Ball pythons or royal pythons (Python regius) are very popular pet snakes thanks to their docile and curious nature. These snakes are very loved by many owners, and most love handling their snakes.
You may be wondering how often you should handle your ball python. Some owners would love to handle a ball python every day. Is this a good idea?
As a general rule, you should avoid handling your ball python everyday, only handle it 3 or 4 times a week. These snakes are shy and can become stressed with too much handling. This does vary. Some animals will only want to be handled weekly, and others welcome a chance to explore.
The biggest reason why you need to be cautious about handling your ball python is stress. Stress can be less obvious in these snakes. They are a shy species and most prefer to be handled less often.
A stressed snake will typically eat less and may have a lowered immune system. This can cause illness such as an opportunistic infection. If you aren’t experienced in the body language of snakes, it is easy to miss the signs until your pet is very stressed out.
A stressed ball python may hiss, ball up, or even show signs of aggression. This can even happen in a generally tame snake if it is handled too often.
You will also never want to handle a snake while it is shedding. This is because the snake won’t be able to see as well and will be stressed out. You should also never handle a ball python on the day of feeding or for at least 48 hours afterward. This is because a stressed snake will not eat.
If it is handled after eating, it may regurgitate the meal. This is because it allows the snake to move faster to avoid predators. However, this will injure the snake’s throat and may even kill it if it regurgitates often. If your snake regurgitates, leave it alone and allow it to heal and relax.
Everything you need to know about caring for Ball Pythons in captivity:
Read our Ball Python Care Sheet (Complete Setup & Guide)
Your snake will be much less stressed if you handle it at least once a week. A snake that is handled weekly learns that you will not harm it. This means it will be less stressed by basic maintenance.
A new snake shouldn’t be handled, so be sure that you leave any newly acquired snake to settle down. You want to wait until after the snake has meal before you handle it.
Next, you will want to use a snake hook or paper towel roll to gently tap the snake on the head. This trains the snake that it is not food time. Hungry ambush predators like ball pythons can try to strike anything warm.
This includes your hand! Giving your snake a signal like this helps make sure you aren’t bitten.
You should make sure your snake is relaxed before you try to handle it. Look for a slow tongue flick to be sure the animal is relaxed.
If your snake is trying to get away from you, balling up, or curling its neck into a “S” shape you need to leave the animal alone. It is not willing to be handled and you will stress it out if you force it.
Pick up the snake with two hands. One should be under the middle of the body and the other should help support the head. Try to support as much of the snake so it doesn’t feel like it may fall.
Carefully take out the snake and let it move around. This is a great chance to give your snake some exercise. You shouldn’t put down your snake since it could escape, but your snake will likely enjoy a chance to see new areas for enrichment.
Keep handling sessions short, under 15 minutes. This is so the session stays positive for your pet. Stick with once a week for a new or young snake, and move up in frequency if you desire.
Since young snakes eat more frequently, this will limit the time you can handle your snake. Remember, you should wait at least 48 hours after a meal before handling. 72 is a bit better and may be preferred by your snake. Some snakes may only tolerate handling once a week, while others may like the chance to look around.
If your snake starts to ball up or shows other signs of stress, return it to the enclosure. Leave it alone for a few days aside from spot cleaning or refilling the water.
How Do I Tell What My Snake Likes?
The best way to tell if your snake might like being handled more often is to watch the behavior. If it gets defensive or seems stressed, return the snake to the enclosure.
A snake that is interested in exploring is very obvious. It will flick out its tongue to test out all the interesting new smells. It will likely try to reach out to anything interesting it sees.
If you are sitting with your snake, it will likely slither around to check out you and the area. Just make sure you don’t let your snake get away from you.
Snakes are escape artists, so don’t take your eye off the snake if it is out of the enclosure. Try not to leave the snake out too long. Comfortable room temperature for a human is too cold and dry for a ball python.
You shouldn’t handle your snake daily since it can stress it out.
Some snakes may enjoy more time outside, but this depends on the animal. Your snake is a unique being and will have preferences and quirks like all living things.
Stick to once a week if nothing else so cage cleaning is less stressful for both of you. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!