Snakes are amazing creatures.
If we humans go without food for a while, it takes less than two weeks for starvation to set in.
If we get enough water, we can survive for a month or more. Most of us would die before two months is up.
Two weeks is nothing for a snake. They can do that without even feeling it.
Two months isn’t a big deal either. Most snakes go far longer than that without eating every winter during brumation.
They can do this because they are able to drastically slow down their metabolism.
Let’s find out just how long a snake can survive without food and also take a closer look at how they are able to do this.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Long Can Snakes Go Without Eating?
- 2 Related Questions
- 3 How Long Snakes Go Without Eating: Final Thoughts
How Long Can Snakes Go Without Eating?
There are records of snakes going months, even years, without food! It is a superpower that enables them to survive for a long period of time in the wild.
But how do they do it? Let’s explore how and why snakes can survive for such a long time when food is scarce.
How Often Do Snakes Have To Eat?
Before we get to anything else, it’s good to know how regularly snakes need to eat. This is especially important if you own a snake because you don’t want to feed it too much or too little.
How regularly a snake needs to eat depends on the species and the individual snake’s age and size.
Generally, smaller and younger snakes need to eat twice a week. Right after birth, baby snakes can eat the yolk sac. After that they need to hunt small prey.
Older and larger snakes only need to eat every week or two. For example, an adult ball python needs to eat once every 10 to 14 days, a rattlesnake once every 14 days, and corn snakes once every seven to 10 days.
If, for whatever reason, a snake does not get food this often and ends up going a longer period without eating, it can still survive. Let’s take a look at how they can go months without eating.
How Do Snakes Live So Long Without Food?
Despite the above feeding guidelines, we know that snakes can survive for a long time without food because of their metabolic rate.
They can lower their metabolic rates by up to 70 percent when needed!
Amazingly, this not only enables them to survive without food, but also means they can continue to grow in size, even when they’re not taking in any food.
When snakes begin to starve, they burn their fat stores first. After that, how they generate energy depends on the species of snake.
For example, rat snakes break down the proteins in their body. They also break them down quite rapidly, when compared to some other snakes, like rattlesnakes.
There are some snake species that can survive for up to two years without food, in pretty amazing ways. Some species digest their own hearts or grow larger heads to increase their prey options when food is really scarce.
Snakes also get by without a lot of food because they require fewer calories. This is the case even when there’s a large supply of food available.
Snakes from temperate climates only need two to four times their body weight in food per year.
That means that a ball python that weighs three pounds would need six to 12 pounds of food in one year. That’s a lot less than what we’d have to ingest in the same amount of time – almost 2,000 pounds!
What Happens To Snakes After Starvation?
We know a lot about how long snakes can go without food. But we don’t know as much about snake starvation.
For example, we don’t know whether they can get back on track with their nutritional requirements and return to being healthy, when they come out of a period of starvation.
If you own a snake, this could become an issue. It’s actually fairly common for snakes to lose their appetite. In fact, it is completely normal.
For example, during molting, snakes stop eating just before they shed their skin. This is actually one of the signs that your snake is getting ready to shed, along with their skin becoming pale and their eyes appearing blue or milky.
Usually, their appetite soon returns, long before they begin starving. But sometimes it doesn’t and that could cause problems for your pet.
There are also a number of health conditions that could cause your snake to stop eating. These include intestinal parasites, mouth rot, and respiratory disease.
If you own a snake, it is important to know about these types of health issues. Please read up on health problems and how to detect them.
Stress is also a factor to consider. If your snake has been experiencing stress, perhaps from a major change or disruption to its environment, this can also cause it to lose its appetite. In some cases stress can cause a snake to eat its own tail.
What To Feed Your Snake
If you have a pet snake, you need to ensure that it gets the right food in order to be healthy and keep illnesses at bay.
All snakes are carnivores (none are vegetarians) and will eat prey such as rabbits, rodents, frogs, and/or eggs, depending on the species. Read up on your snake species to ensure you give it the correct food.
Snakes all swallow their food whole, which means that it’s easy for them to enjoy diets that are complete in the nutrition that they need.
It’s essential to ensure that the prey you give to your snakes are healthy – as with humans, snakes are what they eat!
How long can corn snakes go without eating?
Corn snakes are perhaps the most popular breed of pet snake. A big reason for that is that they are docile and easy to care for. That is why we get more questions about this breed than any other.
As mentioned above, corn snakes need to be fed every 7 to 10 days. Smaller adults should eat every week and larger adults can go a few days longer. They will go without food for longer, when they are shedding.
It is best to feed them frozen mice. Thaw the mouse before feeding. Baby snakes eat pinky mice and move up in size from there.
A good rule of thumb is to feed your corn snake a mouse that is about as large as the snake is thick.
Do you need to give snakes vitamins?
You don’t generally need to feed them vitamins, but if you think your snake might have a health condition he or she might need supplements from the veterinarian.
Why do snakes refuse to eat?
Stress is the most common reason for snakes refusing to eat. Bear in mind that snakes are creatures of habit and like routines. Any disruption in a snake’s routines can cause stress.
How Long Snakes Go Without Eating: Final Thoughts
Snakes are fascinating creatures that can live without food for many months, if not years.
However, they do require healthy diets for their well-being. In order to give your snake the nutrition it needs, you should feed it whole prey.
Make sure to ask your vet to guide you on how often you should feed your snake. This can vary considerably from species to species and even from one snake of a single species to another, depending on age and size.