It’s easy to think of snakes as kind of cold creatures (they are after all cold-blooded reptiles) and therefore it’s always an interesting conversation when it comes to whether or not a pet snake will bond or show affection to their owners.
A dog, for example, has very specific ways of showing their affection to an owner but snakes, by their own very nature, are quite lonely creatures, and finding a way to bond with a pet snake can seem like an incredibly daunting and frustrating task.
For starters, a lot of snakes don’t actually like to be held and touched, they also don’t like being surrounded by large groups and can find it to be a fearful and threatening experience, and finally, how can you actually tell if your pet snake likes you?
Are there any tell-tale signs?
In this article, we are going to look into whether or not snakes do actually bond with their owners (spoiler - no one actually knows for certain, scientific research can’t give a definitive answer yet either) and what steps you can take to successfully bond with your snake.
Before getting into the ways in which you can bond with your snake, we first need to establish whether or not a human can actually form a bond with a snake.
This is because snakes have not been domesticated and act on basic survival instincts which include feeding, seeking warmth, utilizing hiding spots, and most notably fear or stress when their environment is threatened.
For this very reason, it’s important to understand that forming a bond with a snake is very much different from forming a bond with a domesticated animal like a dog.
Snakes will adapt to their environment and can recognize their owner but now as an owner/companion, more accurately they accept an owner as a part of their environment.
Therefore to form a bond with a snake you need to approach it from a different angle, instead of seeking affection you need to bond with a snake in a way that is more suited to their personality and individual characteristics.
The first thing you need to do to establish a bond with your snake is to establish that you are safe to be around. The most common reason why snakes attack humans is that they feel threatened and are defending themselves.
In order to allow a snake to become comfortable around you, it’s best to ensure that the snake has a positive association with you. This means that you need to handle the snake with care (more on this later) and only doing so when the snake seems relaxed and accepting.
When you first get a pet snake you need to spend time around it so that it can get used to your scent but do not be in a rush to handle your snake, it needs time to get to know you and establish that you are not a threat to it.
A few tips to let your snake get used to you can include rearranging items in their enclosure on a daily basis so that they get used to you and also spending time near the enclosure so that they can pick up your scent and become familiar with you in their environment (you need to remember that they see it as their environment even though you might be the one keeping them in captivity as a pet).
Being the person to always feed your snake will help it to recognize your scent and associate your presence with feeding which is a positive association and will indicate to the snake that you are not a threat when in their company.
Snakes are very primitive and tend to look at things in terms of predator or prey and the fact that a human is significantly larger than most snakes means that we are initially seen as prey in their eyes.
Therefore an important way to bond with your snake is for it to recognize you are someone that supplies them with food (ie, not a threat).
Snakes have very basic needs and that is to eat, stay warm in a safe place, and breed. They don’t get much more enrichment out of life and if you are helping to provide them with one of these basic needs in terms of supplying food, they will not only recognize your scent as a positive association but also feel safe around you.
Therefore feeding time is actually a great way to bond with your snake.
Ok, this is arguably the main way to bond with your snake and as much as we’d like to leave this as the final point, it’s important to establish safe and confident handling of your snake from a relatively early stage.
Initially, snakes will see you as a threat, especially after introducing them to a new enclosure which will essentially be their new home and environment. These changes will first take some getting used to and it’s never advised to start handling your snake straight away.
It’s important to let your snake feel safe around you by following the two steps above to help it feel comfortable in your presence and only then can you slowly start to handle your snake.
There are multiple ways to safely go about handling a snake and if you want to look into it more then you can check out this article for tips on confidently handling your snake.
All we will say is that handling is one of the best ways to form a bond with your snake and doing so each day is what will help you form a relationship.
Just note that from a snake's perspective, handling just provides it with warmth and is not an indication that it enjoys human contact but rather it enjoys the warmth specifically.
We don’t mean this in the horror story kind of way and if you own a significantly large snake then you should always handle it with a second person to avoid any accidents. What we do mean is that snakes not only like the body heat that humans emit but also to wrap themselves around objects.
When you see a snake resting on a human's lap or wrapping itself around a particular body part it’s not because it’s showing affection or wanted to be stroked etc..
It’s actually because the snake likes warmth and this is important when handling your snake outside of its enclosure whereby its body temperature could drop if left outside for too long.
Therefore, a great way to bond with your snake is to simply let it rest on you and enjoy your warmth while you are doing relaxing things yourself like watching tv, playing a video game, or reading a book.
It’s important to not let your snake out for more than 30 minutes as long periods outside of a warm enclosure could see it’s body temperature drop which could result in becoming stressed or even ill.
In our opinion, letting a snake relax on you is the closest thing to forming a bond that you are likely to do with your pet snake. Therefore, this is something you can definitely work up to once you are confident handling your snake and your snake is also comfortable being handled.
If you have a secure, sealed, and safe room then letting your snake roam outside of its enclosure for a short time each day is another great way to bond with your snake.
Again the level of bonding will be quite basic and will primarily come from watching your snake explore the environment and seek warmth or a hiding spot.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for a snake to approach its owner in an effort to seek warmth, especially if it recognizes the human scent to be familiar and safe.
Watching a snake interact with its environment and allowing it to roam freely in a secure location is a great way to spend some time with your snake outside of its enclosure.
Just make sure you know where it is at all times as a snake on the loose in your house would not make for great bonding moments!
This is by far the most basic way to bond with your snake but simply observing and watching your snake while it’s in a terrarium (or outside as mentioned above) is one of the most common ways to legitimately bond with your snake.
Besides holding a snake and being in its company, the only other way to really form a bond is by watching, observing and learning it’s personality and behavior.
Fully understanding your snake through observation will form an incredibly strong bond as you learn how it acts, what it responds to, and sometimes it’s just relaxing to switch off mentally and just watch a snake move around its habitat.
Much like with owning fish, some enjoyment and bonding can come from actually observing your snake and creating a living space that you can both enjoy. Giving your snake large branches, items to hang from and wrap around, places to hide and even small beds of water can all enrich your snake's life.
The key here is to introduce new items to it on a semi-regular basis and you can then watch as your snake interacts with the new object.
Sure, it might not be on the same scale as playing fetch but there is certainly something satisfying and relaxing about watching your snake interact with the environment that you’ve created for it.
This is similar to letting your snake roam freely for short periods of time, the enjoyment comes more from watching the snake's interaction and it’s these moments that will help you form a bond with your snake (even if the snake isn’t paying much attention to you personally).
As you can see, bonding with your snake does not mean it will come to you for affection and a bond with a snake is certainly a unique relationship that needs to be respected.
While handling is what many would consider being the ultimate bond you can potentially have with a pet snake, you can clearly see that observing, caring for and yes, handling of your snake are all ways that you can form a bond.
It will not be a bond like a domesticated mammal (dog or cat) but a bond with a snake can still be special in its own unique way and the above are just some of the ways that you can look to bond with your pet snake.