Almost everyone who owns a pet appreciates the return of affection. But what about snakes, can they love their owners?
You invest a significant portion of your time to ensure your scaly friend is well cared for. Then, you religiously clean the enclosure, feed and give it water regularly, and carefully check the temperature and humidity of its cage. All of this care may make you question if your snake can love you back?
Table of Contents
- Can Snakes Love Their Owners?
- Can Snakes Love their Owners?
- How Snakes Show ‘Affection’
- How to Build a Relationship With Your Snake
Can Snakes Love Their Owners?
Snakes do not possess the ability to feel and reciprocate love. Most are solitary animals and cannot express emotions in the same manner that other animals do. Pet snakes will, however, learn to identify and bond with their owners over time.
Like all other reptiles, snakes cannot understand and show feelings. So, if you’re thinking of getting a snake for hugs and snuggles, you’re in for a harsh revelation.
Although it’s not always black and white, we have the answers you need. The information is based on research and personal experiences from other snake owners. Continue reading to understand why a pet snake may show less affection than cats and dogs.
Can Snakes Love their Owners?
No, snakes cannot love their owners. They will learn to recognize you due to regular feeding and handling. Once the serpent masters your scent, you’ll have an easier time when handling it.
The first time you bring a snake home, you may want to spend every free minute hugging your new serpentine buddy.
The first few weeks are particularly tricky, but your pet may grow to tolerate your presence and appreciate treats as you progress. But have you always wondered, do snakes feel affection?
These fantastic creatures follow their instinct to survive. Eating, drinking, and avoiding predators are on the top list.
They are not driven by affection as other house pets are. Instead, they condition their senses by associating you with something good like food.
This lack of emotion is an evolutionary trait. This antisocial behavior is attributed to three things: Avoiding environmental hazards, predators, and due to solitary evolution.
After a good meal, all snakes want to isolate themselves. Nothing makes them happier than cuddling up somewhere secure to unwind.
Because of their poor metabolism, it might take more than three days to digest their meal! Giant snakes, such as green anacondas and boa constrictors, take much longer since digesting large prey can take weeks and require energy.
Snakes hide in trees, behind rocks, within caves, and in various other environments throughout this period. And, despite their remarkable agility, snakes do occasionally become trapped.
When this happens, snakes immediately employ a variety of escape methods. This explains why they have such a great dislike of being held.
Your pet snake might view you as an environmental hazard when you hold it. Captivity makes them instinctively wiggle around, trying to escape.
Snakes are excellent predators, but they are not at the top of the food chain. As a result, they have developed ways of evading predators.
This behavior is natural and may be observed in captive-bred breeds as well.
These innate instincts are what make your pet snake apprehensive of human contact. Fortunately, serpents have a certain level of neuroplasticity.
They can modify these instinctive reactions by getting used to new experiences and environments. This is why it takes time before the snake becomes comfortable with you.
Evolution has wired snakes to lead solitary lives. In the wild, most live alone and only commune during mating season.
The pull that pets like dogs and cats feel towards their owners seems to be lacking in snakes—it is just how they are.
Some species are cold towards their own, and others will not hesitate to eat another snake. In fact, cannibalism is pretty common in the snake world. Social bonding isn’t common in these reptiles, which explains why they aren’t big on cuddling.
How Snakes Show ‘Affection’
Is your snake showing affection or just responding because you’re about to feed it? Reptiles aren’t like dogs and cats. They won’t openly reciprocate your love, but they will show that they appreciate what you do.
You can look for distinctive signs to know if your snake likes you. Snakes show affection in several ways, including:
- The snake moves to the front of the cage or enclosure when you’re in the room; it doesn’t go into hiding.
- The serpent warms up to your interaction. It doesn’t scramble to get away.
- Willingly takes food from you.
- Head-bobbing. The snake rubs its head against you when you’re handling it.
- Necking. The serpent tries to loop around your neck and shoulders.
- Exhibit notable behavior changes when there’s someone else in the room.
- Hissing. However, this greatly depends on the species you own.
The more time you’re willing to spend with your reptile, the faster it gets used to you. But you must also know how to recognize signs that the snake wants to be left alone.
Be wary if it scrambles to hide whenever you get close to the enclosure, refuses to receive food from you, fails to be free of your grip, hisses, and snaps at you, or assumes the ‘striking position’ whenever you handle it.
According to experts, some snake breeds don’t mind handling and might even enjoy it.
If this is what you’re after, opt for friendly snake breeds like the garter snake, corn snake, ringneck snake, California kingsnake, or a ball python.
How to Build a Relationship With Your Snake
Building a relationship with a snake is not the same as bonding with a dog or cat. They will not run to you when you walk through the door or snuggle at your feet while you watch TV. Heck! They won’t even miss you when you’re gone.
Although snakes don’t have the intellectual capacity to feel human emotions like love, they have their way of showing appreciation. All you have to do is allow your scaly friend to get comfortable with you and feed him.
Let’s check out some proven hacks that will make bonding with your snake a walk in the park.
Step 1: Acclimatization
The first two weeks you bring your reptilian pet home, try to avoid too much interaction. The snake is still unfamiliar with their new environment and may be wary of their new enclosure. Any form of handling may induce stress, which will be met with an aggressive response.
This two-week period is crucial as it gives the serpent enough time to get used to their new living conditions. The break also serves as ample time for quarantine.
If the serpent is still wary of you and its surroundings after a fortnight, give it an extra three to four days before another attempt. Do not rush the process.
Step 2: Let the Snake Get used to You
You can start interacting with your scaly pet after ample time to acclimate. An excellent strategy involves occasionally moving things inside the tank. In unhurried calculated movements, shift the position of rocks, branches, the water bowl, and its home.
Take care not to touch the snake during this time or act in any way it may perceive as threatening. After about a week, the snake will get accustomed to you in its tank.\
Step 3: Try Touching the Snake
Begin by placing your hand about 4 inches in front of the snake’s head. As the viper flicks its tongue, the Jacobson’s organ picks up chemical particles that make up your scent. This allows your scaly pet to learn how you smell.
The serpent will eventually relax enough to let you touch it. Gently caress the back of the body near the tail, and don’t get too ambitious. Trying to grab the head area may result in a nasty bite.
If the serpent gets into the striking position, stop what you’re doing and pull your hand slowly out of the tank. When the snake contorts its neck into an ‘S’ while maintaining eye contact, it’s the first sign that your reptilian buddy will try to bite you.
Step 4: Handling
By this point, your slithering pet should be stress-free and used to your presence. You ought to have conducted at least one feeding before you attempt to pick up the snake.
Before you begin, wash your hands to prevent transferring germs to your serpent. With confidence, scoop the snake from the side, never from the top. And do not pet your snake before lifting it. Contrary to popular belief, this will cause your pet to become alert, inducing stress.
Hold the serpent firmly so it doesn’t feel like you’ll drop it. For large pet snakes, it’s best to sit down with your pet on your lap once you lift it from the enclosure. And if it’s still aggressive, try handling it when it’s least active, as they tend to be most relaxed then.
Step 5: Spend Time with your snake
Dedicate a few minutes each day to bond with your pet snake. The key is to:
- Handle it appropriately.
- Handle it often.
- Know when not to handle your snake.
You’ll know the snake is comfortable with you when it freely slithers on you and in the area near you. But you don’t have to hold the serpent constantly. Even sitting near the tank is good enough.
So, don’t get a snake if you want a pet to hug all the time. They will not reciprocate your love. Once your pet knows you play a role in its life and are no threat, you can build a relationship with it. After all, just because the snake is incapable of showing affection doesn’t mean they hate you.