Revealing What It’s Like to Have a Pet King Snake

king snake as pet

I have extensive experience in researching and writing about various pets, including snakes. In this comprehensive guide, I will provide you with all the information you need to properly care for and own a king snake as a pet.

King snakes are fascinating reptiles that make great pets for a number of reasons. They are relatively easy to care for, have a calm temperament, and are available in a variety of colors and patterns. However, it is important to understand the basics of owning a king snake in order to ensure their health and happiness.

Throughout this guide, I will cover topics such as choosing the best king snake for beginners, caring for your king snake, setting up their enclosure, feeding them, understanding their behavior, and bonding with them. In addition, I will share common mistakes to avoid and tips for providing enrichment for your king snake.

Key Takeaways:

  • King snakes make great pets due to their calm temperament and ease of care
  • Proper care and ownership is essential for the health and happiness of your king snake
  • This guide will cover everything you need to know about owning a king snake as a pet

Choosing the Best King Snake for Beginners

If you’re considering getting a pet king snake, it’s important to choose a species that is suitable for beginners. As with any pet, it’s crucial to do research before making a purchase.

After all, king snakes come in many different varieties, and some are more challenging to care for than others. As a first-time owner, you’ll want to choose a species that is easy to handle, less aggressive, and generally low maintenance.

Best King Snakes for Beginners

Lampropeltis getula californiae: Also known as the California king snake, this species is an excellent choice for beginners. They have a docile demeanor, grow to a manageable size (3-4 feet), and are relatively easy to care for.

Lampropeltis alterna: Often called the gray-banded king snake, this species is another great choice for beginners. They tend to be less active than other king snakes, which makes them easier to handle. They are also small, growing to only about 2-3 feet long.

Lampropeltis triangulum: This species, commonly called the milk snake, is also a good choice for first-time owners. They are known for their attractive coloration and relative ease of care. They grow to be about 2-3 feet long, making them a smaller species that is easier to manage.

Remember, the best king snake for you will depend on your experience level, the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest, and your personal preferences. Do your research and choose a species that fits your lifestyle and needs.

Caring for Your King Snake

When it comes to caring for your king snake, it’s important to remember that they are cold-blooded creatures that require specific environmental conditions to thrive. Here are some basic care tips to ensure the health and happiness of your pet:

Aspect Recommendation
Enclosure size Your king snake will need a spacious enclosure with enough room to easily move around. A general rule of thumb is to provide a tank that is at least two-thirds the length of the snake.
Substrate There are different substrate options available, such as aspen shavings or reptile carpet. Avoid cedar and pine substrates as they can be harmful to your snake’s respiratory system.
Temperature King snakes require a temperature gradient with a basking spot of around 85-90°F and a cooler spot of around 75-80°F. Use heating pads or lamps to maintain the appropriate temperature range.
Humidity King snakes need a moderate to high level of humidity in their enclosure. Maintain humidity levels between 40-60% using a humidifier, misting the enclosure, or providing a water dish large enough for your snake to soak in.
Lighting Although not necessary, providing a UVB light can be beneficial to your king snake’s overall health. Make sure to research the appropriate lighting requirements for your specific snake species.

Remember to regularly clean your king snake’s enclosure by removing waste and replacing soiled substrate. A clean and healthy environment will prevent the spread of bacteria and parasites that can be detrimental to your snake’s health.

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It’s also important to note that king snakes are escape artists, so ensure that the enclosure is secure and that there are no gaps or holes that your snake can crawl out of. A happy and healthy king snake is a securely contained king snake!

Setting Up the King Snake Enclosure

Creating the perfect home for your king snake is essential for its health and happiness. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to set up the ideal enclosure:

  1. Choose the right size: King snakes are active and need adequate space to roam. At minimum, provide a tank or enclosure that’s at least 40 gallons.
  2. Select the substrate: A proper substrate is essential for maintaining a healthy environment. Aspen bedding is a popular choice as it’s easy to clean and mimics the snake’s natural habitat.
  3. Add hiding spots: King snakes need a place to retreat and feel secure. Enclosures should have at least one hide on the cool side of the tank and one on the warm side.
  4. Provide climbing opportunities: King snakes are climbers and love to explore. Adding a branch or other climbing structures to the enclosure can keep your pet active and happy.
  5. Monitor temperature and humidity: King snakes require specific temperature and humidity levels to thrive. Use a thermometer and hygrometer to monitor levels and adjust as necessary. The basking area should be 85-90°F, while the cool side should be 75-80°F. Humidity levels should be between 40% and 60%.
  6. Install proper lighting: King snakes require a light cycle to regulate their body clocks. Use a UVB bulb to provide the necessary lighting.
  7. Maintain cleanliness: Keep the enclosure clean and free of debris or waste. Spot clean daily and do a deep clean once a month.

By following these steps and creating a comfortable, stimulating environment for your king snake, you can ensure a happy and healthy pet.

Feeding Your King Snake

Feeding your king snake is an essential part of their care. King snakes are carnivores, which means they eat mostly meat, such as rodents, lizards, and birds.

It’s important to offer prey that is appropriate for the size of your snake. Prey that’s too small won’t provide enough nutrition for the snake, while prey that’s too large can be difficult for the snake to swallow and digest. As a general rule, prey should be no more than 1.5 times the width of your snake’s head.

Young king snakes should be fed more frequently than adults, typically every five to seven days. Adult king snakes can be fed once every one to two weeks. Make sure to remove any uneaten prey from the enclosure after a few hours to avoid bacterial growth.

When feeding your snake, it’s important to avoid handling them for a day or two before and after a meal to prevent regurgitation. Snakes need a warm environment to digest their food properly, so make sure to provide a basking spot with a heat source.

It’s also important to offer a varied diet to provide a balanced nutrition. While rodents are the most common prey item for king snakes, consider offering other items such as quail, chicks, or fish occasionally. Always supervise your snake when offering live prey and remove any uneaten prey after a few minutes for the safety of your snake.

Understanding King Snake Behavior

As a king snake owner, it’s essential to understand your pet’s behavior to ensure that they are healthy and happy. King snakes are fascinating creatures with distinct behavioral traits that convey their mood and needs.

Burrowing: King snakes are known for their burrowing behavior, which is important for thermoregulation. They dig through their substrate to find cooler or warmer areas, depending on their needs.

Climbing: King snakes are also skilled climbers, so providing climbing opportunities in their enclosure is crucial for their well-being.

Hunting: King snakes are natural predators and derive great pleasure from hunting their prey. If your snake is not hungry or does not see their food as a threat, they might not eat right away.

What behaviors to watch out for

It’s important to be familiar with your snake’s usual behaviors, as any changes could indicate an underlying issue. For example:

  • If your snake has stopped burrowing or hiding, they may be too cold or too hot
  • If your snake is aggressive or defensive, they might not be comfortable with their environment or see you as a threat
  • If your snake has stopped eating, there might be an issue with their diet or a health problem

By understanding your king snake’s behavior, you can create a healthy and comfortable habitat for them to thrive in.

Handling Your King Snake

Handling your king snake is an important part of pet ownership, but it should be done with care and consideration. Here are some tips to ensure safe and positive handling experiences:

  • Wash your hands: Before handling your snake, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water to remove any scents or residue that may cause your snake to feel threatened or uncomfortable
  • Be gentle: King snakes are delicate creatures and can easily become stressed or injured if handled too roughly. Always support their body weight and avoid sudden movements or jerks
  • Start slowly: If your king snake is new to handling, start with short sessions and gradually increase the amount of time as they become accustomed to it. This will help build trust and comfort
  • Watch body language: Pay attention to your king snake’s body language, such as signs of stress or discomfort, and adjust your handling accordingly. If your snake seems agitated or defensive, it may be best to give them space and try again later
  • Avoid feeding first: Do not handle your king snake immediately after feeding, as it may cause them to regurgitate their meal or become stressed
  • Use a snake hook: If you need to move your snake or coax them out of their hiding spot, use a snake hook instead of your hands. This will prevent accidental bites or injuries

Remember, handling your king snake should always be done with care and respect for their well-being. By following these tips, you can create a safe and positive handling experience for both you and your pet.

Ensuring a Healthy Habitat for Your King Snake

Creating a healthy habitat for your king snake is crucial to their well-being. Keeping their living space comfortable and clean will help prevent health issues, reduce stress, and encourage natural behaviors.

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Temperature and Humidity

King snakes require a temperature gradient within their enclosure to regulate their body temperature. The cooler end of the enclosure should be between 75-80°F, while the warmer end should be between 85-90°F. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature, and adjust the heat sources as needed to maintain the gradient.

Humidity levels should be kept between 40-60%. Misting the enclosure regularly or offering a water bowl can help regulate humidity levels. However, make sure to avoid creating a damp environment, as this can lead to respiratory issues.

Ventilation and Air Quality

Proper ventilation is essential to maintain good air quality within the enclosure. Use screened tops or sides to ensure adequate airflow. Avoid overcrowding the enclosure, as this can lead to poor air quality and the buildup of harmful ammonia from waste.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance of the enclosure is essential to keep your king snake healthy and happy. Clean and disinfect the enclosure, substrate, and any accessories at least once a month or as needed. Remove any feces, uneaten food, and shed skin on a daily basis to prevent bacterial growth.


King snakes do not require UVB lighting, but providing a light source can help regulate their circadian rhythm and provide a day/night cycle. Use a low wattage bulb for daytime light and switch it off at night. Avoid exposing the snake to direct sunlight, as this can cause overheating and other health issues.

Monitoring your King Snake’s Health

Observing and monitoring your king snake’s behavior and appearance can help prevent and detect health issues. Keep an eye out for signs of stress, disease, or injury, such as changes in appetite, lethargy, abnormal shedding, or respiratory issues. Contact a veterinarian if you notice any concerning symptoms.

Common King Snake Care Mistakes to Avoid

As I’ve discussed earlier, owning a king snake requires proper care and attention to ensure their health and happiness. However, there are some common mistakes that snake owners make that can negatively impact their pet’s well-being. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Improper handling: Mishandling a king snake can be stressful and harmful to both the snake and the owner. Avoid grabbing them by the head or tail, as this can cause injury or distress. Instead, handle them gently and support their body.
  • Inconsistent temperatures: King snakes require a consistent balance of warmth and coolness in their habitat. Inconsistent temperatures can lead to stress, illness, or even death. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and make necessary adjustments.
  • Poor hygiene: A dirty enclosure can lead to health issues for your king snake. Ensure that you clean their enclosure regularly and provide fresh water.
  • Inadequate nutrition: King snakes have specific dietary needs that must be met in order for them to thrive. Feeding them the wrong type of food or not giving them enough can lead to malnutrition and illness.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your king snake lives a happy and healthy life. Keep in mind that owning a pet requires responsibility and dedication, and taking the time to properly care for your king snake will ultimately benefit both you and your pet.

Bonding with Your King Snake

Bonding with your king snake is an essential part of creating a happy and healthy relationship with your pet. It can be a gradual process, but by following some simple tips and tricks, you can establish a strong bond and a trusting connection with your snake.

Start Slowly

When first getting to know your king snake, it is important to take things slow. Start by simply observing your pet in its enclosure for a few minutes each day, without handling it. Over time, move on to opening the enclosure and offering food or treats by hand, gradually building up your snake’s comfort and trust with you.

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Be Consistent

Creating a consistent routine, such as feeding and handling at the same times each day, can help your king snake feel secure and develop a sense of predictability. Be sure to approach your snake calmly and confidently, using a gentle touch and avoiding sudden movements or loud noises.

Handle with Care

When handling your king snake, it is important to take precautions to avoid injury or stress to the snake. Avoid grabbing or squeezing the snake, and support the entire body when picking it up. Also, be careful not to handle your snake too often or for too long, as this can cause stress and may affect its health.

Be Patient

Bonding with your king snake can take time and patience, and it is important to remember that each snake is different and may have its own unique personality and preferences. Be open to learning about your pet and adjusting your approach as needed, and remember that consistency and positive reinforcement are key to building a strong bond.

Tips for King Snake Enrichment

Providing environmental stimulation is essential for keeping your king snake healthy and happy. Here are some tips for enriching your pet’s life:

  • Introduce new objects: Offer your king snake new items to explore, such as branches, hides, or toys. This will encourage natural behaviors, such as climbing and burrowing, and prevent boredom.
  • Offer varied feeding methods: Change up the way you feed your king snake by offering live or frozen-thawed prey, or even scenting the prey with different foods. This will challenge your snake’s hunting skills and provide mental stimulation.
  • Provide hiding spots: Hiding spots are important for reducing stress and providing a sense of security for your king snake. Offer multiple hiding spots throughout the enclosure, such as rock caves, logs, or foliage.
  • Create an engaging environment: Make your king snake’s environment visually stimulating by adding plants, rocks, and other decorations. This will create a more natural and engaging habitat for your pet.

Remember to always monitor your king snake while introducing new objects or feeding methods to ensure their safety. With these enrichment tips, you can keep your king snake healthy and happy for years to come.


As a proud owner of a king snake, I can attest that these reptiles make wonderful pets for those willing to put in the effort to properly care for them. Throughout this guide, I have shared valuable information on how to provide the best care possible for your king snake, from choosing the right snake for you, to setting up the perfect habitat, to feeding and handling your pet.

With proper care, king snakes can be long-lived and low-maintenance pets, perfect for those looking for a unique and fascinating addition to their household. However, it’s important to note that owning a king snake requires responsibility and commitment to providing the best possible care.

Takeaway Tips:

To ensure a happy and healthy king snake, it’s important to:

  • Choose a king snake that is suitable for beginners and fits your lifestyle.
  • Create a safe and stimulating habitat, with suitable substrate, hiding spots and climbing branches.
  • Provide a proper diet, including appropriate prey items, feeding frequency, and portion sizes.
  • Handle your snake safely and confidently.
  • Regularly clean and maintain your king snake’s habitat.

By following these tips and the guidelines provided in this guide, you can ensure a long and happy life for your king snake while enjoying the unique companionship that these beautiful and fascinating animals offer.


Q: What are the best types of king snakes for beginners?

A: The best king snakes for beginners are typically docile and easy to care for. Some popular choices include the California kingsnake, Mexican black kingsnake, and Brooks king snake.

Q: How should I care for my king snake?

A: Proper care for a king snake includes providing a suitable enclosure with the right temperature, humidity, and lighting. Regular feeding with appropriate prey items and maintaining a clean and healthy environment are also essential.

Q: How do I set up a king snake enclosure?

A: To set up a king snake’s enclosure, you’ll need a suitable substrate, hiding spots, climbing branches, and other essential elements. It’s important to create a secure and stimulating environment for the snake.

Q: What should I feed my king snake?

A: King snakes primarily eat rodents, such as mice and rats. The size and frequency of meals depend on the snake’s age and size. It’s important to feed them a balanced diet and monitor their health.

Q: What are common behaviors exhibited by king snakes?

A: King snakes often exhibit behaviors such as burrowing, climbing, and hunting. These behaviors are natural and provide insight into the snake’s needs and preferences.

Q: How do I handle my king snake safely?

A: When handling a king snake, it’s important to use proper techniques and take necessary precautions to prevent injury to both yourself and the snake. Building trust and creating a positive handling experience is crucial.

Q: How can I ensure a healthy habitat for my king snake?

A: Maintaining proper temperature gradients, humidity levels, and ventilation in the snake’s habitat is important for its health. Regular cleaning and monitoring for signs of illness are also essential.

Q: What common care mistakes should I avoid with my king snake?

A: Common mistakes to avoid include improper handling, inconsistent temperatures, poor hygiene, and inadequate nutrition. These mistakes can negatively impact the snake’s health and well-being.

Q: How can I bond with my king snake?

A: Bonding with your king snake involves interacting with it regularly, creating a routine, and establishing trust and mutual understanding. Patience and consistent handling can help build a strong bond.

Q: How can I enrich my king snake’s life?

A: Enriching your king snake’s life can be done through environmental stimulation, such as introducing new objects, providing hiding spots, and offering varied feeding methods. Mental and physical stimulation is important for their well-being.

Featured image: en:User:Dawson, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

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