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How to Force Feed a Ball Python: A Comprehensive Guide




A close-up photo of a ball python with its mouth wide open, swallowing a white mouse. The image depicts the process of force-feeding a ball python.

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Caring for a ball python can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be challenging when your snake refuses to eat. For some, force-feeding may seem daunting and perhaps even cruel, but it’s important to remember that it is a last resort when your snake’s health is at risk.

This comprehensive guide on force-feeding a ball python will walk you through the process, ensuring you can handle such situations with confidence and compassion.

Short Summary

  • Force-feeding a ball python should only be considered a last resort if it has lost more than 10% of its body weight and any underlying health issues have been ruled out.
  • Gathering the necessary tools, preparing the food correctly, positioning the snake properly and administering tube feeding carefully is essential for successful force-feeding.
  • Post-force feeding care involves monitoring for signs of distress to ensure proper digestion while addressing any potential environmental or health issues that can help prevent future problems with eating.

When to Force Feed Your Ball Python

Ball python curled up on a white mouse.

Force-feeding should only be considered if your snake engages in a prolonged hunger strike and has lost over 10% of its body weight. It’s crucial first to determine if any underlying health issues, such as fungal or bacterial infections, metabolic diseases, or other ailments, could be causing your snake’s loss of appetite.

If any of these issues are present, they should be addressed before trying to force-feed your snake.

Identifying Health Issues

To recognize signs of health issues in your ball python, be observant of symptoms such as lack of appetite, lethargy, abnormal shedding, stargazing, wheezing sounds during breathing, discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth, dehydration, weight loss, and prolonged hiding. These signs may indicate a weak feeding response in ball pythons and suggest that your snake may have an underlying health issue.

If you observe any of these indications, it is crucial to seek veterinary advice promptly. A veterinarian can help you establish a proper feeding schedule for your snake and recommend addressing potential health issues.

Environmental Factors

Temperature, humidity, and cleanliness are essential environmental factors that can impact a ball python’s health. Inaccurate temperatures and humidity levels can cause respiratory infections and dehydration. A suitable diet, such as African soft-furred rats, can also help maintain your snake’s health.

It’s important to assess the snake’s environment, including temperature, humidity, and hiding spots, to ensure optimal conditions for feeding. A ball python cage’s recommended temperature range is between 80 to 95 degrees. Maintaining the right temperature can help your snake swallow food more easily and prevent any blockage in the snake’s throat.

By ensuring a healthy environment, you can improve your snake’s feeding response and reduce the likelihood of needing to force feed in the future. Visiting a reputable pet store can be a great resource for advice and supplies to maintain this environment.

Preparing for Force Feeding

Rat in plastic container for ball python consumption

If force feeding becomes necessary, it’s essential to be well-prepared. There are two options for feeding your snake: solid food and tube feeding. Solid food typically consists of pre-killed prey, while tube feeding involves administering liquid nutrition through a plastic syringe and a soft tube.

Before starting the force-feeding process, you’ll need to gather necessary tools, such as long tongs, hemostats, or feeding forceps to dangle and wiggle the food in front of the snake, as well as a feeding tube and syringe to force-feed the snake if necessary.

Choosing the Right Food

When selecting food for force-feeding a ball python, it’s crucial to choose pre-killed prey or liquid food options based on the snake’s size and feeding preferences. Pre-killed food items are recommended for ball pythons, as they minimize the risk of injury to the snake during feeding.

If you opt for solid food, such as a pinkie, make sure it’s heated up to at least room temperature before feeding. You may use liquidated cat food or beaten eggs with calcium and vitamin powder for tube feeding. Preparing the food according to the instructions is essential to ensure a safe and efficient force-feeding process.

Gathering Necessary Tools

To ensure a safe and efficient force-feeding process, gathering the necessary tools, such as feeding forceps, a feeding tube, and a plastic syringe, is vital. Be sure to clean and sterilize all tools before use to minimize the risk of infection.

When administering the feeding, it’s crucial to gently insert the feeding tube into the snake’s mouth and slowly inject the food. After the feeding, clean the tools with warm, soapy water and store them securely.

Force Feeding Solid Food

A person's hand gently holding the head of a ball python.

Force-feeding solid food to your ball python requires proper positioning of the snake and careful introduction of the food item into the snake’s mouth. Hold the snake securely but gently, ensuring its head is slightly elevated and its body is supported.

Gently insert the food item into the snake’s mouth, allowing the snake to swallow through its snake’s throat.

Positioning the Snake

To position your ball python for force-feeding, gently hold the back of the snake’s head with your thumb and index finger while ensuring its head is slightly elevated and its body is adequately supported. This positioning is essential for completing the feeding process and minimizing stress on the snake during the procedure.

Before introducing the food, use the nose of the prey item to open the snake’s mouth gently. This technique is less invasive and more comfortable for the snake than using forceps or other tools to pry open its mouth.

Introducing the Food

When introducing the pre-killed prey into the snake’s mouth, use tweezers to carefully insert the food and gently push it down the throat. Be cautious not to exert excessive pressure, as this may cause injury to the snake.

After the food has been inserted, gently massage the snake’s body to help move it down its throat. This technique ensures that the food is properly positioned for digestion and minimizes the risk of regurgitation.

Tube Feeding Technique

Large syringe tube for tube feeding ball pythons.

Tube feeding is an alternative force-feeding method involving administering liquid food through a plastic syringe and a soft tube made of soft rubber. This technique is typically used when the snake is unable or unwilling to consume solid food.

It is a relatively simple process that can be done at home with minimal equipment—the tube.

Preparing the Liquid Food

You can use liquidated cat food or beaten eggs with calcium and vitamin powder to create a liquid food mixture for tube feeding. Mix the liquid food with warm water and a small electrolyte solution to promote hydration and consistency.

Ensure the liquid food is heated to room temperature before feeding to make it more appealing to the snake and facilitate digestion.

Administering the Tube Feeding

When feeding the tube, carefully insert the syringe into the snake’s mouth and gently inject the liquid food mixture. Be sure to position the snake on its back, with its head slightly elevated, to minimize the risk of regurgitation during feeding.

After the tube feeding is complete, keep the snake’s mouth closed to prevent regurgitation and carefully remove the feeding tube from the snake’s mouth. Observe the snake for any signs of distress or regurgitation after feeding.

Post-Force Feeding Care

Close-up of a ball python in its enclosure.

Providing post-force feeding care is essential to ensure the health and well-being of your pet snake. This includes monitoring the snake’s condition and promoting proper digestion.

Monitoring the snake’s condition should include checking for signs of dehydration, such as water leaks.

Monitoring the Snake

Observe the snake for any signs of distress or regurgitation after force-feeding. It’s crucial to ensure the snake is not experiencing any discomfort or unease due to the feeding process.

Wait 24-72 hours before handling the snake to minimize stress and allow for proper digestion of the food. This period will also give you ample time to monitor the snake’s behavior and ensure it is not experiencing any adverse effects from the force-feeding.

Promoting Proper Digestion

To promote proper digestion, ensure the snake’s environment is conducive to digestion, including maintaining appropriate temperatures and minimizing stress. Creating a warm atmosphere and providing the snake’s enclosure is suitable for digestion can help reduce stress and encourage hydration.

Maintain the temperature in the snake’s enclosure at an optimal level to facilitate digestion and monitor the snake’s hydration levels to promote overall health and well-being.

Preventing Future Feeding Issues

Close-up photo of a ball python hiding in a dark area of its enclosure.

Addressing any underlying health or environmental problems affecting your ball python’s feeding response is crucial to prevent future feeding issues. Consult with a qualified veterinarian to ensure your snake has no underlying issues and explore alternative feeding options if necessary.

Force-feeding should always be considered a last resort, not a regular practice for pet snakes. By addressing health and environmental issues and working closely with a veterinarian, you can ensure your snake maintains a healthy appetite and avoid the need for force-feeding in the future.


In conclusion, force-feeding a ball python is a last resort when your snake’s health is at risk due to prolonged hunger strikes and significant weight loss. By identifying potential health issues, addressing environmental factors, and working closely with a veterinarian, you can prevent future feeding issues and ensure your snake maintains a healthy appetite. Always remember that the well-being of your snake is the top priority, and force-feeding should be approached with care, compassion, and a thorough understanding of the process.

FAQs on How to Force Feed a Ball Python: A Comprehensive Guide

How do you feed a ball python that won’t eat?

If your ball python refuses to eat, it’s best to try switching up the type of prey you offer them. Offering a different color mouse or rat could successfully convince your snake to feed.

Additionally, experimenting with frozen or live prey could also be helpful. Ultimately, remain patient and consistent in getting your snake to feed.

How long can a ball python go without eating?

Ball pythons can go without food for quite some time, with juveniles surviving for up to two weeks and adults for around four to six weeks. This extended fasting period gives the snakes an advantage when prey is scarce, allowing them to survive still.

As always, monitoring their health regularly during this period is important. Aug 31, 2021.

Ball pythons are well-adapted to periods of prolonged fasting, as they can go up to several weeks without food. Juveniles can usually last up to one or two weeks, while adults may be able to survive for up to four to six weeks without a meal. However, It is important to check their weight regularly to remain healthy. Jan 5, 2024.

When should I consider force-feeding my ball python?

You should consider force-feeding if your ball python refuses to eat and has lost a substantial body weight.

What type of food should I use for force-feeding my ball python?

For force-feeding your ball python, it is recommended to use pre-killed solid food, such as a pinkie, or liquid food, like liquidated cat food mixed with calcium and vitamin powder.

How do I properly position my ball python for force-feeding?

It is important to maintain proper positioning when force-feeding a ball python. Be sure to hold the back of the head with your thumb and index finger, keeping the head slightly elevated and the body supported.

This will help ensure that the food is swallowed properly and that the Python does not choke.

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