| Introduction | Live Prey |
Why Not To Feed
Live Prey | Why Feed Live Prey |
Conversion From Live To Dead Prey
| When You Have To
Feed Live Prey |
Serious Problems Caused
By Live Prey | Related
Topics | Related References
This Page | Rodents For Sale |
There are a lot of issues going around on the feeding of life
prey to other animals, especially to snakes. The feeding of live
animals is already banned in various countries including
Europe, The United States Of America and South Africa. It is described, especially by non-snake keeping people,
as inhumane, cruel and unfair to these animals.
This section is written
in the context of snakes eating rodents
like rats and mice, but other rodent eating herptiles and
herptiles eating other live prey should be handled equally
It is important to mention that rodent-eating snakes do not have to eat live prey, it
a matter of preference, not a necessity. It is known that some
snakes are naturally opportunistic feeders.
Western Hognose snakes (Heterodon nasicus)
for example will eat various appropriately sized, dead
and even decomposed carcasses when the occasion presents itself.
There are a lot of ways
to convert a snake from eating live to dead prey. Some
methods are explained in this section.
At this stage it is also important to mention that the most
dangerous animal a captive snake will come across is a live
rodent. This however does not mean that it is
impossible and always dangerous to feed rodents to snakes.
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Prey size and type is dependant on the size of the snake. The
choice usually lies between various sizes of mice, rats,
hamsters, guinea pigs (order Rodentia), rabbits and hares (order
Lagomorpha) and chickens. Pink rats and mice and chicks are obviously safe to feed, but
still illegal and inhumane. Adult and larger prey can pose more
of a threat.
Live prey should not be fed to snakes because of the following:
- They have the ability to fight back and cause
- They might eat snakes
- Legislation and animal rights
Rodents, coming from the Latin word rodere,
meaning "to gnaw", have one pair incisor teeth on both the
top and bottom jaw. Although rabbits and hares
have similarities in their teeth configuration they are actually grouped in the
order Lagomorpha (lag"o-mor'fah).
Rodents are apparently more intelligent than
lagomorphs and some families may be
faster than both inactive and even active snakes. Although rabbits and guinea pigs are not known to bite voluntarily, they might injure a
snake quite badly if the prey killing process was not fast
enough. It is more likely for a rodent to bite. Non-venomous snakes kill
by constriction and hungry
snakes can become over-eager and make attacking mistakes i.e.
like striking from the wrong side of the prey. This gives
prey ample opportunity to use its teeth and gnaw into the
Injury can also happen even if the snake can get a perfect bite into the face of the
prey. Other mistakes like missing its initial strike or loose control of the constriction
process can end up in giving the prey, which in this case become the enemy, the
opportunity to react on instincts and counter-attack.
Consequences of an actual brawl
might be far more devastating. Rats, mice and especially hamsters can become quite
aggressive and might attack the enemy without hesitation.
Some literature mentions prey which literally started to eat
a snake alive. This is
just plain carelessness and bad husbandry. A snake which is not hungry will ignore whatever is going on
around it. Prey left alone in a cage or container with a predator, however, is not so relaxed about the
whole thing. The prey is usually terrified and will stay as far from the
enemy as possible, but some might be hungry enough eat whatever is
around. Some rats have literally eaten
their way into snakes, exposing long stretches of backbone!
Crickets might do the same with lizards when left in the
same container for long periods.
This is especially true with diurnal lizards during the night
when the lizard is asleep (i.e.
Bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps)) or in the case
where the lizard is physically soft and easy to eat into (i.e.
Leopard geckos (Eublepharis
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Why Feed Live Prey:
- Many snake keepers (especially amateurs) get very excited about the whole
"hunt" and kill procedure. It is "cool", how else did your
friend convince you to buy your first snake?
- Relatively easier
- More practical and cheaper to re-feed at a later stage
when snake did not eat the first time around
- More natural
- Some snakes will only take live prey
- Hatchling snakes might have trouble eating dead prey
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Live To Dead Prey:
The sooner a snake is converted from live to dead prey the better.
Start off by feeding hatchling snakes dead prey (pinkies). Although snakes
can change their food preference over time they should be pretty constant.
Converting a snake from live to dead prey should not be a big
problem. There are however those individuals who are
exceptions. Wild caught snakes or near derivatives may have problems but
conversion is still possible.