A very common question that’s asked by ball python keepers is whether to feed their ball python in its tank or in a separate area. The thought process behind whether to feed a ball python in its tank owes its origin to Pavlov and his infamous “dog experiment”.
In a nutshell, many for his contribution of his infamous dog experiment know Pavlov, a physiologist who passed away in 1936 for this infamous experiment. Pavlov learned that if he fed a dog and rang a bell in unison, the dog would be conditioned to expect food when it heard the ringing of his bell. Pavlov would ring his bell and the dogs in his experiment would begin salivating even in the absence of food.
This same conditioning process is thought to be possible with ball pythons as well. The common theme is that if you feed your ball python in its tank over a period of time, it will learn to associate the opening of the cage with feeding time. I don’t know if this theory is true or not because I haven’t performed any measurable experiments but to be on the safe side, it’s probably best to feed them in a different tank or container (box, paper bag, etc).
I have experienced first hand some adult ball pythons that will retract their necks in the famous ‘S’ position when their cage is opened, anticipating a tasty morsel of food being placed in their cage. Some adults will literally come flying out their tank when we open their cage on feeding day in extreme expectation of embracing their dinner. Some adults will still come flying out of their tank even on days when we don’t have rodents in the room. Could this be the same effect that Pavlov noticed when he rang the bell and offered his dog a meal? I cannot say without conclusive proof but it’s very plausible, especially since we know there exists some level of intelligence in ball pythons.
If you decide to feed your ball python in its tank and you notice that it postures itself expecting you to place a rodent in the tank each time you open it, you can negate this behavior by gently touching its head with a soft object like a rolled up newspaper. Don’t hit your ball python on its head; gently touch it with the newspaper. Your ball python will retreat and pull back its head; oftentimes it will move its head under its body or turn away completely. This is very helpful when you simply want to remove your ball python for some personal one-on-one time and do not have plans to feed it.
Our ball pythons appear to be conditioned to transition themselves out of the “feeding time” mode to “it’s not feeding time” when we touch them with the newspaper (for animals that posture themselves expecting a rodent when it’s not feeding time). Again, whether ball pythons are conditioned the same way as the Pavlov experiment, I can’t say without conducting measurable tests.
I’m very curious to hear from anyone that has been feeding their ball python from a hatchling to an adult in a separate container to see how it behaves when the cage is opened when rodents are present and not present alike. Please share your stories with us in our ball python forum. Thanks.
Aside from that, I was wondering if them coiling like that was a bad thing, My younger sister gave me the snake because she was afraid of it attacking her, and I was never sure if the snake would actually do that [I guess that part actually depends on the snake]
I'm gonna keep track of this, and start patting her on the head. Great idea, I'll see if it works with her too.
Several years ago, I started discouraging him from his contemplations of gobbling me by stroking him on his head and body with the edge of a paper towel. Works like a charm.
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