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Qs About Snake's Psychology

Discussion in 'Ball Pythons' started by angrykitten, May 15, 2009.

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  1. angrykitten

    angrykitten Elite Member

    Today was a beautiful warm day and as I was cleaning the deck outside I decided to put Sibilla around my neck to keep me company.

    After a few attempts to go down my back she settled around my neck and stayed there for over an hour. She would go up my face a little, or almost rub her muse onto my hair, she even breathed inside my ear a few times (I swear she gave me goose pimples!). I thought she was going to strangle me at some point, but for the most part we were both perfectly happy to be together.

    Now, I have this big curiosity to understand what was going through her mind: I am far too big to be a prey, she was far too comfortable to consider me a predator...we are not talking about being the "pack leader" for a dog, or the mum for a cat. Can snake feel anything close to what we, us human, define "affection"?

    If they really don't feel any kind of "love" towards us...what are we for them anyhow? Do they realise we give them food and care for them...or not really?

    Do they recognise the different members of a family from the scents and do they have preferences towards one or another?

    So much I would like to understand about those fascinating creatures!!! :)
  2. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I have had many similar experiences with my own snakes, and from what I guess, I'm pretty sure they can learn to recognize individual human beings, probably by scent.

    That's as far as I can guess.
  3. ShAn3

    ShAn3 Elite Member

    Gee, I would like to know my carpet loves me LOL but then again if she did, she would not have shat on me twice LOL

    Oh and I forgot to add, I will keep close watch to this post as it interests me
  4. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    angryKitten, I have no doubt that Sibilla can tell your scent from others, but the way she clings to you is probably because you feel "secure", high from the ground, and the warmth from your body will also be a factor....If other members of the family handle her as much as you, she should behave in exactly the same way towards them...As far as I know, snakes, like monitors, do NOT have aggressive responses towards ourselves during the breeding season that Iguanas can have.
    Doing what you`re doing is the absolute best way to tame her... ( familiarity!) Good luck... But don`t try feeding from your hand, as I do with my monitor!
  5. BlackJack

    BlackJack Subscribed User Premium Member

    I'm not sure that their awareness goes much beyond "Big thing that is not prey and not predator".
    As much as we, as owners would like to project human "feelings" onto our pets, with snakes I don't think it goes much beyond instinct. "I feel warm/safe/ threatened/hungry, etc."
    Individual snakes do seem to have different temperments ("person-alities"). Some tolerate human contact better than others. We have snakes that still hiss and strike if they are bothered and some just let themselves be taken out and handled.
    That's just my opinion from dealing with our Rainbow Boas, Ball Python and the 6 GTPs over the years.
  6. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi Blackjack, I totally agree, not only different species, but different individual snakes can have very individual responses to things/people, but that`s true of most animals, don`t you think? But as far as saying it doesn`t go much beyond instinct, I have no doubt that snakes are much more complex animals than that....they undoubtably learn from experience, and modify their behaviour to suit the situation...(You have some beautiful animals!) :)
  7. BlackJack

    BlackJack Subscribed User Premium Member

    Stefan, thanks for the compliments on our snakes. :)
    I agree that snakes can "learn" to a point: (Monty knows where the door is and tries to slide it open when he wants to get out.)
    However, I feel that their "choice" of whether to flee or bite is based mostly on instinct. Even the most mellow/docile snake will bite your hand if he's hungry, the room smells of warmed-up rat, and you stick your hand in there to take him out.
    Most of our chondros are very docile if we take them out during the day, but at night -- forget it!! At night they are in hunting mode and even when they are not hungry they will snap at anything coming near them. (If they "knew" and "loved" me, it shouldn't matter what time it is.) So I still believe that most of their behaviour is instinct-based.
    The important thing for keepers is to remember the fact that no matter how docile your snake is, it is still a wild animal and should be respected as such.
  8. Maya

    Maya Elite Member

    Tiberius definitely recognizes me, I am not exaggerating, he will come out of his hide put his head way up and when I put my arm in and keep it there for a few seconds, he will climb right on to it. When he is around my neck he rubs his head on my cheek and jaw, whispers in my ear. I wonder what it will be like when he is big.

    All in all whatever he is thinking, if his actions fit my interpretation of affection I just gracefully accept it. We have so far to go to understand these beautiful creatures.
  9. angrykitten

    angrykitten Elite Member


    I don't have a great knowledge on snakes, but from what I read I would have to agree with you. Perhaps too easily I wanted to project my feeling of affection onto her, but even my husband reminded me to respect her wild nature.

    BTW, I found this article written by Melissa Kaplan. It talked about a Burmese Python and the incidental killing of a boy who was long familiar with the snake.

    The Keeping of Large Pythons

    I know Sibilla would never reach such a size to be a threat for human beings, but she sprang out of her feeding box once that I left her in there too long (I was cleaning the cage)before feeding the mouse and she truly freaked me out! And luckily she is not full size yet!

    I keep an effort to handle her (even if for a short while) every day (but 3 days after feeding her) as I would never want her to be "unfriendly" and be scared of her.
  10. angrykitten

    angrykitten Elite Member

    Andrea, on another subject, I didn't see picures of your chondros but I have seen them in the web site of a breeder and totally fell in love with them!

    If you can open this link. Look at "Sissy"...I can't believe her beautiful colouring!!

  11. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi Andrea, if you`re talking about snakes having "feelings" for you, of course not! We like to think they do, but in fact the only thing the animals are interested in is finding food, a mate and somewhere to shelter...As you say, take them out during the day, and they`re very docile, but that`s because they rest at this time, so would not be in "activity mode". And so the reason you may get bitten at night is because as you said, this is their normal activity and hunting time, so they are alert and ready to strike, which is nothing to do with being a "wild animal". Also, there`s no such thing as a "domestic" animal... this is just a word that our own species thought called "domestic" animals can be every bit as dangerous as "wild" animals. ANY animal can revert to "wild" behaviour, but I think this is "defensive" rather than "offensive". But I certainly agree with you about remembering that however tame the snake is, be aware of the risks....
  12. RunMickeyRun

    RunMickeyRun Elite Member

    I had to think long and hard about my response to this thread. I sit and watch the interactions between my boyfriend and our snakes, even with our rescues and I truly believe that snakes brains are much more complex than they are given credit for.

    I don't believe for a moment that the only thing going through a snakes mind is
    Each of our snakes are handled daily by all of our friends. They get to come out of their tanks and explore and play regularly. Do they know they are safe? Sure. But to say that they don't have affection for their owners has got to be far from the truth.

    Alice was a birthday present to my boyfriend. Alice knows without a doubt that my boyfriend is his owner. He reacts differently with my boyfriend than with anybody else including me.


    Brain had a rough life before we rescued him. He was living in a 40 gallon tank with a towel and a heat rock. The tank was in a bedroom covered in plastic sheets with free flying parakeets in the room. He has heavy scaring all over his body from climbing inside the mechanics of a clothes dryer. Yet he is the most docile of our snakes and truly loves my boyfriend. So much so that the two of them go everywhere with each other, even going on car rides.


    Jacquelin (6 1/2 foot RTB) loves our friend Chris so much that they take naps together.


    About 3 weeks ago, we had a couple adopt Pinky, one of our rescue snakes. Not long afterward we found out that they were trying to sell Pinky (a violation of the adoption agreement). We sent two of our volunteers to their house posing as perspective buyers. As you can see, Pinky recognized one of them enough to come out of the pile and attempt to climb her leg.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    As I said, I believe that a snake's brain is much more complex than we truly know. As for the argument about daytime/nighttime handling, our snakes get handled during both. Alice only wants to be handled at night, while the Brain comes out to play during the day. There are times when they will be active in their tanks and other times when they're active in their tanks but climbing to the top to let us know that they want to come out and play.
  13. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Yes, as I said, these are very complex animals, and I`m SURE they know the difference between different people, and behave in ways other than "instinctual".... But I wouldn`t go so far as to say they want you to know they want to come and "play", they are simply exploring their "territory," I think! There ARE reptiles that mate for life, but does that mean they "love" each other??? (I don`t think so!!) I also think we still have much to learn about these animals.... :)
    You have some great snakes!
  14. angrykitten

    angrykitten Elite Member

    Thank you for everybody's input. It is difficult to understand human psychology, let alone animals... I also believe we know so little about what goes on in their heads, not just about reptiles.
    RunMickeyRun, that first picture of your boyfriend with Alice reminds me of my Sibilla: she likes to climb on my face and rolls her tail around my glasses and used them as a support to go up my head!
    What's happened to Pinky? Did you get it back from that couple?
  15. RunMickeyRun

    RunMickeyRun Elite Member

    Pinky was returned to us. At 1:00 in the morning and they threw him in my boyfriend's face. It took Pinky almost a week to calm down, but he's eating and playing with my boyfriend again.

    We're actually going out to a perspective adopters home this afternoon. With any luck this guy (who we met yesterday) will be a good fit for Pinky.

    Pinky has been the hardest to adopt out cause he is so particular about him habitat. He won't use anything but a flower pot as his hide

    * DISCLAIMER* this picture is from the bad adoption, not pinky's current home

    and he moves it around the tank to where he wants it (hot or cold). He's very docile, not head shy at all, but he has his quirks.
  16. Kendalle

    Kendalle Elite Member

    I'm sure they have people that they like better than others, I think they have amazing sense of smell/taste... but that may be instinctual as well

    You have to think about is there a REASON the snake likes one better than other? if no one has harmed it but still likes one better than another... why?

    Some people they feel safer with. My iguana likes me over everyone else... I am the one that feeds her, takes her out, spends time with her... there is a reason she likes me best..

    who knows what they are thinking when out... maybe they are laughing about how weird our skin feels, or they like the smell of the person, or whatever.
  17. Maya

    Maya Elite Member

    People are so strange, if only they could identify what their anger is triggered from, then they would not misrepresent it with a poor snake.
  18. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    No great mystery there. They thought that they were going to make money by pulling a fast one! :mad: Their anger was triggered by the fact that they got themselves caught in their little scheme and didn't get away with it!

    Snakes really are incapable of what we think of as affection. Even though, as humans, we tend to anthropomorphosize aspects of their behavior. We WANT to see this in them. It gives us pleasure, and validation, to think that our animals love us.
    Its really no different than people who take small dogs, dress them up, and treat them like children. It's OUR nature to desire to be loved.
    Even though it sometimes leads to our behaving a bit irrationally.
    As an example I KNOW without a doubt that snakes cannot hear.
    But it doesn't stop me from carrying on a conversation with them!:rolleyes:

    I think tame snakes view us more as something like a warm moving "tree." Something they can hang out in.
    Yes they seem to understand that certain individuals are "safe," they are familiar with them and feel comfortable. Also, certain humans just seem to have a way with animals and are more at ease with them, and the animals can sense it.
    But if you believe that your snake truly "loves you,"...
    rub a rodent on your hand and place your hand in the tank.
    The painful result of this experiment should show you how it really works.:eek:;)
  19. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I think it all boils down to the predator prey relationship.

    If you do not harm the snake, and give it no reason to be afraid of you, it will not regard you as a predator or a threat, and therefore make no effort to defend itself. You become, as merlin said "warmblooded furniture"

    If you abuse/injure/otherwise threaten the snake, it will regard you as a predator, and something to be feared, and something from which it needs to defend itself.
  20. Chris1974

    Chris1974 Elite Member

    I like to think that they love us if we love and take care of them. As mentioned above, it's only human nature to want to be loved back as much as we give. But looking at it logically, I think Dragoness is probably right. (Except for my Shelby- She LOVES me!! :) )
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