Besides being one of the most impressive looking pets on the planet, Burmese Pythons can be one of the heaviest. We are talking upwards of hundreds of pounds! Not all Burmese Pythons get large enough to eat a deer. There are also Dwarf varieties. These smaller varieties come from different island localities where the food available is much smaller. This keeps the snakes much smaller. Dwarf varieties stay about the same weight as a ball python. The larger mainland varieties are definitely not a pet for beginner snake keepers, even though they are very easy to care for. (not handle)
Cats and dogs have to eat every day. Cats must have their litter boxes cleaned, and dogs have to be walked. Burmese Pythons only eat every seven to fourteen days, and go just about as often. This makes them a very easy animal to care for (not handle). Burmese Pythons however, are cold blooded. This means that they have a few extra requirements (temperature and humidity). Once their home is set up properly, these extra requirements don’t take much extra time or effort. These requirements are nonnegotiable.
Pretty much all snakes should eat a meal that is the same diameter as the snake is in the snake’s thickest spot. If the thickest part of your snake is about one inch in diameter, then your snake’s meal should also be one inch in diameter. If your snake eats a meal that is too small, then it will not be getting enough nutrition. If they eat a meal that is too large, they could have trouble getting it down. If they do get it down, then it could upset their feeding cycle and cause them to stop eating for a while.
Typically with the correct sized meal Burmese Pythons eat every seven days when young, and ten to fourteen days when grown.
Burmese Pythons eat rodents, typically rats, and rabbits. Burmese pythons can eat live rodents, or frozen rodents that have to be thawed. There are pros and cons to each. We always prefer to feed frozen/thawed (FT), over live for the following reasons;
One – It is much easier. It is much easier to keep bags of rodents on hand in the freezer, than to keep live rodents that need to be cared for. There are times when local pet stores are out of specific food items. We prefer to keep plenty on hand.
Two – It is safer for the snake. Sometimes the rat can chew on the snake causing injury. Many of the snakes that we have are rescues. Some of them have injuries from being fed live rodents. One of them is missing most of its tail due to a rat chewing it off. We are glad that we got the snake out of that environment.
Three – It costs less. We can get medium rats for roughly $1.50 each when frozen. They cost over $5.00 when live. I realize that costs would be greatly reduced if we produce our own rats, but for now that’s an unnecessary headache.
The big pro to feeding live rodents in my opinion is that Pythons prefer it over frozen/thawed. This is very important to understand. Pythons are hard wired to kill their prey before they eat it. When feeding frozen/thawed some snakes need to be tricked into thinking the rodent is still alive. This is done simply by wiggling it to make it look alive. Most of the time this is not necessary. The smell of rodents in the air can make them go crazy, and they are usually ready to eat.
There are many ways to thaw frozen rodents. We prefer to let them thaw slowly. Once they are thawed, we then heat them up with warm clean water. Do not feed your snake rodents that are partially frozen. Do not feed your snake rodents that are over 100°F. Before feeding the snakes, we semi-dry the rodents with paper towels. Don’t handle your snake for at least 24 hours after they eat. If you do, they could regurgitate their rodent. Because this can damage their throat, its best not to feed them for about a week.
Burmese Pythons also require fresh water to drink. We change the water about every week, unless something gets in the water. Then we change it sooner. If you have a nice looking tank, you can find some really good looking natural style dishes. Always try to use distilled or filtered water if possible.
Shelter – (Heat-humidity-security-bedding)
One of the most important things to understand about Pythons is they require a certain temperature and humidity. They come from a very warm climate and have to keep warm. They require an ambient temperature between 83°F and 85°F. If they are kept much cooler, they can easily develop a respiratory infection or even die. Its also essential that they have a hot spot. This means that part of the cage is a warmer temperature than the rest of the cage. The hot spot should be between 90°F and 95°F. This hot spot is essential so that the snake can digest its meal. Without it they can develop health problems. Because we are warm blooded, we do not have this problem. Most people either use a heat light to make a hot spot, or an under tank heat pad that uses a thermostat.NEVER USE A HEAT ROCK. The temperature of a heat rock cannot be properly regulated. I have seen plenty of reptiles injured by heat rocks over the years. We recommend an under tank heating pad with a thermostat. Do not use one without a thermostat. The thermostat is what regulates the temperature, and keeps the snake from getting hurt. Heat lights can also work if they are set up properly. Just make sure that the heat light does not get too hot. Some of our rescued snakes have permanent scars from being burnt by heat lights. Under tank heaters with thermostats are more accurate in terms of temperature regulation.
Two essential tools that every reptile owner should have is a temperature gun, and a thermometer that also tells humidity. Temperature guns are very inexpensive. They can be found online for around $20. A good thermometer is around $10. The temperature gun can tell you exactly what the temperature is of your hot spot, or even your ambient temperature. Using heat lights is a great way to make sure the heat source is not too close to your reptile.
The humidity should be around 60-70%. If it drops below that the snake could have trouble shedding its skin. If the humidity drop way below that, then the snake can develop other health problems. Some people that live in dry climates add a humidity box in with their snake. This can be useful to the snake especially before he sheds. Another option is to cover most of the lid trapping in the humidity. Just make sure to leave enough of a gap so that the snake can breathe.
Pythons should have a way to feel secure. This can be accomplished by providing them with something to hide under, such as a box, log, or cave. Burmese Pythons don’t seem to need security as much as other kinds of snakes. If your snake is not happy it might not eat, or hiss as you go to handle it. Snakes are often crabby when they are about to shed. Their eyes turn foggy, making it hard to see. They can become nervous during this time and hiss or refuse food. During this time I just leave them be.
The final consideration is the type of bedding to use. You can use anything from aspen chips, to paper towels. Being from Minnesota our winters get pretty dry, so we prefer to use coco. There are many types from many sources. Coco holds moisture well, while also resisting mold. During the summer months when humidity is high, we mostly use paper towels, or liners. With a light mist we can hold 65% humidity pretty easily. Make sure to clean the enclosure regularly. If they sit in their own filth they can easily get sick.
Burmese Pythons can be one of the most impressive pets you can own. Besides giving them food and water, make sure that they have a constant ambient temperature of 83-85°F with a hot spot of 90-95°f and humidity averaging 60-70%. Those numbers are not optional. Once its set up properly, it should take care of itself.