Snakes have something of a bad reputation when it comes to being friendly and emotional. Behind that cold glare, there is a living creature so surely, they must be able to feel something?
If you are a pet owner, you may have wondered whether your snake will emotionally bond with you, feel sad, angry, or happy.
According to research, it is feasible to believe that snakes have basic emotions but these are certainly nowhere near as developed as humans. If you were hoping that your snake may develop an unbreakable bond with you, the sad news is that their cognitive function may not be complex enough for this.
In this article, we are going to be exploring what snakes are capable of feeling and how this translates into a relationship with their owners.
Do Snakes Have Emotions?
Snakes may be capable of feeling basic emotions. By this, we mean that they will be able to feel fear, hostility, and to a degree, joy or pleasure.
These positive emotions may be displayed when the snake is enjoying being petted by an owner. However, the cognitive function of a snake is such that they may not be able to associate this with affection or a bond with the person who is doing the stroking.
In humans, this physical touch can be pleasurable and can cause humans to react in a complex way, connecting with the individual that is touching them. While a snake would enjoy the act of being stroked, this is where the emotion will end.
That being said, snakes may be able to recognize their owners and the people that regularly handle or feed them. But more on this later.
Going back to those feelings of pleasure and joy; a snake may experience these emotions but the likelihood is that since they will not benefit the animal in any way, they have not learned to act upon these feelings.
Again, humans might develop a loving or romantic relationship with someone that makes them feel happy. However, in the case of a snake who doesn’t form a bond with other snakes and only mates out of instinct, these feelings don’t serve their survival.
Do Snakes Recognise Their Owners?
It is suggested that snakes may be able to recognize the people that take care of them. When they are exposed to the same face and smell every day, this becomes part of their routine.
This means that, over time, the snake will simply come to recognize where their food is coming from and associate seeing you with meal times.
When you bring it food, this will make the snake feel good and in turn, they will start to associate your presence with something positive.
However, this is not to say that the snake would automatically fall in love with its owner. As we have discovered, this emotion is largely not present in a snake.
It can be a little discouraging to find out that your pet snake doesn’t feel the same way about you but you shouldn’t take this to heart. It would be like the snake expected you to shed your skin in the same way that they do; it wouldn’t be possible.
But that is not to say that snakes don’t make amazing pets and they will give back to you in other ways.
What About Aggression?
If there is one thing that snakes are renowned for, it is being aggressive. It’s a sad misconception since these beautiful animals are typically not aggressive unless they feel threatened.
If you have heard horror stories of people getting bitten by snakes when walking through the forest, you need to keep in mind that the big heavy boot coming towards the snake most likely filled it with fear. Its reaction? To attack.
This leads us to the fact that snakes are able to feel fear. Fear is a natural response that is ingrained into most living things. It is imperative to survival.
Without fear, a snake, or any other animal for that matter, would not be able to successfully detect a threat and may end up being a meal for a larger animal.
If you take care of your snake correctly, you will most likely go through the entire relationship without being bitten. However, owners that attempt to handle the snake or pet it when it doesn’t want this attention may find that they end up with a defensive and aggressive pet.
When snakes feel frightened, they will typically do one of two things; coil up or hiss. If you try to stroke your snake or even approach it when it isn’t feeling in the mood, one of the first signs of aggression will be a hiss.
This serves as a warning and even in the wild, you will probably encounter a snake hiss before it bites, unless you startle it.
Fear in snakes may also present as the animal trying to get away from what is frightening it.
Preventing An Aggressive Pet Snake
The last thing you want is to bring your new snake home and scare it by trying to handle it too frequently or when it does not feel ready.
If you want your relationship with your snake to get off to a good start, make sure to handle it little and often when you bring it home. However, if you notice that the snake is showing any signs of aggression, be sure to back away and give it some space.
Over time, your snake will become used to your presence and will likely allow you to physically interact with it. While having an aggressive snake can be frustrating for owners, it is also important to remember that this heightened feeling of fear is much more distressing to the snake.
Snakes are unfortunate enough to have a reputation of being cold, emotionless, and even evil. In movies, they typically symbolize anything that is unfeeling or hostile. However, while they do display these emotions, so do many other animals.
Snakes are able to feel basic emotions such as fear and there is some suggestion that they will feel pleasure, but this is not such a complex emotion in these animals.
When they feel pleasure, perhaps from a physical interaction with their owner, this will not develop into a meaningful bond, simply because the snake is not able to understand affection and companionship.