Snakes aren’t like dogs or cats. They don’t crave human contact and don’t seem to care whether you take them out of their tank to handle them or not. However, part of the reason humans enjoy pet snakes is that it can be calming to hold them. If you plan on having your pet snake out and around other people, it’s a good idea to handle them on a fairly regular basis in order to get them used to the experience.
There are five main things to keep in mind when handling your pet snake. As always, be sure to check with your local herp expert on any special needs your specific breed might have where handling is concerned.
1. Give your snake time to transition – Before handling your snake after getting him home, give him a few days to get used to his new surroundings. Movement and the introduction to a new environment can cause stress to snakes, and handling right away only adds to their discomfort.
2. Be gentle and slow – While many snakes are hearty, handling them too strongly can make them uncomfortable and stressed. The same goes with quick, jerky movements. When handling your snake, keep a still and quiet posture the first few times. Let him slide over your hand and fingers at his own pace. If he moves to the furniture or an area you don’t want him to go, simply take him gently a few inches behind his head and move him back.
3. Don’t grab for his head – Never grab your pet snake with your hand going towards his face. This can stress a snake and alarm him into striking at you. Pick him up from behind his head towards the middle of his body so that he can distribute his weight evenly until he can coil into your hand or get back to comfortable ground.
4. Uncoil your pet snake from his tail – If you’re going to handle your pet snake, never take for granted that he might not strike or constrict on you. Many snakes can cause serious harm if you let them on your person without knowing what to do if something should happen. Should your snake constrict too tightly, start at the tail end and gently unwind the coil. For larger snakes, don’t handle unless there’s someone with you who can help you if there’s a problem. Remember, you shouldn’t fear your snake, but you should respect what he can do.
5. Expose him to the outside environment slowly – Our snakes seem to enjoy being out on a warm day, so often we’ll carry them on our walks. When starting out with your new snake, expose him to new things a little bit at a time. Take him out when there’s a few extra people in the vicinity. Allow friends to handle him for a short time. Eventually take him outside to get him used to the sights, sounds, and smells. Once he’s comfortable in the outside, you’ll feel better about taking him in the sun to enjoy the day with you without causing him stress.
Care in handling your snake is extremely important in keeping your pet healthy.