Ribbon Snake Diet
So, while they do eat rodents, they also feed on whatever doesn’t put up too much of a fight. Because of this, their diet is highly varied and can include the following menu items:
Garter snakes primarily enjoy insects, earthworms, and amphibians. Be sure to cut nightcrawlers into small pieces, since these muscular worms can wriggle back up if left intact.
Ribbon snakes normally do not eat earthworms, and enjoy minnows and small frogs more than other invertebrates.
Frogs, toads, and tadpoles tend to contain many parasites, as can earthworms, so be cautious when choosing your snake’s diet.
Never feed red wigglers to your garter snake, as they are toxic, and goldfish are considered the junk food of fish.
If you choose a garter or ribbon snake as a pet, you can feed your scaly pal invertebrates, but ensure the diet is well-rounded and consists of more than one food source for proper nutrition.
A diet heavy in earthworms or fish will need to be supplemented to ensure your snake does not lack any vital minerals or vitamins.
A water snake makes a great choice for a pet snake who doesn’t eat rodents.
Since this particular class of snakes has taken well to aquatic life, they have adapted to consume mostly prey who also live around a water source.
Water snakes feed in or near the water, and some only leave aquatic environments to bask in the sun or breed.
Water snakes are easily identifiable by their triangular-shaped head, stout bodies, and keeled scales.
Since there are many species of water snakes, their markings and body length can vary substantially. Some snakes may only reach one or two feet, while others can be double or triple that length.
In terms of temperament, many water snakes tend to be more aggressive than the others on this list, but they can adapt to handling.
Water Snake Diet
The most common prey of water snakes are fish and frogs, but you can also feed them insects and worms.
As with garter and ribbon snakes, be wary about your frog source, since amphibians are hosts for a variety of difficult-to-kill parasites.
Snakes fed fish and frogs will also require a supplement to ensure their diet is properly balanced.
African Egg-Eating Snakes
African egg-eating snakes are rather rare pets, particularly when compared to garter snakes. However, if you find one bred in captivity, they are easy to care for and make great pets.
Non-venomous, docile, and essentially toothless, the African egg-eating snake may make a wonderful pet for you.
African Egg Eating Snake Diet
These snakes only consume bird eggs, and are uniquely designed to do so. In fact, their mouths can extend to enormous proportions and their teeth are greatly reduced to fit an egg as large as a chicken’s down their gullet!
Spines on the bottom of the neck vertebrae extend into the esophagus and break the eggshell. The egg’s contents are squeezed from the shell, and the shell pieces are regurgitated.
African egg-eating snakes are designed to eat bird eggs, so they are primarily arboreal and can fast between bird nesting seasons.
All egg-eating snake varieties are slender and about 30 inches long, so they make terrific small house pets.
Since these snakes are on the smaller side, it can be difficult to find bird eggs they can eat as babies.
Finch and quail eggs are ideal for juvenile egg-eating snakes, and adult snakes can usually handle chicken eggs.
How to Choose the Best Snake for You
When purchasing a pet snake that doesn’t eat mice, keep an important factor in mind—check to see if the snake has been trained to eat prey other than rodents.
Not all snakes will adapt well to an abrupt diet change, despite making the list of snakes who don’t need to eat rodents.
Another key to remember is frequency of feedings.
When feeding invertebrates, fish, eggs, or rodent substitutions, your snake will require a different feeding schedule to maintain proper body condition.
Supplementation with calcium is likely, depending on your snake’s diet, along with a multivitamin to ensure proper nutrition.
No matter why you choose not to feed rodents to snakes, there are pet snake options available.
With a properly balanced diet and supplementation, your slithery pal can thrive on an invertebrate-only diet and be a great companion.
Be sure to check out our dedicated guide for a more general overview of what snakes commonly eat.