You’ve gotten a ball python, set up its cage and hides, made sure the temperature is at the right level, and provided a healthy diet for your pet… But it seems like it spends all of its time hiding away! You might be wondering if you’ve done something wrong, or if your ball python has a health problem.
So why does my ball python hide all the time? The answer is that in nature, the ball python spends most of its time in hiding. This is a normal behavior for its species, especially during the daytime.
Read on to learn more about what kind of activity the ball python takes on during the day as well as at night. You’ll also get helpful criteria to tell if your pet is healthy, or if it needs to take a trip to the vet. Finally, you’ll be provided with plenty of information about factors that can potentially cause health risks to your snake.
Ball Python Activity During the Day
Ball pythons that live in the wild spend their days avoiding predators and hiding from the hot sun. Occasionally they’ll come out to bask and warm up their body temperature, but most of the time they stay in burrows that have been created and abandoned by other animals.
Ball pythons are slow-moving terrestrial animals that make for easy prey in nature, so it’s not surprising that even as pets, they don’t come out much during the daytime.
It’s important for pet snake owners to realize that ball pythons aren’t the type of pet to slither around their cage and be active throughout the day. Quite the opposite, in fact–it’s healthy for snakes to hide during daylight hours. Many ball python owners say a hiding ball python is a happy one!
It’s still possible to get your ball python to eat during the day, but you’ll most likely get a better response from your pet if you wait until nighttime to feed them. If that’s not an option for you, late afternoon is a good choice for feeding time as well.
Providing Hides for Your Ball Python
Because staying hidden during the daytime is so important for ball pythons’ wellbeing, it’s important to make sure there are some good hides in your pet’s cage. It doesn’t matter whether you buy these hides in a pet store or make them yourself at home. All that matters is that your snake can completely hide itself from view.
It’s recommended to have more than one hide in your snake’s cage: one on the warm basking side of the enclosure, and the other on the cooler end. Remember that you should have a thermal gradient inside the cage, with the temperature ranging from about 82 degrees Fahrenheit at the cooler end up to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the basking area.
Having a hide on both sides of your ball python’s cage will ensure your pet doesn’t have to choose between safety and the temperature it prefers. Hides are a great way for your snake to feel secure and avoid stress.
Ball Python Activity at Night
Snakes are nocturnal creatures, so most of their interesting behavior will take place after the sun goes down. If you want to observe your pet, it’s a good idea to invest in an infrared reptile lamp.
This lamp is coated in a red material that cuts back on the amount of visible light it produces, so you can use it in your pet’s cage without disrupting their daytime/nighttime cycle. These lamps can also double as a heat source–just make sure to monitor the temperature in your ball python’s cage regularly.
If it seems like your snake is always hiding, the likely answer is that your pet is at its most active when you’re sleeping or aren’t keeping an eye on it. As long as your ball python is eating, there’s really nothing to worry about. But if you’re curious about when exactly your pet comes out of its hide, set up a camera. You’ll be able to learn about its behavior without having to watch it 24/7!
What If My Ball Python Is Always Hiding?
If your snake truly never comes out of its hide (and it’s not just a case of being active when you’re asleep in the middle of the night), this could be a sign that your pet’s enclosure may be too large. This can make your ball python feel scared and threatened. Additionally, the cage may not have enough hides or cover.
Although most people consider snakes predators, they’re also natural prey, which means that they have a need to feel secure at all times. Ball pythons hate being exposed out in the open, so if they don’t feel safe, they’ll simply continue to hide and seek cover.
A solution to this is to add some fake greenery to the cage, along with additional single-entrance hides. This should make your ball python feel much more secure. You’ll also want to double-check the temperature in the cage to make sure it’s at a good level–if it’s too warm or too cold, health and behavioral issues can arise.
Generally, as long as conditions in your snake’s cage are suitable and it sheds its skin regularly, there’s nothing to worry about.
How Can I Tell If My Ball Python Is Unhealthy?
If your snake is hiding so much that you think there’s cause for concern, or if it’s not shedding properly, check out these criteria.
A healthy ball python has:
- A rounded body shape (not triangular)
- Firm, clear skin with no retained shed
- Alertness to its surroundings
- A clean vent area
- Clear nostrils with no discharge or bubbling
- An active tongue that flicks when you handle your snake
- Clear eyes
- A firm but gentle grip
Factors that can cause an unhealthy ball python:
Live prey. It’s recommended to only feed your snake dead rodents, as live ones can actually harm them. They’ve even been reported to kill ball pythons. If you do choose to feed your pet live rodents, keep a watchful eye on the situation to ensure no harm comes to your snake.
- Normal household temperatures: Your cold-blooded snake won’t be healthy if you keep its enclosure at the same temperature as you keep your home. The temperature in your snake’s cage should never fall below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and you should aim for 80 degrees on the cooler side of the cage and 90 on the basking side. Don’t ever guess or estimate the temperature; buy a reliable thermometer and check it regularly.
- Unsuitable substrates: Corncob and gravel are some examples of substrates that can cause harm to your pet. If your ball python ingests these substrates, they can cause issues with its digestive tract.
- Hot rocks: Some snake owners use “hot rocks” as a way to maintain the temperature of the cage, but they can actually burn and injure your pet. It’s wiser to go with a heater that goes under the cage or a strong light that provides sufficient heat.
- Soiled water bowls: Replace your ball python’s water supply daily! If the water becomes soiled and your pet drinks it, this can cause a variety of health issues.
- Other pets: Make sure that your pet’s enclosure is safe from all other pets that can act as predators. It’s best to keep the cage in a room that other animals cannot access. Even if they can’t get into your ball python’s cage, they can make it feel threatened or stressed, which can then cause it to constantly hide.
The most common illnesses experienced by ball pythons:
- Burns and trauma such as bite wounds from prey
- Retained eggs (also called dystocia)
- Retained shed skin (also called dysecdysis)
- Respiratory infection
- Mouth rot
- Parasites such as mites and ticks
If you suspect your ball python has any of these health problems, take it to the vet immediately for expert care and advice!
A hiding ball python is a happy ball python! Don’t be concerned if it seems like your snake is hiding much more than it’s active; it’s absolutely normal. In their natural setting, ball pythons very rarely emerge from hiding during the day because they are easy prey. They prefer to hunt at night, but even then aren’t extremely active creatures.
If your ball python truly never comes out of hiding, you may want to invest in more hides and cover for its cage to make sure that it feels safe and secure. Then, as long as it shows all the signs of a healthy snake, you can rest assured that your pet’s behavior is normal.
Keep an eye out for the factors that can cause injury and illness! Most of these factors have to do with your ball python’s environment, so make sure that the cage is at a suitable temperature and humidity, and you should be good to go. However, if you ever think your pet is ill or injured, don’t hesitate to take it to the vet!