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The Issue of Feeding Rats to Snakes.
From a Rat-lover's Perspective



So you think you want a snake?
A list of snakes that are available and the reasons not to buy them!

DC Press: Born to Be Wild - Exotic Pets Are Big Business. And Sometimes Bad News.

So, why would anyone want to keep a snake as a pet anyway?
Here's one person's opinion.

How intelligent are reptiles? Do they love their care-giver as much as their care-giver loves them?
The Reptilian Brain

I used to keep garter snakes as pets when I was a kid. I fed them crickets, earth worms, and meal worms. All of the prey was alive. It kicked and it squirmed as it was being devoured. It never made any death noises, and I never gave it a second thought. I can only guess that the keepers of snakes, who love their pets as anyone could love their pet, feel the same way about rats as I felt about the insects that I fed my garter snakes. The insects were not my pets, therefore, I had no attachment to them....no feelings as to their pain as they were being eaten.

And now, as I reflect back on those carefree days of my youth, I feel ashamed and sickened as to what I had done to those poor, defenseless, creatures as I purposefully placed them into the aquarium of my snakes. The insects meandered about, fully unaware as to their fate. Insects are mindless creatures, living soley on pure instinct. Rats, however, are fully aware of their surroundings and are petrified when placed, alive, into the tank of a snake or other reptile.

I've grown up now and the thought of feeding any living creature to another living creature forces me never to get into that situation again. I refuse to hold any animal captive that requires that kind of feeding. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate snakes, but I think they look much more attractive slithering about in their own surroundings, out in the wild, where they belong.

And, since I have come to know rats as pets, I will never understand how someone can even think of feeding these intelligent, loving, dog-like, little fuzzies to a snake!

I guess snakes are not that expensive to keep as pets?
The costs of keeping a snake

Health concerns in keeping snakes as pets:
Salmonella in Reptiles and Amphibians
What To Do To Avoid Becoming Infected Or Acting As A Carrier

This choice of pet can be very dangerous:
Constricting Snakes - What you need to know before getting a Boa or a Python
Captive Reptile Incidents - Pet owners are being attacted by their reptilian pets
Danger in herpetoculture (ie. Stupid human tricks)
Sciensational Sssnakes - Unsuitable Pets

The following is a list of the reptiles and amphibians that are commonly kept as pets that would eat rats:

Snakes: Boas, pythons, king, corn, rat, bull, and milk snakes.
Will eat pinkies to Jumbo sized rats.

Lizards: Chinese Water Dragon.
Will eat pinkies to large sized mice and baby rats of the same size.

Crocodilians: Caiman.
Will eat pinkies to Jumbo sized rats.

Amphibians: African Bullfrog.
Will eat pinkies to large sized mice and baby rats of the same size.



I heard a story once where a friend obtained a pet rat from a friend who had a pet Boa Constrictor. The snake was not hungry, but the rat was forced to live with the snake for 3 days before the snake owner took the petrified rat out of the aquarium. My friend took the rat in as a beloved pet, but the rat was forever traumatized.



What about feeding pre-killed rodents to reptiles and amphibians?

Well, it would appear that owners, veterinarians, and zoo curators are all in agreement that snakes should not be given live prey. A rat will defend itself should the snake strike at it, leaving some pretty horrendous wounds. Also, if the snake is not particularly hungry at the time that the rat is placed with it, the rat could start dining on the snake.


Should You Feed Live or Pre-killed?

Snake Feeding

Live vs. Dead Prey

Feeding Killed Vs. Live Prey

Reptile Veterinarians and Zoo Reptile Curators on Feeding Live Rodent Prey

Live Rodents as Pets, Frozen Rodents as Food

And when it comes right down to it, a diet consisting only of rats, is not a healthy diet at all for most reptiles.
Not The Right Food

A better alternative is T-Rex Snake Steak Sausage
And to help your snake eat this sausage try T-Rex Mouse Maker

A snake feeding on a rat It doesn't say whether the rat was given alive or dead.

Law Regarding Snake Feeding & Live Prey in South Africa

My stand on the pre-killed issue is just the same as feeding live......I DON'T LIKE EITHER!


Who would supply the snake owners with the prey to feed their snakes?

Some snake owners will breed their own rats to keep a supply of prey on hand.

Some breeders of exotic rats will also breed the "plainer" rats (black-hooded, beiges, PEWs, etc.) for snake food purposes. Although, in the last couple of years, I have found two pretty exotic rats who were among the "plain" rats, and all were being sold for, "what-ever", in the pet stores. Nog was a blue-capped, blazed, odd-eyed, Rex, Dumbo, and Chrissy was a Platinum-self, Rex, Dumbo. In both cases they came into the pet stores as "Assorted Rats".

There are mass breeders who indiscriminately breed rats for the pet food market. The rats are sold live, as in the poorly-bred rats that are found in pet stores and sold as feeders (the same rats that we rat-lovers buy as pets), or else, the rats are "humanely euthanized" and sold as frozen food through large suppliers. One pet store openly admitted to me that 90% of the rats that they sell are sold as snake food.



A list of Snake-Food Suppliers.

Mice On Ice

The Gourmet Rodent inc.

Mail-order Prey Sources

The Big Cheese Rodent Factory

Frozen Rodent.com

The Mouse Factory

Rodentpro.com

Livefood UK Frozen Foods

Rodent Ranch

Frozen Direct

Canadian Mouseman

Paul's Reptile Den

Recorp Inc.

Peticebox.com

Monkfield Nutrition

LLL Reptile

Evolution Reptiles

Critter Jungle

Pet City

Britain's Aquatic Superstore Ltd.

Worm Man's

Reptile Center

Pets Warehouse

Big Apple Pet Supply

FeederInsects.co.za

I'm sure there are many other prey sources, both with and without, websites. One of these prey sources could be in your neighbourhood. Most of these prey sources sell only dead, frozen rats; others sell rats dead, or alive, as reptile food; still others sell live rats both for reptile food, as well as for pets. The latter are the mass producers that supply the pet stores with the rats that we rat-lovers buy as our companion animals. These same rats may also be known as feeders in pet stores. Granted, these prey foods are raised in immaculate conditions to produce healthy food to maintain the health of the reptiles to which they are fed, but once at the pet store the live animals' care and health, more often then not, deteriorates. Mass-producing these rodents for the purpose of supplying reptile food is said to be akin to running a pet mill.



And how are these rats "Euthanized" in preparation for reptile food?

Carbon Dioxide
Newcastle Consensus Meeting on Carbon Dioxide Euthanasia of Labratory Animals
Animal Studies Regarding CO2 as a Euthanasia Agent
Classification of Euthanasia Agents
Methods of Euthanasia - Rodents
An article at inno-vet.com states, "the rats were pre-treated with acepromazine (orally) and pentobarbiturate (i.p. Injection) respectively, in order to reduce possible distress caused by CO2 euthanasia".

It has been no comfort to me to discover during my research that laboratories, reptile keepers, those who perform the mass extermination of animals, and fur farms all accept CO2 as a humane euthanasia. Open discussions on the the various rat forums have indicated that those of us who love our pet rats are not convinced that CO2 is a good way to die. CO2 is primarily used because it is easy to use by amatures and professionals alike, and it is safe for humans to use. My thoughts are that an old, sick, and dying rat would readily welcome this type of death no matter how momentarily uncomfortable it was. But, the rats killed for reptile food are young, healthy, vivacious rats, who, I'm pretty sure, are not prepared to die without a sruggle, and will experience distress and anxiety during the procedure.

Cervical Dislocation This method is to only be performed by professionals such as those who work in Laboratories, however, it has come to my attention that some reptile keepers will attempt this procedure in order to dispatch rodents for their pets.

Smashing the rat against a wall to stun it

Some reptile keepers are sadistic and they don't believe in feeding their pets pre-killed food. Instead they seem to enjoy watching the show.

And please, do not tell me that you are a tried and true lover of pet rats when you keep them as pets in your home, and then obtain dead, frozen, or live pet rats to feed to your snake/reptile. An honest to goodness pet rat devotee would never perform such an act. As quoted from an anti-fur website, FurKills.org, "It is unclear how fur wearers can love and cherish one canine, such as their companion dog, while supporting the torture and death of another canine, the fox". To me the feelings are just as strong when it comes to my pet rats.



So what is the point of adding this information to a rat-lover's website?

I completely sickened myself to the point of wanting to vomit and burst into tears in doing research for this page. Even the updating, once in awhile, isn't easy to do. Like I said earlier, I don't hate reptiles, I'm not phobic, since I can handle a boa as easily as I can handle my rats. I just won't own an animal that requires a diet of the rats that I have come to be obcessed with. Yes, obcessed. I won't be changing the minds of those of you who love your reptiles, and I don't expect to. I know you love your pets as much as I love my pet rats. I've gotten some posts from herp people telling me that some of my info is incorrect. Please remember that, as the title of this page implies, my research comes from a rat-lover's point of view and I agree, it is one-sided. This page was never meant to be a care sheet for reptiles.

For those of you who still want to keep reptiles as pets, this is the best website I have found on the internet for their proper care:
Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection

Have you, the pet rat lover, ever bought a rat from a pet store only to find out that she was pregnant when you bought her? I did. I made arrangements with the store owner to return the babies to the store when they were weaned. When the time came, I just couldn't do it. I had raised these babies from new-borns, watched them grow and mature, and fell in love with their little puppy-dog faces. I had no idea what was going to happen to these babies once they were out of my hands, and back at the store. The store management could care less whether or not the rat was sold for snake food or as a pet. They only cared that they got their money. You may inadvertently give a rat to someone who would use it as a breeder to supply snake food. Or, you may be selling a rat cheap enough that a snake owner would buy it as food. That's what might have happened with my second, accidental, litter. I thought I could give the babies away if I carefully screened potential owners. Then I started getting uncomfortable phone calls. In the end I decided that the only responsible thing to do was to keep all my babies myself. There are too many avenues of having your rats end up with the wrong people. If you must find homes for your rats, because you have too many through breeding, or you are a rescuer, be sure you know where they are going to. The safest thing for them, would be to stay with you. I just want you to get informed and get cautious, that's all.

This page was inspired by the discussions on Rat-Lovers' Forums debating the issue of feeding rats to snakes. These debates, which have no place on a forum that shares the love and respect of the pet rat, almost always lead to heated flame-wars. If you wish to discuss this topic, please join my group: hottopicsrats



More Reading:
Teacher Wants To Feed Puppies to a Snake
Animals: Reptiles and Amphibians
Live Reptile Trade







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