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So I have a female Californian king snake and I'm starting to get worried about her not eating.

First of all, she has not eaten in 4 months. It's winter at the moment and I know they do not eat at winter, as it happened last year with her not eating for an extended period, but it was more like 3 months. I keep her vivarium temperature between 25 - 32 °C .

She spends most of the time sleeping, when she isn't she is very, very active feeling around her enclosure.

She handles thst extremely well, however I'm worried this could be part of the main problem she is completely non-aggressive even when I attempt to feed her, she just seems to want to get out of her feeding container and has no interest in the mouse whatsoever.

I handled her today and she feels lighter and thinner.

If anyone could help, I'd really appreciate it.

  • Do you feed her live food, or pre-killed? Was she eating okay for you 4 months ago? When was the last time she shed her skin? – Beofett Jan 20 '14 at 14:53
  • @Beofett I feed her pre-killed, frozen mouse. Fully defrosted in warm water, last time she ate it had been a couple of weeks and she took it immediately. She has shed since she last ate, bout 2 months ago I think. – AaronParkes Jan 20 '14 at 15:38
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First off, since I don't know what she looks like now vs before, it's going to be up to you to decide if the loss of weight is severe enough to take her to the vet. It also doesn't hurt to make sure that nothing else is going on.

There are two reasons other than brumation that I can think of that would explain why she doesn't feel like eating.

  1. The timing is funny and she's going to be shedding soon. Pretty much every reptile will eat significantly less, if not stop eating at all, while shedding. In the wild it would be too energy consuming to hunt and shed at the same time. Also inconvenient since it takes away from camouflage a bit.
  2. She's decided to fast through breeding season. Breeding season for snakes generally comes after brumation. That's why you'll hear snake breeders setting up their snakes to hibernate. Which on a side note, if you're not breeding your snakes, don't try to hibernate them, it's an unnecessary risk.

Now, on to ways you can encourage your snake to eat:

  • You're already doing this part, so good for you, but bringing the temperature of the mouse to a normal body temperature is a good way to encourage a snake to eat. It's more important with vipers and pythons, as their heat pits will sense if the mouse is too cold to be of interest, but heating it up helps it smell stronger.Snakes also tend to let go of rodents that feel cold when they bite them.

  • Another way to make the mouse smell stronger or more enticing, is to either cut it's stomach a bit to expose the insides, or it's skull to expose the brain. It's not for someone with a weak stomach, but sticking a toothpick in and getting a bit of brain matter onto the mouse's face/nose is very effective (referred to as braining a mouse). I think you can get some scents that are supposed to be the same idea, but I can't say that they're as effective.

  • You might want to try feeding her something different, to see if she's being picky for some reason. I don't know the size of your snake right now, but feeding her a hopper mouse would give her some nutrients, though they wouldn't last long with a larger snake. Gerbils are also something to try, or if you can find some, baby rats.

  • If you find that she like the smell of a different kind of rodent, but you want to feed her mice still. Like if she likes gerbils, but they're small enough that you'd have to feed her too often to make them a feasible food source. You could keep a pet gerbil, then run your feeder mice through the cage to make them smell like the gerbil.

  • I'm listing this last because I personally don't like it. But dipping a mouse in a can of chicken soup and offering it to snakes is another pretty effective method of getting snakes to eat. The reason I don't like it is because the soup has so many additives and preservatives that it's hard to say how good it is for a snake's health. I don't think it would hurt to do it once in an emergency, but I wouldn't rely on it as an option myself.

Another thing I'd like to mention is that switching sources for your feeders can actually make a difference. As mice from different breeders will have different scents. It could be as simple as finding someone else to buy some, or maybe the person you're buying from switched sources and you didn't know it.

And finally, one last thing to consider, is keeping a growth chart. By weighing her every few weeks, you can keep track of what kind of weight loss is normal when she stops eating (while she sheds/brumates). You can add how long it takes her to shed/brumate too. Just as an extra way of gauging what is normal for her.

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  • Hi, We tried feeding her day old chicks and she started eating it but could not get it down she regurgitated it, I cut off the legs and beak but it still had stump legs, going to try again with another chick more thoroughly cut down with legs wings and beak cut off. – AaronParkes Feb 20 '14 at 9:14

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