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  1. #1
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    Live feeding in tank? (Warning-graphic photo!)

    I've had my ball python for a few months now and I've been feeding him live rats in a separate container, as that's what the person I got him from always did. She said she did this so that he did not become "tank aggressive" and associate opening the tank with feeding time and accidentally bite her when she went to handle him. I've since read that this is just a myth? I can't seem to find a clear answer though.
    Anyway, I've never had any issues with feeding him in a separate container except that it is quite inconvenient and becomes a two person job. I would like to know if it is possible to just feed him a live rat in his tank? Would there be an issue with just dropping the rat in there with him? Should I remove his hides or water bowl first? I always watch to make sure the rat does not harm my BP, but should I be worried that he will ingest his substrate? Or if the rat will leave behind waste that I might miss? Please help me figure out the safest option for him!

  2. #2
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    "Tank aggression" isn't a real thing- for one thing, moving your hungry snake to another container to feed may either put him OFF eating (if a shyer snake, due to the handling), OR, you may be more likely to get nipped, because you're handling a hungry snake (before feeding) or one that's still in "feed mode" (ie. pumped up to eat more) afterwards- & FYI "feed mode" can take hours or even a day or longer to subside- far more than would be advisable to leave your snake in a side container.

    So yes, feed your snake in his own home- BPs are ambush predators & they do best when not interrupted as they lie in wait to pounce on hapless prey that passes by them.

    But I'm glad you asked about safety...the BEST thing you can do is to get your snake on pre-killed prey BEFORE he gets injured, because sooner or later, that will happen. Rats are tough opponents & object to being dinner- they can turn just enough to bite back- and way faster than you can ever intervene, so even if they "lose" the battle, your snake can be seriously injured, requiring vet care. Also, domestic rats are intelligent & affectionate pets- so feeding only humanely euthanized rodents is just a much better way to go.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  4. #3
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    Re: Live feeding in tank?

    This will probably be a recurring story I share on the form, but that's because it is a good example of why switching to f/t rodents is ideal:

    I intern at an exotic animal clinic, and a few weeks ago we had a young female ball python come in with a bony growth near her cloaca. Coincidentally, the time period in which this growth started to appear lined up with the last time this snake had been fed as she had started refusing food. The owner confirmed he was feeding live, and we suspected that a bite had fractured her spine. Sure enough, x-rays showed that the spine had been fractured and hadn't healed normally. This is a permanent defect, which can sometimes affect the ability to safely breed an animal and their quality of life. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the x-ray to show you but I found an image online which is similar to what we saw.



    Many people don't realize just how strong rodent jaws can be. Bites can happen too quickly for you to intervene in time, causing severe and permanent injury to your animal.

    There are plenty of resources to help you start the process of switching to f/t.

    Good luck with your little guy!
    Last edited by Animallover3541; 09-22-2022 at 09:15 AM.
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  6. #4
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    "Tank aggression" (a strong feeding response whenever the cage is opened) is rare, but it is not a myth. I've had a corn snake and a bullsnake that were tank aggressive. The corn was a bit over 3 feet long. When the cage top was taken off, he'd throw head and 8 inches of body over the tank edge, open his mouth and eagerly wait to have a dead mouse plugged into his mouth. The bull was nearly 6 feet long and sometimes sailed right out of his cage. I've never heard of a cage aggressive ball python, though.

    IMO, swallowing substrate along with prey is a bigger worry than tank aggression.

    Rodent bite trauma is the worst worry. This is potentially fatal. I was once given a boa that mice had chewed on. The snake healed, but the scars were really nasty. Nasty as in dead white skin, without scales, nearly 2 inches across. Feeding dead prey is the safest way.

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  8. #5
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    Re: Live feeding in tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by paulh View Post
    "Tank aggression" (a strong feeding response whenever the cage is opened) is rare, but it is not a myth. I've had a corn snake and a bullsnake that were tank aggressive. The corn was a bit over 3 feet long. When the cage top was taken off, he'd throw head and 8 inches of body over the tank edge, open his mouth and eagerly wait to have a dead mouse plugged into his mouth. The bull was nearly 6 feet long and sometimes sailed right out of his cage. I've never heard of a cage aggressive ball python, though.

    IMO, swallowing substrate along with prey is a bigger worry than tank aggression.

    Rodent bite trauma is the worst worry. This is potentially fatal. I was once given a boa that mice had chewed on. The snake healed, but the scars were really nasty. Nasty as in dead white skin, without scales, nearly 2 inches across. Feeding dead prey is the safest way.
    Yes, to be clear about what I meant to say: "tank aggression", while technically "real", still should NOT be the main consideration when it comes to safely feeding our pet snakes.

    What's more, I don't consider "tank aggression" to be much of an issue anyway, as there are ways to communicate to your snake that food IS NOT incoming. A light spray of water, for example, to the over-eager face of a hungry snake, often suffices to "change their channel" safely & effectively. And I've kept my share of snakes that "launch" first & ask questions later...

    For those who have never noticed, most snakes are ALWAYS thinking about food anyway- it's how they survive- they cannot afford to miss an opportunity to eat when they can- so you should ALWAYS pay attention to your snake's body language & signal that you are not prey. Make communication to your snakes a real habit. But as you said, paulh, BPs are not likely to be "cage aggressive" anyway.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 09-23-2022 at 09:34 AM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  10. #6
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    Re: Live feeding in tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by Animallover3541 View Post
    This will probably be a recurring story I share on the form, but that's because it is a good example of why switching to f/t rodents is ideal:

    I intern at an exotic animal clinic, and a few weeks ago we had a young female ball python come in with a bony growth near her cloaca. Coincidentally, the time period in which this growth started to appear lined up with the last time this snake had been fed as she had started refusing food. The owner confirmed he was feeding live, and we suspected that a bite had fractured her spine. Sure enough, x-rays showed that the spine had been fractured and hadn't healed normally. This is a permanent defect, which can sometimes affect the ability to safely breed an animal and their quality of life. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the x-ray to show you but I found an image online which is similar to what we saw.



    Many people don't realize just how strong rodent jaws can be. Bites can happen too quickly for you to intervene in time, causing severe and permanent injury to your animal.

    There are plenty of resources to help you start the process of switching to f/t.

    Good luck with your little guy!
    https://www.ratrelief.com/can-rats-c...-and-concrete/
    Rats have been known to chew through concrete, metals, even steel. Granted in most cases such materials are already compromised (crumbling/rusting) but nonetheless, it shows just how dangerous these animals are. The soft flesh and, as you've shown, even bones of a snake stand no chance.

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  12. #7
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    Re: Live feeding in tank?

    I fed mine live for about 10 weeks until I was ready to switch to frozen thawed and wish I did it sooner. That said, logistically, I used to clear most of his tank clutter so that the rodent couldn't go in an empty hiding spot and so that I wouldn't have anything blocking me if I needed to intervene in the feeding. I made sure the rodent was calm before putting it in the tank. I placed it in the tank opposite of my snake and sat down to wait. Within a minute or so, the rodent would wander too close to the snake, or the snake would actively stalk it and strike. After the strike, I would make sure that the rodent's mouth was clear of the snake, even if that meant spinning the snake around or something. I would then stick my tongs in the rodent's mouth to actively prevent a bite until it was dead.

    Now, in terms of safety, I definitely agree that live feeding is not safe for the snake. It only takes a split second for a rodent to bite. It only takes one bite to puncture vitals, cause permanent damage, or create an infection. On top of that, f/t is so much more convenient. No box full of rodent poop, no rodent urinating and defecating on itself and your snake when it gets coiled, no squeals of pain, no fighting back, no foul rodent stink, and no chance of the feeder escaping and making itself at home.

    In terms of cage-aggression, I can see how some people could mistake a feeding response for aggression. My snake has been a very good eater so far. When he hasn't eaten in a few days and I open the tank, he sometimes shows feeding/hunting behavior. It's a certain way of moving that he exhibits when "hunting down" a prey item, including f/t feeders, since I make him work for his meals. I can see how that hunting/feeding behavior could be mistaken for aggression. It's no big deal. I just don't reach in and grab him when he's acting that way. Instead, I tap him with something to let him know that I'm going in to pick him up (I always tap him before I pick him up) and give him a minute to cool off and process that he's being handled, not fed.

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  14. #8
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    Feeding a snake in its enclosure does not cause tank aggression; that myth was debunked years ago. You are more likely to get bit while moving a snake for feeding than not.


    Keepers with small snakes or very few snakes feed in a separate enclosure because they heard or read from someone with no clue that feeding the snake in its enclosure makes it think your hand is food.


    Keepers with many snakes feed in the enclosure for convenience.


    Keepers with giant constrictor snakes feed in the enclosure so they don't end up in the emergency room.


    Keepers with venomous snakes feed in the enclosure so they don't end up in the morgue.


    For best effect, turn up the volume when watching this:
    https://www.facebook.com/diem.celest...7800391716217/

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  16. #9
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    Re: Live feeding in tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by Animallover3541 View Post
    This will probably be a recurring story I share on the form, but that's because it is a good example of why switching to f/t rodents is ideal:

    I intern at an exotic animal clinic, and a few weeks ago we had a young female ball python come in with a bony growth near her cloaca. Coincidentally, the time period in which this growth started to appear lined up with the last time this snake had been fed as she had started refusing food. The owner confirmed he was feeding live, and we suspected that a bite had fractured her spine. Sure enough, x-rays showed that the spine had been fractured and hadn't healed normally. This is a permanent defect, which can sometimes affect the ability to safely breed an animal and their quality of life. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the x-ray to show you but I found an image online which is similar to what we saw.



    Many people don't realize just how strong rodent jaws can be. Bites can happen too quickly for you to intervene in time, causing severe and permanent injury to your animal.

    There are plenty of resources to help you start the process of switching to f/t.

    Good luck with your little guy!
    Excellent points !




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro




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  18. #10
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    Re: Live feeding in tank?

    Quote Originally Posted by bcr229 View Post
    Feeding a snake in its enclosure does not cause tank aggression; that myth was debunked years ago. You are more likely to get bit while moving a snake for feeding than not.


    Keepers with small snakes or very few snakes feed in a separate enclosure because they heard or read from someone with no clue that feeding the snake in its enclosure makes it think your hand is food.


    Keepers with many snakes feed in the enclosure for convenience.


    Keepers with giant constrictor snakes feed in the enclosure so they don't end up in the emergency room.


    Keepers with venomous snakes feed in the enclosure so they don't end up in the morgue.


    For best effect, turn up the volume when watching this:
    https://www.facebook.com/diem.celest...7800391716217/
    'Bout time someone made that video!
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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