How to Know if your Ball Python is Stressed?

Ball Pythons are also known as Royal Pythons and can be found in the grasslands and forests of West and Central Africa. They prefer habitats that are large enough to accommodate them when they want to climb or hide, along with good levels of humidity, heat and light.

The right kind of setup helps to avoid stressing them out. Ball Pythons are shy and cannot respond to their owners unlike other pets, however, owners should be ready to deal with possible health and handling problems of the snake. Some snakes can also die from the prolonged effects of stress hence this is not something you should overlook.

Ball Python Behavior and Body Language

Understanding the basic body language and behavior of your python is crucial to make the difference between a stressed python and being a responsible owner. You can tell your ball python is stressed from the changes in its body language and eating habits, such as rubbing its nose against objects or hissing/strike at you. The causes could be poor living environments or improper/over-handling on your behalf. The following are some tips to tell whether your ball python is relaxed or stressed.

Signs of a Relaxed Ball Python

  1. Your python will be seen resting its head on its body or on top of other things in its enclosure.
  2. It may move slowly and explore its environment.
  3. It might curl when their muscles are feeling relaxed.
  4. You can tell your ball python is deep in sleep but not by looking at the eyes because they don’t sleep with their eyes closed. Other signs to tell if it’s sleeping can be the python not flicking its tongue out and staying still, breathing slowly and steadily.
  5. Periscoping is a behavior your python might exhibit by raising its neck high and putting its head forward. This happens when the python wants to explore its surroundings, but do not get scared thinking it might strike as that would scare it to be defensive as well.

Signs of a Stressed Ball Python

  1. Although known to be not that aggressive, your ball python might strike if they are feeling threatened. It may give warning signs first by forming the letter “S” with its neck.
  2. Your python might rub its nose a number of times even if it gives discomfort.
  3. It may rattle its tail as a warning sign.
  4. Hissing at you is another sign from the python to tell you it doesn’t like your presence.
  5. Your python might also refuse to eat when stressed. It is however important to keep in mind that all pythons have loss of appetite during breeding season.
  6. You might notice it moving more around the walls of the enclosure, which is an indicator that your python is trying to escape from something bothering it.
  7. Because body language is the only way to tell if something is wrong with your python, you need to pay close attention to its color as it may be sick if the color looks pale, and check for significant changes in weight.
  8. Heavy breathing/gasping for air is another indication that your ball python may be sick.
  9. Trying to climb outside its enclosure could be an indication that it is either hungry or the environment is too hot.

Causes of Stress In Ball Pythons

The main causes of stress in your ball pythons are mostly related to its environment. Hence it is crucial to provide an enclosure to the python that is similar to the one it has in the wild. Some of the errors that could cause your python to get agitated can be:

  1. Your python may feel vulnerable when it has no place to hide.
  2. The temperature could be too hot, cold, humid or dry
  3. Handling it improperly could make you seem like a threat.
  4. If the enclosure is too small, it might try to escape.
  5. Two pythons in the same place can also trigger stress as they are not very social creatures.

How to De-stress a Ball Python

You can help your python de-stress by changing the environment in which it lives. You can do this by:

  1. Keeping the humidity around 50-60%, warmth at 88-92 degrees and cooling at 80 degrees farenheit.
  2. Adding some objects to the tank if it’s too open such as branches, rocks.
  3. Providing at least two hides to your python where it can go if its feeling stressed. Have one on the cold and the warm side of the enclosure.
  4. Avoiding over-handling it for 1-3 weeks.
  5. Covering the sides of the tank to avoid too much light entering which helps the python to calm down and feel more secure as they are natural burrowers who prefer the dark.

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