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Do Ball Pythons Recognize Their Owners?

Nicole Cosgrove

The ball python is a popular pet snake, proving especially popular with first-time and novice owners. It doesn’t grow too large and it is considered a docile snake that is easy to handle. It is often described as being a friendly snake and becomes easier to handle the more often you do so, suggesting it may have the capability to recognize owners, but is this true? Does a ball python recognize its owner, and other people, or is it just accepting of human handling, in general?

divider-snakeBall Pythons and Scent

Ball pythons, like most snakes, recognize scents rather than how things look. They can smell when something is recognizable to them, although they also have a strong sense of hearing which means they may be able to recognize the sound of your voice.

The BP actually smells through the vomeronasal organ, located just above the mouth. By flicking their tongue, they can detect smell and even taste. They will learn to recognize their tank and their surroundings. In the wild, this would enable them to find and remain in a safe spot. It would also help them locate hunting grounds and other areas.

Ball Python
Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Do Ball Pythons Get Attached to Their Owners?

Their strong sense of smell and hearing means that your ball python does not necessarily bond with you but they do get used to you. They will feel safe and comfortable around your smell and when hearing your voice.

Because they view you as being a safe space, they will relax when in your presence and while being handled, which can give the appearance that they get attached to you. They know you won’t hurt it, in the same sense that they know their favorite log in their tank won’t hurt them.

Do Snakes Recognize Their Names?

Snakes do have good hearing, especially in the 200Hz to 300Hz range. Human voices register at 250Hz, which means that our voices are right in the middle of a comfortable hearing range for ball pythons. This means that they can hear you when you talk to them or just talk in general.

Although they won’t recognize their name, as such, they may be able to differentiate between your voice and the voices of others. They may also be able to recognize different sounds and associate these sounds with different outcomes. If you always come to say hello to your snake after calling their name, they might expect you to perform the same action in the future.

Do Snakes Like Being Petted?

Snakes do not really enjoy being petted, although some will naturally tolerate it and others will learn to tolerate it with regular and careful handling. Certain species, including ball pythons and the likes of corn snakes, do tolerate the practice more than others. Generally speaking, however, you should try to limit the amount of time you spend handling your pet snake.

hand holding ball python
Image Credit: Hand Robot, Shutterstock

Do Snakes Get Lonely?

Snakes are a solitary species, which means that, in the wild, they would spend most of their time alone. The only time that this isn’t true is when two snakes mate. Obviously, they would need to be closer at this time. They do not live as part of a family group, and they are quite happy to be left alone in their tank.

Tips For Handling a Snake

Whether you’re an experienced or inexperienced snake owner, there are ways that you can improve the handling experience for you and your snake. This, in turn, will help ensure that they endure less stress and that you enjoy a more positive experience.

  • Take It Slow – Allow a new snake time to settle in before you grab it out of its secure cage for handling. Typically, you should allow a period between ten days and two weeks. After this, take the snake out for a few minutes every other day, and only increase this as it shows signs of getting used to you. Don’t rush things, it could stress the snake out.
  • Be Confident – While you should take things slowly, you should show confidence when handling a snake. Hesitant handling tends to lead to jerking back and forth and to actions that have a greater chance of causing injury to your new herp.
  • Wash Your Hands – Get used to washing your hands frequently. At the very least, you will need to wash your hands before and after handling. You must wash your hands before picking up the snake if you have other animals or have been eating. If you smell of food, your snake will try to hunt your hand. Snakes are home to bacteria, too, which is why it is so important that you wash your hands after handling them.
  • Make Sure It’s Captive Bred – Wild-caught snakes tend to be more nervous, stressed, and aggressive than captive-bred. You should leave the rearing of wild-captured snakes to professionals, and ensure that the herp you buy was bred in captivity. As well as helping ensure a calmer snake, this can also minimize the risk of illness.
  • Choose Wisely – As well as making sure your new snake was captive-bred, you need to choose the right breed and even the most appropriate gender and age for you. If you’re a new snake owner, a breed like a ball python is a good option. Ball pythons tend to be docile and they tolerate handling. They are also healthier than other snakes and have lower, although still very important, care requirements.

divider-snakeCan Snakes Tell Who Their Owner Is?

Snakes are not the same as people. They do not have the same cognitive reasoning or memory as people, but they do recognize smells and sounds, and they may even respond to smelling or hearing anything familiar.

As such, they will start to recognize the scent of their owner, making them more likely to relax and feel comfortable in their owner’s hands. The more a ball python, which is one of the most popular snakes for first-time owners because of how well it tolerates being handled, is picked up, the better it will tolerate the experience.


Featured Image Credit: Krisda Ponchaipulltawee, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.