Frequently Asked Questions
Pet Ball Pythons for Children
Ball Pythons make wonderful pets for children, but we’ve found that information online related specifically to ball pythons as family pets is a bit sparse. We’ve done our best here to answer some of the more common questions we’re asked by parents and children, but please do contact us if there is anything else you’re curious about!
What is the most important thing to consider before getting my child a ball python?
The biggest thing to keep in mind is the lifespan of a captive ball python. These wonderful animals have lifespans of 20-30 years. Think of the milestones, growth, and all the change that can happen in 20-30 years of a human’s life, and your child’s new pet will be there for all of them. If your child gets a ball python at ten, they can potentially still have this pet when they are forty.
Without fail, children are always so excited at the idea of having a pet into adulthood, but if for example, your child is unable to take their pet to college, are you willing to look after them for a few years? What if they decide to take a year off to travel? If you are just as excited about your family’s pet snake as your child, then this won’t be an issue! Well… maybe it’s hard to be as excited about anything as a child is, but you get the idea!
This is absolutely the most important thing you should consider before deciding if a ball python is right for your family. Both of us at Gemini Pythons firmly believe that when you take in a pet, be it big or small, their entire existence is in your hands, and it is your responsibility to provide them with a safe, comfortable life. Therefore, we urge all families considering taking one in to consider their lifespan when making this decision.
What are the benefits of children having a ball python as a pet?
There is something special about caring for an exotic pet. Their needs are different than what many children (and adults for that matter!) are used to, so being their caretaker is a very unique experience. It gives new perspectives on the environment and a deeper understanding of nature’s diversity. Caring for an exotic pet is extremely educational, and opens up the door to learning more about wildlife and the different types of animals in it. We are always touched when we meet families whose children have been voraciously reading all they can about ball pythons and show up with an encyclopedia of knowledge in their heads!
Are ball pythons good pets?
Absolutely, both for children who have experience with animals or as a first time pet. They are easy to handle because of their gentle natures, and their care is straightforward. Ball pythons are low maintenance pets, so they do not require the same amount of work as a dog or a cat, and after your have your initial set up, their maintenance is inexpensive.
At what age can children have a pet ball python?
While ball pythons are calm and gentle, they are generally best suited to children beginning from age 7-8 onward. Younger children may not yet have developed the fine motor skills needed to handle delicate juvenile ball pythons, and it ensures that in the two to three years it takes for your ball python to mature, your child will grow fast enough to be able to easily handle the adult snake’s weight.
Do ball pythons bite?
Just like cats, dogs, rodents and even birds, yes, ball pythons can bite. That being said, with proper care and handling, yours should not! Ball pythons are timid by nature. They very rarely bite, and usually only do so when they are feeding or in self defence if they are scared and feel cornered. We recommend that you supervise your child when they hold their pet for the first month. This ensures you can remind them of proper handling techniques until they become second nature.
A ball python’s meal time, when the smell of mouse or rat is in the air, is the time you are most at risk of an accidentally being bit. Practising safe meal time habits is the key to avoiding this. Using feeding tongs and keeping hands and arms clear of your snake helps avoid this.
Secondly, try to avoid startling them. They have no eyelids, but they do sleep! If you or your child wish to handle your ball python, approach them gently in case they are sleeping. To a ball python, even a child looks like a giant, and being startled out of sleep by a looming giant would scare anyone! In our experience, most ball pythons will try to flee or thrash in fear before biting, but approaching them slowly is still just good practice.
Again, it is important to stress that ball pythons rarely bite (and their bites are less painful than a cat scratch!), so you have nothing to fear, but this is still important stuff be aware of!
How do you safely hold a ball python?
Ball pythons are quite easy to handle and are known for being very docile. When holding them, they require support in the lower third of their body. This is because the lower third of their body is where the most of their weight is. You do not need to support the upper third of their body (the neck) at all. Having a good hold on the lower third of their body, and a gentle hold on their midsection allows for them to be secure and supported, and gives them the ability to sniff and look around with the upper third of their body.
There are also some special considerations for children: Younger children should hold their ball python over a table, while sitting on the ground, or while sitting on a couch. Ball pythons have ZERO sense of gravity, so it is up to the person holding them to make sure they don’t fall! As your child becomes more comfortable handling their pet, they may want to walk around the house with them. In this case, we recommend supervision under your discretion. If your child is high energy or easily distracted, supervision is typically needed.
What are some important things I should keep an eye on to help and remind my child about?
Two small but important things!
1. Escapees from improperly locked enclosures are the number one concern you can help your child with. Ball pythons are escape artists! Ensuring your child knows how to lock the cage, or helping them as needed, will keep their pet safe and secure.
2. Supervise handling if your young child has friends over. As they get older, more articulate and develop confidence, your child will be able to supervise their friends and instruct them how to interact with their pet snake. Until then, it is a good idea to keep an eye on them though.
Will other children tease my child for having a pet snake?
In our experience, other children are surprised, excited and curious when a friend of theirs gets a snake! We know that children are typically very inquisitive and open minded, but of course, there are behaviours and beliefs they learn from the adults in their life that may stunt these qualities. Your child will need to remember that some children haven’t had the learning experiences they have, and to talk to you or a teacher if they feel bullied by it. Again though, the typical reaction we hear about is excitement and curiosity, but it never hurts to prepare your child just in case!
Is there anything I should be prepared for when my child has a pet snake?
Above we mentioned how other children are typically excited and curious when someone they know gets a snake… Well, prepare yourself, because that isn’t always the case with adults! In your time raising your child, you’ve probably met a few other parents who have… shall we say… strong opinions about parenting, and they aren’t afraid to let you know when you aren’t adhering to them. Get ready for it, because if they don’t think snakes make a good pet, you WILL be hearing about it! Aside from that though, expect the usual things that accompany any family getting a new pet: new chores, new learning, and new memories together!