Unveiling the Complete Guide for Pet Rat Snakes

rat snakes as pets

As a reptile enthusiast, I have compiled all the essential information you need to know before bringing a rat snake into your home. This guide will cover everything from the types of rat snakes to their behavior, housing and feeding requirements, and general care tips. Whether you are a first-time owner or an experienced reptile keeper, you will find this guide to be an invaluable resource on rat snakes as pets.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rat snakes make great pets for reptile enthusiasts of all experience levels
  • Understanding their behavior and habitat requirements is essential for their well-being
  • Feeding and housing a rat snake requires specific care and attention
  • With proper care, rat snakes can live long and healthy lives in captivity

Types of Rat Snakes

There are several different types of rat snakes that are commonly kept as pets. Each species has its own unique characteristics and requirements, so it’s important to do your research before choosing a pet rat snake.

Black Rat Snake

Physical Characteristics Natural Habitat
Black color with white underbelly Forests, fields, and rocky areas in Eastern and Central United States
Grows up to 6 feet in length  

The Black Rat Snake is a popular species among snake enthusiasts due to their calm temperament and ease of care. They are also known for their climbing ability and can often be found in trees.

Corn Snake

Physical Characteristics Natural Habitat
Orange or brown color with black and white checkered belly Southeastern and Central United States
Grows up to 6 feet in length  

Corn snakes are a popular choice for beginners due to their docile nature and ease of care. They are also highly adaptable to different environments and have a wide range of natural habitats.

Rat Snake

Physical Characteristics Natural Habitat
Yellow or brown color with black and white stripes Forests, fields, and farmlands in Eastern and Central United States
Grows up to 6 feet in length  

The Rat Snake is known for its vibrant coloring and active nature. They require a larger enclosure due to their size and activity levels, but are generally hardy and easy to care for.

Rat Snake Behavior

As a new rat snake owner, it is important to understand the behavior of your pet. Rat snakes are known for their curious and active nature, often exploring their surroundings and climbing on various objects.

It is also important to note that rat snakes can be shy and may exhibit defensive behavior if they feel threatened. This can include hissing, coiling, and striking, so it is important to handle them with care and respect.

When kept in captivity, rat snakes may exhibit different behaviors than they would in the wild. They may become less active and spend more time hiding, so it is important to provide them with plenty of hiding places in their enclosure.

Another behavior to be aware of is brumation. This is a period of reduced activity and metabolism that is similar to hibernation in mammals. Rat snakes may go through brumation during the winter months, and it is important to provide them with appropriate temperatures and lighting during this time.

Overall, understanding the behavior of rat snakes is the key to providing them with a safe and comfortable environment in which they can thrive.

Housing Rat Snakes

Setting up an appropriate enclosure is crucial for the health and well-being of your pet rat snake. A suitable enclosure should be spacious enough to provide the snake with enough room to move around, hide, and explore.

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The size of the enclosure should be appropriate for the size of your snake. A general rule of thumb is to provide at least one square foot of floor space per foot of snake length. For example, a four-foot snake would need an enclosure that measures at least four feet long and one foot wide.

Rat snakes require a warm and humid environment to thrive. The temperature in the enclosure should range from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the cool side and 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit on the warm side. You can achieve this by using a heat source, such as an under-tank heater or heat lamp.

Humidity levels should be maintained between 50% to 70%. Ensure that the substrate in the enclosure is moist and mist the enclosure daily with lukewarm water to maintain the required humidity levels.

When it comes to substrate, there are several options to choose from. Suitable options include coconut coir, aspen shavings, and cypress mulch. Avoid using substrates with high dust levels or ones that may accidentally be ingested by the snake.

Lastly, provide at least one hide box in the enclosure. The hide box should be large enough for the snake to comfortably coil up in and made of a material that retains moisture, such as sphagnum moss. This will help the snake feel secure and reduce stress levels.

Feeding Rat Snakes

Feeding your pet rat snake is a crucial aspect of its care, and it is important to ensure that it receives a balanced and healthy diet. In the wild, rat snakes are opportunistic feeders, consuming a variety of prey including rodents, birds, and amphibians. In captivity, they can be fed a diet of rodents such as mice and rats.

Note: It is important to purchase appropriate sized prey for your snake. The prey item should be no wider than the widest part of your snake’s body. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health problems, while underfeeding can result in malnutrition.

Most rat snakes should be fed once every 5-7 days, although younger snakes may require more frequent feedings. Frozen-thawed prey is generally recommended, as it is safer and more convenient than live prey.


When feeding your rat snake, it is important to handle it carefully to minimize stress. Snakes can be defensive when it comes to eating and may mistake your hand for prey. We recommend using feeding tongs to offer the prey item, and to keep handling to a minimum during feeding time.


As with all animals, access to fresh water is essential for rat snakes. A shallow water dish should be provided in the enclosure and cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria. Some species of rat snake, such as the corn snake, enjoy soaking in their water dish, so a larger, deeper dish may be appropriate for these snakes.

Caring for Rat Snakes

Caring for a rat snake is relatively easy, as they are hardy animals that can adapt well to captivity. However, it is important to provide appropriate care to ensure their health and well-being.

Enclosure: A suitable enclosure for a rat snake should be at least as long as the snake itself and have enough space for climbing and hiding. A glass or plastic enclosure with a secure lid is recommended, along with a substrate such as aspen shavings or coconut fiber. The enclosure should be cleaned regularly to prevent bacterial buildup.

Temperature and Humidity: Rat snakes require a temperature gradient in their enclosure, with a basking spot of 85-90°F and a cooler area of 70-75°F. A heat lamp or under-tank heating pad can be used to create these temperature zones. A humidity level of 40-60% is suitable for most species, with misting or a humidifier as necessary.

Feeding: Rat snakes are carnivorous and typically eat rodents, birds, and eggs in the wild. In captivity, they can be fed thawed frozen rodents of appropriate size, such as mice or rats. Young snakes should be fed more frequently than adults, usually every 5-7 days. It is important not to overfeed, as obesity can lead to health issues.

Handling: Rat snakes can be handled regularly, but it is important to do so gently and avoid sudden movements or squeezing. Support the snake’s body and allow it to move at its own pace. Wash hands before and after handling, as some snakes can carry salmonella bacteria.

Health: Regular health checks should be conducted to ensure that the snake is healthy and free from parasites or infections. Symptoms of illness may include loss of appetite, lethargy, or abnormal behavior. A veterinarian specializing in reptiles should be consulted if any concerns arise.

Rat Snake Facts

Did you know that rat snakes are excellent climbers, often found high up in trees and on buildings? They can also swim well and are often found near water sources. Here are some more interesting facts about these fascinating snakes:

Fact Description
Rat snakes are constrictors They kill their prey by squeezing them until they cannot breathe. They are not venomous.
They are great pest controllers Rat snakes help control rodent populations in the wild, making them a valuable part of the ecosystem.
They use camouflage to hide from predators Rat snakes come in a variety of colors and patterns that help them blend in with their surroundings.
They swallow prey whole Rat snakes can eat prey that is much larger than their own head. They dislocate their jaw to allow them to swallow their meal whole.
They are common in pet trade Rat snakes are often kept as pets due to their unique appearance, docile temperament, and ease of care.

With their interesting behaviors and adaptations, rat snakes are truly a fascinating part of the natural world.

Selecting a Rat Snake

If you’re considering getting a rat snake as a pet, it’s important to choose the right one based on your level of experience and the snake’s temperament and size. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a rat snake:

  • Size: Rat snakes can range in size from 3-7 feet, depending on the species. Consider how much space you have available for an enclosure and whether you’re comfortable handling a snake of that size.
  • Temperament: Rat snakes are generally docile and easy to handle, but some species may be more skittish or defensive than others. Research the temperament of different species before making a decision.
  • Experience: Some rat snake species may be better suited for first-time snake owners, while others require more experience and knowledge to care for. Consider your level of experience and willingness to learn before selecting a species.

It’s also important to purchase your rat snake from a reputable breeder or pet store that can provide you with information on the snake’s history and care requirements. Avoid purchasing snakes from sources that may have illegally captured them from the wild.

Handling Rat Snakes

One of the joys of owning a pet rat snake is being able to handle and interact with them. However, it’s important to handle your snake correctly to avoid injury to both yourself and your pet.

Here are some tips for safe and responsible handling:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling your snake.
  • Approach your snake calmly and confidently, avoiding sudden movements.
  • Support your snake’s body at all times, never allowing it to dangle or fall.
  • Avoid handling your snake for at least 48 hours after it has eaten.
  • Never handle your snake by the tail, as this can cause injury and stress.
  • Keep handling sessions short and infrequent, gradually increasing the duration as your snake becomes more comfortable.

Remember that rat snakes are naturally curious and active creatures, so it’s important to provide plenty of opportunities for exercise and exploration outside of handling sessions.

By following these guidelines, you can build trust and a positive relationship with your pet rat snake while keeping both of you safe and comfortable.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

As with any pet, there are several misconceptions surrounding rat snakes that can prevent people from considering them as a viable option. Here are some common myths about rat snakes and the truth behind them.

  • Myth: Rat snakes are venomous.
  • Fact: Rat snakes are not venomous and pose no threat to humans. If threatened, they may bite, but their bites are not harmful and rarely require medical attention.
  • Myth: Rat snakes are aggressive and difficult to handle.
  • Fact: Rat snakes are generally docile and can be easily handled with proper techniques and socialization. Like any pet, they require patience and trust-building to develop a positive relationship with their owner.
  • Myth: Rat snakes require live prey to survive.
  • Fact: While rat snakes are carnivorous and require a diet of live or frozen/thawed prey, they do not need to be fed live prey. In fact, feeding live prey can be dangerous for the snake and should be avoided if possible.
  • Myth: Rat snakes are not suitable for beginners.
  • Fact: While some species of rat snakes may require more advanced care, there are several species that are suitable for beginners with proper research and preparation. Keeping any pet requires commitment and responsibility, regardless of experience level.

Remember, it’s important to seek out accurate information and do your own research before making any decisions about pet ownership. Don’t let misconceptions hold you back from considering a rat snake as a unique and fascinating addition to your household.

Potential Challenges of Keeping Rat Snakes

While rat snakes can make great pets, there are several potential challenges to consider before bringing one into your home. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Space Requirements: Depending on the species, rat snakes can grow quite large, and will need a suitably spacious enclosure to accommodate their size.
  • Feeding Difficulties: Some rat snakes can be finicky eaters, and may require live prey or other special feeding arrangements to stay healthy.
  • Longevity: Rat snakes can live for well over 20 years in captivity, meaning they are a long-term commitment that requires careful consideration.

It’s also worth noting that rat snakes can be escape artists, so it’s important to make sure their enclosure is secure and to keep a close eye on them when handling them outside their enclosure.

Finally, while rat snakes are generally considered to be docile and easy to handle, there is always a risk of bites and scratches when handling any animal. It’s important to handle your rat snake with care and respect, and to always be aware of the potential risks involved.


In conclusion, owning a rat snake as a pet can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. As with any pet, there are important considerations to keep in mind, such as providing appropriate housing, proper nutrition, and regular health checks. However, by following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your rat snake remains healthy and happy in your care.

It’s important to remember that rat snakes have unique temperaments and characteristics, and it’s essential to choose the right species for your lifestyle and experience level. Rat snakes may not be suitable for everyone, and it’s crucial to consider the space and time requirements before deciding to bring one into your home.

Handling rat snakes can be a thrilling experience, but it’s important to do so safely and responsibly. Building trust between you and your pet rat snake takes time and patience, but it can be an incredibly rewarding process.

Finally, it’s essential to dispel any myths or misconceptions about rat snakes as pets. While they may have a reputation for being aggressive or dangerous, if properly cared for, rat snakes can make fantastic pets for the right owner.

Overall, owning a rat snake can be a truly unique and rewarding experience. With proper care and attention, your pet rat snake can be a beloved member of your family for years to come.


Q: Can rat snakes be kept as pets?

A: Yes, rat snakes can be kept as pets. They are commonly kept in captivity and can make great pets for reptile enthusiasts.

Q: What are the different types of rat snakes?

A: There are several different species of rat snakes commonly kept as pets, including the corn snake, black rat snake, and Texas rat snake.

Q: What is the behavior of rat snakes like?

A: Rat snakes are generally active and curious. They can be easily tamed and are known for their docile temperament.

Q: How should rat snakes be housed?

A: Rat snakes should be housed in an appropriate enclosure that provides enough space for them to move around comfortably. It is important to maintain the proper temperature and humidity levels in their enclosure.

Q: What do rat snakes eat?

A: Rat snakes are carnivorous and primarily feed on small rodents, birds, and eggs. It is important to provide them with a varied diet to ensure proper nutrition.

Q: How do I care for a rat snake?

A: Proper care for a rat snake includes routine health checks, maintaining their enclosure, and providing them with appropriate feeding and handling.

Q: What are some interesting facts about rat snakes?

A: Rat snakes have a wide range of natural history and unique adaptations. They are known for their climbing abilities and are excellent swimmers.

Q: How do I select the right rat snake as a pet?

A: When selecting a rat snake as a pet, factors such as size, temperament, and suitability for beginners should be considered.

Q: How do I handle a rat snake?

A: When handling a rat snake, it is important to do so safely and responsibly. By promoting trust and minimizing stress, both the snake and the owner can have a positive experience.

Q: What are some common myths and misconceptions about rat snakes as pets?

A: There are several common myths and misconceptions about rat snakes as pets, and it is important to have accurate information to dispel any false beliefs.

Q: What are some potential challenges of keeping rat snakes as pets?

A: Keeping rat snakes as pets can come with challenges such as space requirements, feeding difficulties, and their longevity.

Featured image:FelixReimann, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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