Enrichment For Snakes

October 29, 2020

Green tree python on a branch

Providing Enrichment For Your Snakes

Enrichment by definition is “the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something”. Zoos provide this to their animals to give them a better quality of life. Have you ever seen big cats play with balls, or otters toss toys back and forth? When you take your dog on a walk, you’re providing them with enrichment as well. Snakes might not play with toys or want to go on a walk, but there are still plenty of other ways to enhance their lives while spending little to no money. 


Tiger playing with a ball


Snake Cage Enrichment Ideas

Your snake can get bored slithering around their enclosure over the same things everyday. Because of this, it is important to rearrange their accessories occasionally. When you deep clean your snake’s enclosure once a month, you should be taking all of their accessories out for a wash. Rather than putting them all back in the same places, you can rearrange them each time. You should still have a hide on both the hot side and the cool side, but you can switch which sides the hides are on. You can move around their water dish, and any fake plants or branches you may have in the enclosure. This keeps your snake curious and active. It encourages them to explore their new environment, which will motivate them to exercise, preventing your snake from becoming overweight. If you have the extra money, buying some additional hides and decor can be nice too. This way when you clean their enclosure you can swap out old hides for new hides, and mismatch hides to keep your snake entertained. This will leave you with endless enclosure set up possibilities.


Another way to safely enrich your snake's environment is to switch up the substrate. Completely swapping out one substrate for another (for example, going from coco husk to aspen) will provide your snake with new smells and textures. You can also mix two substrates together for a less drastic change. Only switch to a substrate that is safe for your snake, and always do research on the brand before making a switch. You should also always watch your snake carefully after switching to a new kind/brand of substrate to make sure there are no negative side effects. (ex: a corn snake can be provided with both aspen and coconut husk since their humidity requirements are lower, but a ball python should never be provided wth aspen since its prone to molding in high humidity envirnments).



Smell Enrichment

Snakes have an excellent sense of smell to make up for their bad eyesight. Adding new smells to their enclosure can be a great way to improve the quality of their life, as long as you're adding snake-friendly smells. Do not burn candles or incense around them, these smells are unnatural and strong, and will disorient your snake. Natural smells that aren’t strong are good for your snake. Moss would be an excellent choice because it has natural smells that will not bother your snake, plus it will give the enclosure a more natural look. On top of that, moss will provide your snake with a new texture to move across. There are several different kinds of moss that you can mix and match to add even more variety. Please don’t bring in moss from outside, instead buy some from a pet store or online. When you put things from your backyard into the enclosure, you risk bringing in parasites, which could be deadly to your snake. Basil can be used in small quantities. You can also add potted plants such as pothos, spider plants, and bamboo. 


Snake Enrichment Toys

Snakes might not play with toys the same way that a dog or cat will, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide them with things that will enhance their lives. Adding rocks (make sure they have no sharp edges) will give your snake something new to slither over and smell, plus they can use it to help pull their shed off. Large climbing branches can be very beneficial to your snake too. These will provide your snake with new smells, textures, and will encourage exercise. Buying branches can be unnecessarily expensive, but you can find excellent branches outside. Make sure to sanitize them thoroughly before putting them into your snake’s enclosure to prevent the transfer of parasites and disease. Vines, leaves, and hammocks are great for snake enrichment too. If you have a small snake, paper towel tubes can provide a cool tunnel to slither through and hide in.


Burmese python on branch



When altering your snake's environment, only make one change at a time. Changing too many things at once can overwhelm your snake and stress them out. Each time you make a change look for signs of stress in your snake. If your snake starts refusing food, is rubbing its nose against the glass, or becomes aggressive, undo the changes you made. If your snake is acting like normal, or is a bit more active than usual, you can continue to slowly add things and rearrange things in the enclosure. It is important to provide your snake with several types of enrichment to keep them mentally and physically healthy.