Does it freak you out when your pet snake stares at you?
Or maybe you encountered a snake in the wild with its gaze fixated on you like you’re a fat juicy rat.
What does it mean when a snake stares at you? And is it even staring?
Reptiles are very different from mammals.
Many behaviors that seem similar to ours are actually quite different.
And staring is one of those. Keep reading to learn what a snake is actually doing when it looks like it is staring at you. It could actually be a number of different things.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Does It Mean When A Snake Stares At You?
- 1.1 5 Reasons Your Snake Appears To Stare At You
- 1.2 Do Snakes Like Eye Contact?
- 1.3 How Do You Know If A Snake Wants To Bite You?
- 2 Why Does My Snake Stare At Me: Final Thoughts
What Does It Mean When A Snake Stares At You?
First things first: snakes cannot stare at us. They simply do not have eyelids and cannot blink. This gives us the impression that they are staring, when in reality, they aren’t.
Sometimes, a snake might appear to look at you when it senses your body heat. The snake may be on high alert as it believes you to be a predator, doesn’t trust you, or simply wants to protect its territory.
It may also want to be fed. If a snake is staring straight up (stargazing) at you, it could be due to a medical issue that needs prompt treatment.
5 Reasons Your Snake Appears To Stare At You
Again, what your snake is doing is not actually staring, but it certainly does appear that way. The fact is, snakes cannot stare like humans do.
We humans often think that our pet snakes are looking fixedly at us or staring at us, but snakes do not have highly developed vision. In fact, many species of snakes cannot see you at all, even if you are just a few feet away.
So why does it look like my snake is staring directly at me?
They do not have eyelids. Consequently, they cannot blink. And that gives the impression that they are staring.
So, do not try to read too much into the behavior. Your snake is not staring and it is certainly not plotting anything or sending you any subliminal messages.
It appears to be staring for various other reasons that have nothing to do with actually looking at you. Let’s take a look at those reasons.
Food Response Or Hunger Conditioning
One reason snake owners believe their pet snakes stare at them is because of a phenomenon called food response or hunger conditioning.
You may have heard about a 19th-century Russian scientist named Pavlov. He conducted an experiment to demonstrate reflexes and conditioning in animals.
He would ring a bell every time he brought food for his dog. Consequently, the dog came to expect food every time it heard the bell.
The same is true with our snakes. When we come near them, they associate us with being fed. As a result, they may expectantly hyper-focus on us, because they know that food follows. So, if your pet snake is hyper-focusing on you, it may be hungry and simply want to eat.
To Sense Your Body Heat
Your snake senses your presence because of the heat your body radiates. Snakes are cold-blooded animals with built-in sensors that direct them to warmth. These sensors help them seek warmth to regulate their body temperatures.
Humans also give out carbon dioxide through their breath, which snakes can sense as well. Therefore, every time you approach your snake’s enclosure, it may simply be sensing your body heat and may appear to stare at you in the process.
Lack Of Trust
Even pet snakes can get territorial and defensive and could show mistrust toward humans. Snakes are not like pet dogs and cats. They do not form close, loving bonds with their humans. To snakes, humans are nothing but predators.
Staring or hyper-focusing on you could be a sign that your snake mistrusts you or does not like being overhandled. After all, snakes are solitary and shy creatures. They do not like to cuddle or be held like cats and dogs.
Most snakes consider humans huge predators and they do not want to turn their backs on them!
You can slowly build trust with your snake by being calm while handling it. Allow your snake to rearrange itself around you when you hold it.
Some snakes might appreciate your body warmth. As far as possible, avoid handling a newly acquired snake. Remember: even docile snakes can get aggressive and could strike or bite.
Protecting Its Territory
Pet snakes can sometimes be territorial. And some species are more so than others. They consider their enclosures to be their shelters, where they get food and a place to rest.
When you approach the enclosure, they may appear to stare at you as they would at their predators. They think you are trying to invade their space.
This is why your snake needs time out of its enclosures regularly, so it can explore and move about. Many snakes are quite aggressive inside their enclosures, but calmer and friendlier outside.
Stargazing (Medical Issue)
If your snake appears to stare straight up without moving, it is known as stargazing. This is a dangerous medical issue that causes the cervical musculature of the snake to contract.
The result is that the snake appears to be looking up as if it is ‘stargazing’. If your snake is displaying this behavior, please take it to the vet immediately.
Do Snakes Like Eye Contact?
According to experts, snakes do not like locking eyes with humans. In fact, most snakes do not want to have to do anything with humans and would rather slither away peacefully than engage with us.
If a snake seems to be making eye contact with you, it may simply be sensing your body heat. It probably does not even see you well, since snakes mostly have poor vision.
Moreover, snakes always consider humans as their predators. They would rather hyperfocus on the predators, since turning their backs would mean getting eaten in the wild. If your snake is making eye contact with you, it is probably to warn you not to mess with it.
How Do You Know If A Snake Wants To Bite You?
Whether you have a pet snake or come across one in the wild, here are some signs to watch out for that could indicate it might strike.
When a snake is about to strike, it might take on an S-shaped position with its head watching the prey (you, in this case) and its body tightly wound. This position provides the snake with more lunging power and leverage.
Propped Up Tail Or Slowly Moving Tail
A snake that is about to strike might slowly move its tail or may prop it up on an object if there is one available. By moving its tail, it will slowly inch closer to the prey (again, that’s you).
Hyperfocus On The Prey
The snake will focus on the prey completely before it strikes. It will watch out for the slightest movement from the prey.
A snake that is about to strike might also pant slightly or show some excitement. If you notice these signs, slowly back away and do not try to engage with the snake.
Most snake bites occur because people try to capture wild snakes. Remember: most snakes will not strike at or bite humans and prefer moving out of our way.
Why Does My Snake Stare At Me: Final Thoughts
Snakes don’t stare at us. They barely even see us at all. But they do sense us, primarily our heat signature. And they see us as a threat.
They fixate on us, so as not to be taken by surprise. Conversely, your pet snake may also associate you with food. Whenever it senses you, it knows a meal soon follows. And naturally, it fixates on you in anticipation.
Those are the most common reasons a snake might appear to stare. But it could be something else, too. Including a serious medical issue. If you snake appears to be “stargazing” take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible.