Can I leave a mouse in my snakes’ cage?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Can I leave a mouse in my snakes’ cage? We will speak about the best food for your pet snake and whether you should give it alive or thawed. 

Can I leave a mouse in my snakes’ cage?

It is not a good idea to leave a mouse in your snake’s cage. If the snake is hungry and used to “hunting” its food inside the terrarium, it may not be such a big problem. On the other hand, if the snake is full, it could be injured or even eaten by the mouse. So be very careful for how long and under what conditions you leave the mouse in your snake’s cage.

It is generally not advisable to do this. Mice and rats offered as food should not be given alive, even though snakes are predators. A scared mouse or rat can hurt the snake quite badly. Using thawed rodents will allow you to avoid such incidents. And by freezing, many parasites carried by rats die, thus not infecting the snake.

To defrost food use a sealed bag, knotted at the top and quickly thaw food in warm water.  The mouse must be warm when you offer it to the snake.  Some snakes perceive body heat with the help of thermal pits on their snouts, so the prey offered must have a temperature close to that of a homeothermic animal.  

It is preferable to teach the snake to eat outside the terrarium so that the animal does not think that when you walk in the terrarium it will be fed and use long tweezers for feeding.  If you hold the mouse by the hand, soon your snake will associate the food with the hand and unwanted accidents can occur, it is still a predator.  

In nature, some snakes also feed on the bodies of other animals if they have the opportunity, not necessarily with prey hunted at that time. Do not use frozen rodents as frozen food for more than 6 months because they lose much of their nutritional properties.

Alive or frozen food

One of the most common myths is that snakes must eat only live food, due to the predatory lifestyle they lead in the wild.  Many homeowners, including even experienced herpetologists, say that they should only eat the food they want to stimulate their natural behaviour.  

On the other hand, most snakes sold on the market as pets are very easy to teach to eat pre-frozen rodents.  Reptiles and amphibians that in nature hunt insects, birds, fish or other amphibians and reptiles in captivity will find it harder to accept frozen food.  

 “I want to give the animal a chance to kill its prey because that’s natural for it.

The main argument brought by the one who feeds his snakes with alive rodents is that it stimulates their natural behaviour so that the snake maintains its predator instinct.

But hey, captivity is not a natural way of living for snakes anyway. Most species are bred in captivity and have never known another way of life. Captive snakes do not spend all day looking for food, hiding from predators or looking for a shelter for rest or water.  

Our reptile lives in a comfortable and air-conditioned shelter that provides it with all the necessary comfort.  If we want the animal to behave naturally then we should not hold it captive in the first place. 

What snakes need in terrariums is a space that recreates the existing climate in their natural habitat.  Their regular handling or weekly swimming is enough for them to do the necessary exercise.  A large enough terrarium can ensure their daily movement. But reptiles are not very active animals anyway.  Snakes are active only when they are hunting, looking for prey. 

And if the food comes to them, what’s the point of “hunting” anyway?

Why you shouldn’t leave a mouse in your snakes’ cage

In the wild many animals “fight with food”, many animals are even injured by their prey and die in turn or are porous prey for larger predators. In captivity, the first thing we need to think about is animal welfare. A scared mouse can cause serious injuries to a snake, there have been cases when snakes have been left without eyes by a mouse left in their cage.

These wounds are difficult to heal and if the habitat is humid, tropical, infections can easily be developed. A village snake will ignore the mouse or the rogue that walks around it. A mouse is usually scared and will lie in the farthest corner of the snakes’ cage. 

Instead, rats have a much stronger defence instinct. If you leave a rat inside overnight, in the morning you may be surprised that the rat will have killed the snake. It knows how to defend itself from hunger or predators. Even insects such as grills or worms can injure a snake quite badly. 

If you want to feed your pet snake with “fresh” food,  you can euthanize the mouse or rat just before the time of feeding. One way is to break the mouse’s neck. Another universally accepted method because rodents do not suffer certain scents, is using CO2. Death occurs very quickly and without animal suffering. 

After euthanasia, rodents can be frozen. Frozen food can be thawed quickly by placing the mouse in a tightly sealed bag at the top and immersing it in a bowl of warm water. When the mouse is completely thawed and heated it can be given to the snake. If you still find it barbaric, you have the option to buy ready-frozen mice or rats.

Freezing the mice for 30 days before feeding your snake pet destroys almost all parasites that could affect the snake. Do not feed snakes on mice that have been frozen for more than 60 days because they are depleted of their nutritional properties.

How often do you have to feed the snakes?

First of all, we must bear in mind that reptiles are one of the animals that can go the longest without eating food. Unless they must drink, they can spend quite long periods without eating anything and with little effect on their health.

The frequency of feeding in a snake depends mainly on its size. In a very general way, since there will always be exceptions, snakes of less than 1 meter, such as land snakes and insectivorous and piscivorous shingles, usually eat between 1 and 5 times a week. 

In contrast, small pythons that are between 1 and 2 meters long, eat once a week. Larger pythons such as Indian and Caribbean pythons or boas are snakes of between 2 and 6 meters that eat once every two to four weeks, that is, once or twice a month.

Lastly, snakes over 6 meters, although rare in captivity, eat even less frequently. For example, they can eat large animals two or three times a year and thus have more than enough food.

Likewise, we must know that in general, snakes are more active in spring and summer, on the other hand, in winter and autumn they are less active so they tend to eat less. You also have to take into account when giving them food, that most prefer to eat at dusk or dusk.

Conclusions

In this blog post, we answered the following question: Can I leave a mouse in my snakes’ cage? We spoke about the best food for your pet snake and whether you should give it alive or thawed. 

In conclusion, it is not a good idea to leave a mouse in your snakes’ cage.  Mice and rats offered as food should not be given alive, even though snakes are predators. A scared mouse or rat can hurt the snake quite badly. Using thawed rodents will allow you to avoid such incidents. And by freezing, many parasites carried by rats die, thus not infecting the snake.

If you have any questions or comments on this content, please let us know.

FAQ on Can I leave a mouse in my snakes’ cage?

How long can I leave a live mouse in my snake’s cage?

You can leave a live mouse in your snake’s cage for about 10 to 30 minutes. You should not leave the rodent with the snake for more than half an hour if your snake is not hungry. The mouse can injure your snake pet. 

Can I leave a dead mouse in my snakes’ cage?

You can leave a dead mouse in your snakes’ cage. But if your pet is not hungry or ill, it will make no difference. Also, your snake can refuse to eat the dead mouse if it is too cold, for example.

How long can you leave a thawed mouse?

You can leave a thawed mouse in your snakes’ cage for about 24 hours. 

What can snakes eat besides mice?

Besides mice, snakes can eat rats, fish, small birds, eggs, worms and other amphibians. 

Do snakes eat dead mice?

Snakes can be trained to eat dead mice. These can be offered as thawed, previously frozen prey, or freshly killed ones.

Can I refreeze a thawed mouse?

Yes, it is alright to refreeze a thawed mouse and try again later if your snake refused to eat it the first time. 

References

PetMD – What Do Snakes Eat?

Animal Corner – Snake Characteristics

MSD Manual – Nutrition in snakes

Hi, I am Martin, I am a pet lover! I own a Golden retriever and a Long-eared Owl. They keep me company & I often had questions about them which I couldn't find answers for online. I put this hub together for people like me & you.

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