How to feed live rat to a snake? (Best Tips)

In this article, we give a few tips on how to feed live rat to a snake. We talk about the benefits and drawbacks of feeding your snake with either freshly killed prey or frozen prey. 

How to feed live rat to a snake? 

When feeding a live rat to a snake our recommendation is to be extremely careful and to maintain your distance. If possible, use tweezers. Most snakes are very violent when it comes to eating, therefore it is better to offer them prey with tweezers and not directly with your hand. It is preferable to disinfect the tweezers with alcohol or some disinfectant at the end.

Also, if you have more than one snake, feed them separately. If you have two or more snakes in the same terrarium, which is not highly recommended, they must be fed separately. This way we will avoid any type of injury that may be caused by them when hunting. 

Contrary to what most people think, it is not mandatory to give live prey to snakes. This is not only not true, but the correct thing to do is to do precisely the opposite (give them dead prey).

How to feed a snake

For many, having to feed a pet with other live animals, especially if they are mammals, is more than enough cause for not having it. Precisely one of the reasons why many do not have a pet snake is this revulsion. 

Unfortunately, the information on exotic pets is rather scarce and few people know that most snakes can be fed freshly dead or even frozen mice. You just have to know the technique. Whether or not a snake accepts dead prey depends on three factors:

  • What is its natural diet – Animals whose natural diet consists of chickens, frogs, lizards or other snakes, find it very difficult to adapt to a diet composed of rodents. 

The further we move away from the diet of the snake in its natural environment, and the more specific this diet is, the more difficult it will be for it to get used to eating dead prey. 

However, it is not impossible to achieve. Royal snakes are mostly coprophagous (they eat other snakes), and yet they are currently being kept and even reproduced in captivity on rodent-based diets.

  • What is the animal used to –  Animals that have been used to feeding on dead prey since they were born will have less trouble starting to accept it since they don’t “know” what a live mouse is. 

However, specimens that have been fed for much of their lives with live prey will be more reluctant to feed on dead mice, simply because those prey do not behave like the ones they have always eaten.

  • Characteristics of each snake –  Despite everything, not all snakes are the same. Each individual usually has their peculiarities. There are known cases of snakes that accepted black mice but not white ones, or that only ate chicks. 

There may be snakes who do not accept dead prey or certain types of prey although normally there would be no problem. It is their “personality.”

Why feed dead prey to snakes

It is obvious that the predatory behaviour of a snake is one more charm than their owners consider when choosing them as pets, but the truth is that it is dangerous to feed a snake with live prey.

Mice and rats are not “dumb” and nature has provided them with the means to defend themselves, to some extent, from their predators. When a rodent is harassed by a predator and has no other way out, it will not hesitate to attack it fiercely.

Even if the snake can catch its prey first, which is not always the case, it can turn and bite. Many snakes have been left one-eyed by the bites of their prey. The bigger the prey or the smaller a snake (in proportion), the more likely our pet will be injured. If we give our snake a dead animal and it accepts it, we will avoid the possibility that it will be injured during the hunt.

Snake feeding on recently killed prey

The method is simple. Mice are kept alive until just before being used for food. When we go to feed the snake the mouse is killed and it is given freshly dead. If we don’t like frozen mice or can’t find them, let’s use freshly slaughtered but never live prey.

The main advantage of using freshly killed prey is that it is much easier for a snake to accept a freshly killed mouse than a frozen one. The animal has almost all the characteristics that a living mouse would have (smell, heat …), except that it does not breathe, nor does its heart beat.

However, this type of food also has its drawbacks. For people for whom giving a live mouse to their snake is a problem, this is not the solution, since they find it even harder if they have to kill the mouse themselves. 

Another disadvantage of this type of prey is that it must be kept alive until the moment of feeding our pet and sacrificing it just before, while frozen mice can be safely kept in the freezer without worrying about whether they have food and water. 

In general, feeding freshly killed prey to a snake is more expensive than using frozen mice.

There are many ways to euthanize a mouse. We have heard recommended methods like hitting them against a hard surface in a bag. However, this form is not the most suitable, neither so that the mouse does not suffer, nor so that the prey is in good condition. 

Many snakes reject prey that has bled.

The best method is the one used in laboratories. The mouse is held by the tail (be careful not to catch rats like that) and it is placed on a smooth surface (where its legs slip) and hard, with the other hand we take a pen that we place firmly behind its head, to the height of the neck, pressing. 

If, with the mouse thus held, we pull hard on the tail (without going overboard), we will strip it and kill it on the spot without it suffering, and also the prey will not deteriorate at all.

Snake feeding on frozen prey

In most countries with a strong terrophile tradition, snakes are fed frozen prey. The advantages of this type of food are undeniable.

It is much easier to keep frozen mice than alive, you do not have to worry about feeding them, cleaning them, or the space they have.

Secondly, we avoid the bad luck of having to sacrifice them ourselves if this is a problem.

Thirdly, we can keep more prey at home than if we used live mice, and they are easier to transport, to the point of being able to buy them by mail or even go once a year in search of a trusted breeder and buy enough stocks. 

Furthermore, frozen mice are always cheaper than live ones, for the simple reason that they generate fewer costs in their production. However, they also have their drawbacks. They can be difficult to find, and snakes are much more reluctant to accept them, especially if we don’t do things right.

When buying frozen mice we must look above all for quality rather than price. If they are not properly packaged, they can suffer an alteration known as cold burn, especially in the case of “pinkies” (newborn mice or a few days old). 

This alteration consists of the appearance of a dark stain that corresponds to an area in which the tissues have lost water and have become dry. If the mice have been frozen for a long time they can become rancid, which is quite unhealthy for the animal that ingests them. Abnormal colours may also appear in the abdominal area.

The best thing we can do when buying frozen mice is to contact a trusted breeder. It is better not to buy too large quantities to avoid having to give our snake very old mice and therefore, with a greater possibility of being rancid. If we are not sure of the quality of the food sold by an establishment or supplier, let’s buy a small quantity and see how it turns out.

If the smell or appearance of an animal after defrosting it gives us doubts, it is better to throw it away than risk it.

There are two methods of thawing mice. The first and simplest is to leave them at room temperature until they are completely thawed. They can also be thawed more quickly by putting them in a bag and then the bag in hot water. Some people put the mouse directly in hot water, but with the bag method, we don’t avoid drying it afterwards.

A mouse should NEVER be refrozen after thawing, and it should be consumed in a relatively short period. If our snake has not wanted to accept the prey, the best we can do is throw it away and not try to recycle it, or it is likely that to save some money we will have to pay more in the long run.

We should NEVER heat a frozen mouse in a microwave. The safest thing is that the animal explodes and puts everything lost. Besides, some internal points of the mouse can become overheated, in such a way that when we touch the mouse it may seem that its temperature is normal, and the snake when eating it burns the oesophagus.

Conclusions

In this article, we gave you a few tips on how to feed live rat to a snake. We talked about the benefits and drawbacks of feeding your snake with either freshly killed prey or frozen prey. 

Although it would be much better to feed your snake with freshly killed prey or frozen mice, if you do decide to give your snake a live rat or mouse, you have to be extra careful. Snakes get aggressive when it comes to food, you do not get in between a snake and its prey. 

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

FAQ on How to feed live rat to a snake?

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.

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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