If you are thinking of a ball python (Python regius) as your next possible pet, you may be wondering some basic questions about them.
You may wonder: Do Ball Pythons smell bad?
Ball pythons are not very stinky. Their feces can be smelly, but you can keep the smell down by cleaning up quickly. Urates do smell worse, but this can be controlled with an absorbent substrate and regular cleaning.
If you have kept dogs, cats, or rodents you will know that pets can be smelly. Rodents in particular have a strong odor that you can notice pretty easily.
Snakes in general are not as smelly as these mammalian pets. Snakes produce solid urates and defecate much less frequently.
Most snakes do not have a strong smell unless they happen to crawl through their own waste.
This can easily be fixed by cleaning the snake with a warm, damp paper towel or two. Some snakes that eat fish will smell fishy, but snakes that eat rodents like ball pythons do not have this problem.
The most smell from a snake will be from the substrate you use. You will mostly smell the clean substrate on most days.
If you are using aspen, this can mold a bit and smell thanks to the higher humidity that snakes require.
Reptichip does not have a strong smell, so you will likely only notice it during cleaning:
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Everything you need to know about caring for Ball Pythons in captivity:
Read our Ball Python Care Sheet (Complete Setup & Guide)
Feces and urates do smell, though it may not be as bad in ball pythons. Most owners rate pythons as much less smelly than colubrids like corn snakes and kingsnakes.
Ball pythons rarely musk, which is a smelly secretion from the anal glands that many snake species use as a defense.
Feces is typically solid for ball pythons and is less smelly than what colubrids produce. It can stink if it is left in the cage for a long time.
It will cause a build-up of bacteria and this can cause an unpleasant odor to humans. Your snake is also more likely to pick up the smell from a dirty enclosure and start to stink.
If you keep up on cleaning, you will likely not smell much unless you open the enclosure. You should be scrubbing out the enclosure with a reptile-safe sanitizing solution at least once a month.
This helps keep bacteria growth down and will help with any smells.
You can also use white vinegar to help fight the smell since vinegar is very good at breaking down snake odors.
Be sure to rinse thoroughly and let the enclosure dry. Moisture will increase any smells.
For the most part, a healthy and clean ball python will not have much of an odor. You may notice that your snake has the smell of the substrate you use.
This can cause a musty odor if you use something like eco earth.
Otherwise, your snake will smell pretty neutral. You may also notice a smell from rodents after your snake eats.
This and other odors are easy to fix. You can have your snake crawl over warm, wet paper towels to help clean it.
You can also allow the snake to soak in warm water if it is obviously messy. If you feed live rodents, your snake may pick up obvious scents from its food.
Some rats will also defecate or urinate when they are being constricted so your snake can pick up that odor. If your snake eats frozen/thawed, you will not be dealing with much beyond the smell of the rodent.
A well-defrosted rat isn’t very smelly. However, if it was frozen poorly or you accidentally over-heat the rat and cook it, this can bring up a much worse smell.
Cooking and poor freezing practices can cause a weakening in the abdomen of the rat. The abdominal wall can fail under constriction and spread the smelly entrails of the mouse all over the enclosure and your snake.
This is noticeably foul and can be hard to deal with.
Since your snake may regurgitate if you try to move it to clean, you may have to clean around the snake and hope you get everything.
You will also need to offer a warm tub of water and hope your snake cleans itself off. This is a rare scenario at least, but be sure to clean the whole enclosure as soon as possible if you are unfortunate enough to experience it.
Partially digested rodents will also smell bad, so be sure to avoid regurgitation.
Otherwise, snakes are not very smelly. Changes in odor without an obvious reason can be a sign of illness.
If you smell a change in your snake and you haven’t changed the substrate, look around to see if you have missed something.
It can be easy to miss urates or feces if you have an absorbent substrate.
Your snake may have crawled through it and needs a bath. If this isn’t the case, it could be an illness. Keep an eye on your snake and learn what is normal for it.
Snakes are very good at hiding illness so you need to be vigilant to notice the signs early.
Snakes in general and ball pythons, in particular, are not particularly smelly pets. All animals can produce a bit of a smell, but snakes are not so bad.
Keep up on cleaning and it will not be obvious that you own a snake. If you have any comments or questions, be sure to leave them below.