There has been a long debate about feeding snakes live or frozen food, with valid arguments on both sides. But I want to take a minute now to answer a few common questions about snake feeding. If you are debating between live and frozen I hope this can help you.
To start off, let me tell you where I come from on this post. I know I write a lot about Gus and Max, my cat and dog, but in the professional world I actually have a lot more experience with snakes. Though I must say, I’m working with dogs now and LOVE it. Anyway… I was fortunate to spend three years between a zoo and a nature center where snakes were part of our animal ambassadors. And like all in the animal husbandry world, I love my work babies as much as I love my home babies. I’ve spent time talking to other zoo keepers and vets about the best way to feed a snake and “frozen” is a pretty universal answer.
I know many pet owners go with frozen because mice are cute. It’s hard for us to send a live animal to it’s doom, I get it! Quick side story, I once bought a live mouse as snake bait. We kept him in a have a heart trap so the snake couldn’t eat it, hoping the snake would just stay nearby. He didn’t, and after a 24 hours I had the option of feeding it to our other snake, or not turning in my receipt and calling him mine. I took him home and named him Bubble. But, that aside, there are more reasons than cuteness that make feeding frozen wins the polls.
Feeding frozen is safer
We always feel bad for the mouse that gets dumped in a snake cage, but in the relm of nature the mouse doesn’t always loose. Most of the time, a snake is fast and accurate, but every so often the snake isn’t hungry or you get a rodent with an unbreakable will to live. When this happens the mouse can actually turn on your snake and can even kill it. Yes, snakes hunt live food in nature, but those snakes aren’t your pet. And here, I’m all about making your pet’s lives as easy and safe as can be.
Snakes don’t really reject frozen food
I come across so many people that say frozen mice aren’t natural and a snake won’t eat a dead mouse. In truth you can move the mouse yourself and most snakes will go for it just the same. Simply thaw the mouse to body temperature ( Put it in a cup of hot water to thaw slowly. Do not microwave, the mouse will explode, and then no, your snake probably won’t eat it) and use a pair of tongs to hold it above the snake by the tail. If your snake is used to live food, this may be an adjustment, but snakes are smart.
You can buy in bulk
I don’t know about you, but when I can buy in bulk I do, especially with pet food. There’s nothing worse than having a hungry pet and then realizing you have to go to the store. At least snakes aren’t like dogs that cry and give you sad eyes while they wait an extra 30 minutes for their meal, but it’s still annoying, and you feel awful if you can’t get to the store for a bit. My solution, buy in bulk. Near me there is actually a guy who breeds feeder mice and will sell me 20 at once for the center. I ask for dead mice and we freeze them all. You don’t have to get that many, but feeding frozen allows you to keep a few months worth of food on hand, instead of having to run to the store every week or two.
Feeding frozen doesn’t necessarily make your snake more docile
Yes, this is a post about the pros of frozen food, but I have to clear this up. I have had snakes that ate live food, and to be honest, I haven’t seen a difference one way or the other. If you really want a docile snake here are some things you can do: make sure you handle them often, do not only handle them at feeding time, and make sure you’re feeding your snake in a separate container. While working with the snakes at the nature center, I always put them in a special feeding container (a large plastic box with holes drilled in the top). They were the sweetest snakes any time, but as soon as they were in that box, they went into strike mode. I really don’t think the mouse’s state of life makes a difference.
What do you feed your snakes?