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Do Snakes Like Being Pet? Everything You Need To Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

If you are considering a pet snake, you may have a few questions before making a final decision. After all, snakes are much different than your average companion animal. As long the specific care requirements are met for a snake to thrive in a captive environment, they can make low-maintenance pets.

One popular question among potential snake owners is whether snakes like being petted. So, do they? The short answer is, no, they do not.

Don’t let that discourage you though, there’s much more behind that answer. A snake’s lack of social needs can be beneficial to owners that don’t have a lot of spare time to provide the attention that a pet like a dog or a cat would require.

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Why Don’t Snakes Like Being Pet?

Long-nosed Snake_Hairulazuar_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Hairulazuar, Shutterstock

It’s not personal, the brain of a snake, as with most reptiles is very primitive and completely devoted to survival in the wild. Their brain revolves around self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure their survival and that of their species.

A snake’s existence revolves around, eating, reproducing, and fighting, or fleeing as means to protect itself. They are not capable of feeling the same emotions as mammals. The touch of a human being can make them feel as though they are being preyed upon. After all, in the wild, if they are not the predator they are the prey.  Snake owners will want to work with their pets to help them acclimate to human touch and handling.

Just because a snake does not particularly enjoy being petted, does not mean it can not be handled by its owners. Snakes are fully capable of learning that they are safe with their handlers. They can experience curiosity when handled, and respond very well when taken out of their enclosure.

Do Pet Snakes Recognize Their Owners?

Snakes have a great sense of smell, they may be able to recognize and remember their owners by scent but they do not have the type of intelligence that allows them to recognize your individuality.

You will always want to wash your hands before handling your snake, regardless of how long you’ve had them and how familiar you are with it. Snakes use their heat-sensing abilities to track down prey, humans are warm-blooded and give off heat. You can easily be mistaken for food. Washing your hands clean will prevent you from smelling like any potential prey. It’s also recommended that you utilize a snake hook for handling.

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Do Pet Snakes Show Affection?

ghost corn snake
Image Credit: skifbook, Shutterstock

Snakes don’t have the intellectual capacity to feel complex emotions like love or affection. So no, they are not capable of feeling affection for their handlers. They can deem you as non-threatening and relate you to the care you provide. Your goal as a snake owner is to condition your snake to tolerate human contact and make them feel secure.

There are a variety of snake species kept in captivity and they all have different characteristics. Some species are more docile, slow-moving, and easier to handle, some are more curious and active, and some are by nature more aggressive and difficult to handle.

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What Types of Snakes Are Easiest to Handle?

A first-time snake owner will want to choose a species that is more calm and handleable. As mentioned above, some species can be much more difficult to handle than others and can even exhibit more aggressive tendencies. These traits are manageable for more experienced snake handlers but it’s best to avoid these species as a beginner.

It’s best to keep in mind that baby snakes can be feistier, this is because baby snakes can easily fall prey to predators in the wild. Once they are either hatched or born, they must be on the defense. They will typically mellow out with age and regular handling.

It’s always best to acquire a captive-bred snake from a reputable breeder. Wild-caught snakes can exhibit more stress and aggression with humans and you run a higher risk of the snake having internal or external parasites.

Let’s look at some of the overall best species regarding handleability:

1. Corn Snake

Scaleless Corn Snake
Image Credit: Eric Isselee, Shutterstock

Corn Snakes are relatively easy to care for, docile, and do not get very large. They make a great choice for beginner snake owners. Corn snakes are native to the Eastern United States and selective captive breeding has resulted in a variety of beautiful colors.


2. Milk Snake

Milk Snakes make great pets because they are not too big, vibrant in color, and are easy enough for a beginner to handle. They tend to be a little shyer when younger but they grow up to be more docile snakes. They are native to North and South America.


3. Ball Python

Lavender albino ball python
Image Credit: Natnaphat, Shutterstock

Regarded as one of the best snakes for beginners, Ball Pythons are docile, and fairly low maintenance. They are medium-sized snakes originating from Africa. Though they have thicker bodies, they typically stay under five feet in length. Captive breeding has resulted in a vast array of color and pattern morphs.


4. Children’s Python

Native to Australia, the Children’s Python is a very easy species to care for. As long as their basic requirements are met they are a very hardy species of snake. They tend to have a docile temperament and rarely bite, making them excellent for first-time owners.


5. Rosy Boa

Native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico, the Rosy Boa makes an excellent pet. It is a manageable size, feeds well, is docile, and typically tolerates handling with ease.


6. King Snake

California Kingsnake
Image Credit: 272447, Pixabay

King Snakes make very good pets for beginners because they are very easy to care for and are rarely ever aggressive.  They come in a variety of different colors and patterns. They display more curiosity than other species but are easy to handle, and excellent feeders.


7. Hognose

Hognose snakes rarely turn aggressive. They are easy to care for once you establish a feeding routine and are comfortable in their environment. Native to the United States, these adorable snakes have a signature upturned snout and come in a variety of colors and morphs.


8. Garter Snake

Western Black-necked garter snake_Luis Mac_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Luis Mac, Shutterstock

Garter Snakes can make a great beginner-level snake. They are native to North America and are widely distributed. They are small and rarely ever aggressive. The only downside to a Garter Snake is that they are a bit more active when handled which can be overwhelming for some first-timers.


9. Boa Constrictor

Boa Constrictors can be very handleable, low-maintenance pets. They are often active and alert and usually tolerate handling well. They can be a good snake for a beginner if the person is equipped to handle their size. Boa Constrictors are the largest on this list. They range from 5 to 9 feet in length and weigh between 20 and 35 pounds. As with most snakes, males will be smaller in both length and weight.

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Do Any Other Reptiles Enjoy Being Pet?

We know that reptiles have a more primitive brain than mammals. Are there any reptiles that enjoy human touch and companionship though? The answer is, yes! If you’re in the market for a more sociable reptile, there are some options.

Some species in the pet trade will be much more interactive and personable with their humans.  These reptiles will not be nearly as low maintenance as snakes but can make for very rewarding pets. Keep in mind that they are still reptiles, they do not operate the same as a family dog.

Here’s a list of some reptiles that are more personable:

  • Tortoises
  • Monitor Lizards
  • Blue Tongued Skinks
  • Bearded Dragons

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Conclusion

Due to their primitive ways, snakes are very low maintenance regarding socialization.  They simply do not require it. Failing to take your pet snake out of their enclosure for some one-on-one time does not affect their mental health.

If you fail to interact with a pet cat, dog, or bird, it can be detrimental to their overall wellbeing. If you lack extra time to provide your pet with attention, a snake may be the perfect pet for you.

Though snakes don’t like being petted and cannot form an emotional bond with you, they can still be handled and make for excellent, low-maintenance pets.


Featured Image Credit: Imageman, 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.