Getting a new scaly friend can be exciting, and the most common breed that people stumble upon in pet stores is the ball python.
Ball pythons are easily one of the most docile snakes and are the best breed for beginners. However, just like every other snake, they will hiss at you from time to time.
A snake’s hiss is its primary way of communicating and letting you know that they are uncomfortable.
It could be that the temperature in their habitat is off, they’re getting ready to shed, or maybe they are hungry.
If you’re not sure what to do, here are some helpful tips to get your snake to stop hissing!
What does it mean when a snake is hissing?
A snake hissing is one of its only means of communication, aside from body language. Usually, a hissing snake is a stressed snake.
This does not necessarily mean the snake is mad at you, but there could be other factors making them uncomfortable.
They have no other way to tell you what is going on other than to hiss.
Below, we will talk about some of the main reasons a snake would be hissing and what you may be able to do to help make them more comfortable.
Four Reasons your ball python hisses at you:
Too much handling too soon
As exciting as it can be to bring a new pet home, snakes need time to get comfortable with their new surroundings.
They have never smelled these smells, they have never seen these faces, and they need time to adjust.
It is best to have everything ready and waiting for them as soon as you get them home.
In this way, they can be placed directly into their new habitat without waiting or being bothered.
Pop open that lid, set them free in their new habitat, and let them be.
Give them about a week, let them roam their new home, and check everything out for a bit. Once that week is up, give them some food and let them digest for about 48 hours.
After all of this, it is finally time to hold your snake! Try to handle them for about 10 minutes a day and work your way up from there.
You will be walking around the house with them on your shoulder in no time!
Take a good look at your scaly companion. Are their scales looking a bit dull? Are their eyes less clear and almost blue-looking?
It could be time for them to shed.
When this happens, the snake can seem more withdrawn, and take to hiding a bit more than usual. This is because, at this moment, they are far more vulnerable than usual.
They cannot see properly, so any sudden movement around them is startling and could cause them to hiss or even lash out.
They will lose their appetite, some only eating a little bit, and some preferring not to eat at all.
All of these things can contribute to a bit of hissing, but this mainly means that they need to be left alone for a bit, not anger or aggression.
When a snake hisses, it could be because lack of food has made them a bit hangry. Just like humans, snakes can get irritable when they are hungry too!
The time this could be an issue is after they have shed.
As mentioned above, they may lose their appetite completely, which means when they are ready to eat again, they will be extremely hungry.
Give your little friend some food, let him digest it for about 48 hours, and then try to hold them again.
Scared or just a bit defensive
This one is a bit more straightforward.
Snakes aren’t loud like most other animals, and they are usually confined in smaller places, so they can’t move away when someone is trying to touch them.
If they are agitated, their only means of alerting you is to hiss.
They will puff their bodies up and blow out a large exhale of air, making a hissing noise, and sometimes they will even coil up.
Being fearful can be due to someone new trying to reach in and grab them, and defense can come from something as simple as the family cat tapping on their aquarium.
Your snake might also be stressed by its habitat
It is imperative that if your snake has a tank mate, they have adequate room.
Both snakes need to have their own hide and at least one large bowl for soaking and drinking.
With very little room, another snake in the aquarium can make them territorial and cause them to hiss and even fight the other snake.
Temperature and Humidity
Unlike warm-blooded mammals, reptiles are cold-blooded, which means that they have a harder time regulating their body temperatures.
These are a huge factor in their mood and overall movement, as they will be more sluggish and irritable if kept too cold.
The size of your snake’s tank or aquarium is very important for keeping proper temperatures and adding multiple snakes.
It is best to get a 20-gallon tank or larger, especially if there is more than one snake.
The tank needs to adequately provide two separate zones of temperature, room for at least two hides, and their water dish.
- Keep one end of the tank around 80-84 degrees Fahrenheit and the other side around 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit
- One or two under the tank heaters for the warmer side
- A heat lamp for the cooler side
- A thermostat to track the temp in the tank
- Humidity strip or gauge. This needs to be about 50% to 60% normally, and 60%-75% when they are shedding.
- Two hides, one on each side so that they may choose the temperature they want or need at that time
- One of the hides should be a bit jagged, as it will help them shed
- A lid with locks! The snake will push on the lid, and if it comes off easily, it will escape
- A sturdy (kind of heavy) water bowl so they can slither in and out of it when they want
Will the snake bite me?
Not necessarily, as these hissing noises are normally warning sounds.
Many of the tips mentioned above will help you calm your agitated snake, and they will be good as new.
If they are in a defensive position, coiled up, and head slightly lifted, they are in a striking position and extremely hostile.
In those moments, just leave the snake alone for a while. Let whatever is causing their agitation to wear off before trying to stick your hand in their tank.
What should I do if my snake hisses at me?
Tip 1: Check their temperature levels.
Many times, simply tweaking their temperature is all that is needed. To do this, make sure that:
- It is not too hot or cold
- The lamps are working
- The heating pads are turned on
- They have plenty of water to drink and soak in
Tip 2: Recall the last time they were fed
As they get older, they can eat a bit more, and because of this wouldn’t need to eat as often.
Sometimes reptile owners can forget when to feed their pets, so it is best to make a schedule for you and your snake.
This will make it easier for you to gauge their mood based on the time of the month or week.
If he is hissing and it is two days past feeding time, then there is a pretty good chance it is time to thaw out some dinner.
Tip 3: Check the surroundings
Did the family just get a new cat?
Is there a chance the cat could have been on top or near the snake cage trying to play?
Has someone else been tapping on the tank?
If the snake has a tankmate, have they been acting normally or fighting?
All of these can contribute to the snake hissing at you.
Tip 4: Look for any of the telltale signs of shedding.
If it is that time, just leave your snake alone for a bit. Let them hide, soak, and shed in peace.
Once they are finished and fed, they will be back to normal.
Most people can simply change their habitat around, and their snake’s attitude changes almost instantly.
Some notice a change in their snake’s scales and eyes and know it’s time to let them be so they can shed. Others just feed them, and they calm down.
Hopefully, you can make your snake more comfortable and ready to be handled with these tips.
Don’t be scared if they hiss at you. Just make some changes, and everything should go back to normal.