Choosing a Rat Snake as a Pet
Rat Snakes are native to North America, and fully grown can reach 6 feet in length. Typically quite docile; they are part of the Corn Snake family and have similar care requirements, making them good pets.
Company for Rat Snakes
Typically, Rat Snakes are quite solitary and are quite content to live by themselves. However, males will fight with each other.
Rat snakes have been known to live up to 15 years in captivity. Breeding females may actually have a shorter life expectancy.
Where Rat Snakes Like to Live
Rat Snakes should be housed in a vivarium with a secure top to prevent them from escaping. Most importantly, you should allow a minimum of 1 square foot to each foot of the length of your snake. Your Rat Snake will also need a box to hide in; a branch for climbing and resting; and a rock or log for basking on. Photo-period lighting and an average humidity of 40-60% will ensure your Rat Snake has a comfortable habitat. In addition, a heat mat will also be needed.
A Rat Snake is one of the best pet snakes for handling; although it will take it a few days to settle into its new home. Therefore, it is recommended that you give it some time to settle before you attempt to handle it.
For the most part, the Rat Snake will be a non-aggressive pet; although they are more emotional than their cousins; the Corn Snake. When startled or stressed, your Rat Snake will vibrate its tail and may bite, depending on how threatened it feels. A bite from a Rat Snake, although painful, are not venomous.
Your Rat Snake will like to be handled for a few minutes each day. If you handle it more than this, it will become stressed.
Do not handle your Snake right after it has eaten because it can cause it to vomit.
Diet & Nutrition
Rat Snakes, like all other snakes, are strictly carnivorous; meaning they eat only the meat of other animals. Rat Snakes prefer small rodents like mice and rats.
Young Rat Snakes start on pink mice; one every 5-6 days and graduate up to an adult mouse every 7-14 days as they grow. Very large snakes may require 2 adult mice per feed.
Frozen food is available from your local Petmania Store. Because of its sensitive nature, it is not displayed on the shop floor, so please ask for assistance.
A bowl of fresh water must always be available at all times. It will be used for drinking and sometimes for bathing. If the snake defecates in it, the bowl must be cleaned and disinfected.
Health & Hygiene
Rat Snakes are a hardy species, so are generally quiet resilient, and with a good diet and a cleaning routine will remain quite healthy.
As your snake grows, its old skin become too tight and worn. A new skin awaits just below the old. As a snake gets ready to shed, its eyes will turn a milky blue over the course of several days; and the body color will start to dull and develop a whitish sheen. Once the eyes have cleared, the snake is ready to shed. To assure proper hydration, soak the snake in warmish water after the eyes clear; this should enable the snake to shed easily within the next 24 hours.
These are small black parasites that live on your Rat Snake and feed on their blood. If affected by mites, they will be visible around the eyes, mouth and under his scales. Symptoms will include lethargy and loss of appetite. If mites are discovered, bathe your Rat Snake immediately in warm water. Remove all the contents from the vivarium and fully disinfect. Replace substrate with kitchen roll and keep furnishing to a minimum. You will need to use a mite treatment to rid the tank of all mites, and medical attention is recommended.
Bacterial infections are typically caused by poor cage conditions, low temperatures or too much humidity; but they can also transfer between snakes. Symptoms include a wheezy breathing sound; excessive saliva and nasal discharge. Mild infections will generally go away once living conditions are improved, but veterinary advise is recommended for serious infections.
If you are concerned about your Rat Snake’s health, our Pet Care Advisors are on hand to help, although veterinary attention may be recommended.
This may occur if your Rat Snake is handled too soon after eating; or if their food is too large. However, it may also be a sign of digestive problems. If regurgitation occurs, monitor it closely for other symptoms. If your Rat Snake repeatedly regurgitates it’s meal, shows signs of excessive weight loss or shows any other signs that are worrying, seek medical attention.
Cleaning the Habitat
Rat Snakes generally require little cleaning as they rarely defecate. Remove feces and soiled bedding as necessary, and if your snake defecates in its water bath, it should be disinfected straight away. A full deep clean every four weeks, with a mild disinfectant will ensure your Rat Snake remains healthy.
Hand washing is very important when owning any reptile. Washing your hands before and after handling your Rat Snake will help keep you and your pet healthy. If you wash your hands before handling you reduce the risk of passing anything on to your pet.
As with all reptiles, Rat Snakes have the potential to carry pathogens such as salmonella; so children under five should not handle them and hands should be thoroughly washed before and after handling.
Take Me Home Checklist
Before you take your Rat Snake home, it is important that you have a habitat set up for him to move straight into. This list will help you identify what you need, and if you have any questions, our Pet Care Advisors in-store will be only to happy to assist.
- Suitable vivarium with secure lid
- Heat Mat
- Substrate & Bedding
- Water dish
- Decoration and hides
- Misting bottle
- Humidity gauge