Feeding a Ball Python

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on March 07, 2023
3 min read

Ball pythons are excellent pets for people who like snakes. They’re relatively low-maintenance, they’re small, and they’re clean. But they have dietary needs that are very different from a cat or dog. As a new ball python owner you’ll need to know what to feed your snake, how often to feed it, and what to do if it won’t eat. 

Their feeding needs vary depending on their size, and you don’t need to feed them every day. 

What ball pythons eat. In general, the youngest, smallest ones eat small frozen feeder mice or rats. Larger ball pythons typically eat larger mice or rats. 

Selecting prey for a ball python. As a general rule, you should select a rodent that is 1 to 1.25 times the size of the midsection of your snake. Smaller prey is fine, but avoid getting food that’s too large. 

Live prey vs. pre-killed. Snakes are predators, and in the wild they’re used to catching their own food. Your pet snake, though, will be fine with fresh pre-killed or even frozen rodents (you’ll need to thaw them first.) It’s safer not to feed your snake live prey. Live rodents will be scared and can bite your snake. Even small rodent bites can cause infection that will make your snake sick. Pet snakes are easily trained to eat dead prey.

How often to feed a ball python. You don't need to feed a ball python every day. Generally, smaller or younger ball pythons need to eatevery five days, while larger ones usually eat once every week or two. As they get older you feed them more at one time so they don’t need as many feedings. 

Cost of feeding a ball python. The annual cost of feeding a ball python can range between $100 to $150. 

Ball pythons are picky eaters. And if your snake is new, know that snakes — and especially ball pythons — are sometimes too stressed to eat in their new home environment for weeks or even months. If your ball python won’t eat, understanding why can help you know how to encourage your snake to eat again.

Reasons your ball python might not eat.  There are several reasons why they might not eat when you do give them their food, including:

  • Their habitat may be too hot or too cold.
  • Their habitat may be too large.
  • They may not recognize the food you’ve given them.
  • They may be getting ready to shed.
  • It’s breeding season.
  • They’re stressed.
  • They’re ill.

Maintain a comfortable temperature, avoid disturbances, and watch for signs of shedding and illnesses. If your ball python isn’t hungry, they won’t eat. You can remove the food and try again later. 

How to encourage your ball python to eat. There are a few things that you can try if your ball python won’t eat:

  • Make sure you’re feeding the snake the same food as it was eating before it came to you.  
  • Thaw and warm frozen food.
  • Try cutting pre-killed prey open. 
  • Adjust the temperature in the enclosure.
  • Clean the habitat. 

What to do if your ball python still won’t eat. Schedule an appointment with a vet. Your vet can give your snake a thorough examination to determine if it has parasites or another health-related problem. They can also prescribe a treatment to help resolve the issue.

Show Sources


Beyond the Treat: “How Much Does a Ball Python Cost? (2020 Cost Breakdown).”

Reptile Advisor: “Feeding Your Ball Python: The Complete Ball Python Diet Guide.”

Reptile Guide: “9 Irrefutable Reasons Why Ball Pythons Make Great Pets.”

Reptile Rescue Center: “Ball Python Care Sheet.”

VCA Hospitals: “Feeding Pet Snakes,” “Owning A Pet Snake.”

World of Ball Pythons: “Feeding Ball Pythons.

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