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Do Pet Snakes Get Bored or Sad?

September 23, 2020
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It’s common practice when keeping pets to provide an environment that either closely mimics their natural environment outside of captivity or to provide pets with stimulating toys to prevent the onset of boredom and even anxiety or depression. 

For pet snake owners, however, it can be difficult to know whether or not a snake can actually suffer from boredom as they are not the most engaging or ‘playful’ pets even at the best of times. Therefore many people often wonder whether pet snakes can get bored or sad. 

Many people claim that pet snakes do not have the emotional intelligence to feel boredom or sadness, if you therefore suspect signs that your pet snake is displaying these emotions then it could be more likely that they are feeling stressed, anxious, or fearful. As long as you provide your pet snake with regular feeding and a spacious enclosure with cool hiding spots then your snake should be happy and content. 

There is currently not enough in the way of studies to accurately interpret specific emotions in snakes, which includes boredom and sadness, however, in this article we are going to look at a range of studies and factors that could indicate you snake showing either of these emotions and how you can potentially prevent it. 

Do Pet Snakes Get Bored

Pet snakes can’t get bored according to numerous sources. A popular YouTuber posed this exact question to his audience and while the majority seemed to think that pet snakes can get bored, scientific research (though limited) seems to state otherwise. 

It’s been shown that snakes do have dopamine receptors however there is not enough evidence to suggest that the dopamine response is enough to elicit excitement or boredom to anywhere near the same level that humans (or common pets like dogs) experience. 

Bored might also be the incorrect term to use in this instance, an enclosure that does not have suitable hiding space or an environment that doesn’t closely mimic a snake's natural environment outside of captivity is likely to cause stress and lead to defensive behavior. 

Do Pet Snakes Get Sad

A study has shown that 75% of pet snakes in the UK will die within one year of ownership due to the stress of being held in captivity. Therefore it’s not necessarily that a snake is sad or lonely but rather that it is stressed and anxious about being kept in captivity. 

Snakes are by their very nature, lonely creatures as they do not seek affection or companionship and it would be a mistake for pet owners to expect the same level of companionship and affection from a snake as they would from a dog. 

snake in a terrarium

A snake's brain is not wired to provide this level of connection and it’s very difficult for most snakes to associate the owner as actually being their owner, despite what loving snake owners might tell you otherwise. 

Therefore, what we might perceive to be sadness, loneliness or boredom is actually just a snake being comfortable in its own unique way, though there are certain things that snake owners can provide to ensure that they are living a contempt life in captivity. 

How to Keep Your Pet Snakes Happy

As you might have gathered from the above, we don’t yet have a complete understanding of a snake's emotional behavior and it’s often difficult to tell if your pet snake is showing affection, love, boredom, anxiety, or stress. 

That is unless it shows the obvious sign of fear by hissing and attacking (this is probably the only emotion we can know for definite that snakes display).

While it’s true that your pet snake might not feel boredom or sadness, there are certain things you can do as an owner to help it feel comfortable, contempt, and dare we say it, happy. 

The basis of ensuring your pet snake lives a comfortable and happy life is to firstly focus on the environment in which you give it to live.

This enclosure or terrarium should have a few key features from special lighting to provide warmth as well as a cool and dark area for the snake to hide. 

The enclosure should also be spacious enough for the snake to fully stretch out (which will be difficult if you own large pythons for example) and also include greenery that allows it to resemble a jungle and offers branches for the snake to utilize and wrap around. 

There will be specialist snake breeds that have specific requirements that you would certainly need to look into but the above covers most of the basics.

Other than the enclosure, regular feeding is what will help your snake identify you as the owner and provide a positive association as a result of providing food. 

Finally, if you do believe that your pet snake is feeling boredom or sadness then you can provide it with some snake toys. These are not traditional toys that you would give to a puppy to play with for example but rather toys that enable the snake to go about its natural movements. 

Snake toys can therefore include large branches or logs for them to wrap around, a small pool or bed of water to swim in, and hiding beds for them to enjoy in the cool shade.

While these might seem like boring toys to a human, these are the sort of items that will keep a snake relaxed and comfortable whilst in captivity. 

Summary

While it’s unlikely that your pet snake is bored or sad, especially if you provide it with basic needs of regular food and a spacious environment that closely mimics the wild, we can still take steps to ensure that pet snakes do not get bored or sad (even if we aren’t fully sure if this is an emotion they feel). 

Snakes for the most part do not like human (or other animals) company and are lonely creatures by nature, therefore do not make an assumption that they are bored and never try to force contact with them if it makes them uncomfortable. 

The best way to maintain a snakes happiness is to provide it with a spacious environment that specifically caters to their needs, a large branch to wrap around or a shaded area might seem ‘boring’ to a human but this is natural for a snake and as far as we can tell, it’s these basic needs that keep a snake happy.

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