I recently had a thought about snakes; are there any species that are vegetarian. You may be thinking the same, whether you own a pet snake and want to know whether you could forego feeding dead mice, or you are just curious.I decided to conduct some research, here is what appears time and time again.
So, do vegetarian snakes exist? There are no vegetarian species of snake. Snakes are “obligate carnivores,” which means they need a diet exclusively consistence of meat in order to survive and thrive. While meat may differ between the species, all snakes simply need to consume it.
If you are a vegetarian, or if you do not like the idea of feeding dead rodents to your snake, then a vegetarian diet may have seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, snakes are not able to transition to this kind of diet like us humans are capable of.
Let us now take a closer look at why snakes cannot subside on any food outside of meat, before looking at some of the options and alternatives for a snakes limited diet.
Why Snakes Cannot Be Vegetarian
From a biological perspective, snakes are very unique in regards to their digestive system and how they consume and extract nutrition from food.
Snakes consume their prey whole. Their jaws can expand enormously, and they have a long stomach abundant in potent acid that is used to break down, digest, and dissolve their prey. This includes bones!
Interestingly, plant matter is considered harder to break down than plant matter. Snakes, do not possess the required bacteria, nor do they have the digestive capacity to be able to consume vegetables.
Vegetarianism is not practiced in the wild by snakes; you would never see any species seeking out or attempting to eat such food. It runs entirely against their evolution and biological makeup.
Beyond just their instincts, there is no benefit of a snake consuming vegetables (and/or fruits). Snakes get all the nutrients and vitamins they need from their live prey. Eating vegetation would only cause harm without the benefits cited for us humans.
What Meat Do Snakes Eat?
First and foremost it depends on the species of snake. The size of the snake is a big determining factor in what meat they can and should be eating.
Certain species of snakes will eat only warm-blooded prey. This can include rabbits and birds. Other species will do best with a diet consisting of other reptiles and even eggs.
Nonetheless, no species of snake can be, nor should be put on a vegetarian diet.
The most common sources of food for a snake include:
- Rodents (like mice and rats)
- Small, yet specific species of fish
- Other insects.
As you can see, snakes are perhaps not the best pet if you are found of animals and are a vegetarian yourself. Going further, if you have a weak stomach they can be even more of a challenge.
While pet snakes should be fed pre-killed prey (to prevent injuries to your snake from the prey that will attempt to defend itself), it can still be very hard to feed other animals to your pet.
For the larger snakes, like Ball Pythons, Corn Snakes, and Boa Constrictors, it will be even more challenging.
These snakes are not for the light-hearted; you’ll need to regularly provide larger rodents like rats to prevent malnourishment. These are the kind of things they would and will eat in the wild.
Ultimately, when getting a pet snake it’s important to consider their needs and requirements; regardless of your own preferences.
Snakes need specific kinds of prey; it’s just the way it is.
Alternatives to Rodents
Firstly, if you are yet to get a snake and do not want to feed rodents, it is advisable to opt for a smaller species.
However, for some of you reading, you may already own a larger snake and are wondering if there are any alternatives that you can try right away.
Here are the best options:
Again, this might not be preferable for you for a number of reasons, but they can be effectively fed to snakes.
Recently hatched, or those that failed to survive the first few days are preferable here. You need to ensure that these chicks are not too large for your snake.
Chicks will provide nutrition for a snake, but will not be able to become their sole and primary feed.
They do not provide enough sustenance long term. If you do decide to opt to feed chicks, you’ll need to provide a few other options to ensure a complete nutritional intake of vitamins and minerals.
Small lizards like geckos are often enjoyed by snakes.
They provide a lot of protein and can often be found in a variety of sizes that will be suitable for your specific species.
Quail & Snake Eggs
Quail eggs are small and common in the wild. Wild snakes regularly consume them when available due to the fact that they are easy to obtain.
Snake eggs are the same, and snakes are not fussy when it comes to consuming the eggs of their own species.
These are both great options, and a great addition to a snake’s diet even if fed in moderation and you are able to source them.
Smaller snakes are also suitable to feed. Again, snakes will likely consume another if they are provided and sufficiently sized.
If you opt to feed other snakes, you of course need to ensure that they are not poisonous.
It’s imperative that you buy from a reputable breeder/pet store and that you do your research ahead of time to ensure that they will not harm your own snake.
Remember, you will need to feed these dead.
A snake’s number one priority is survival. As such, they will instinctively eat prey in the form of meat.
Meat provides a snake with all the nutrition it needs; vegetables just do not do the same.
In fact, the consumption of vegetables by a snake is not advisable or preferable. All species of snakes have a similar digestive system, and they do not possess the bacteria that is required to digest and extract nutrients from plant matter.
A vegetarian diet is therefore not an option for your pet snake, as much as you may like the idea of it.
As obligate carnivores, as their owner, you need to ensure they receive plenty of meat in the form of pre-killed prey.
Sure, there are alternatives, but snakes do best and thrive on a diet mostly of small rodents.
If you cannot face the fact that you will need to provide meat as feed, mostly in a killed yet the whole form, a pet snake is likely not going to be the best option for you.
How often do snakes eat? Different species of snake will eat a different amount, in different frequencies at different times. Larger snakes typically eat bigger meals (like whole rats) but less frequently (1-2 per week). Smaller snakes may eat daily-every other day but these will be considerably smaller meals, like insects.
Where can I buy snake food? Your local pet store or reptile/snake center will have plenty of options. Failing this, you can get frozen mice on Amazon. Each will differ in size and are suitable for different species of snakes. Each is vacuum sealed to ensure freshness.
Are you wondering what else snakes do and can eat? Then check out my other guides below:
- Do Snakes Drink Milk? [Do Mother Snakes Even Produce It?]
- Do Snakes Eat Fruit? [What Kind Of Foods Do Snakes Eat?]
- Do Snakes Eat Fish? [Can They, Would & Should They Eat Them?]
- Can Snakes Eat Eggs? [The Answer Will Surprise You!]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.