Why Do Ball Pythons Hiss?

ball python about to hiss

All snakes hiss.  The frequency, volume, and reasoning can vary among species and even individuals!  Your instinctual response to a snake hiss might be to back away, and you’re not wrong!  Snakes usually don’t hiss when they’re happy.  If your Ball Python is hissing, it’s not because they’re relaxed.

However, there are plenty of reasons that snakes hiss, and you might be wondering;

Why do ball pythons hiss?

Your ball python might hiss for a few different reasons.  Hissing is a common way that snakes communicate with the world around them.  Snakes will hiss out of fear, annoyance, discomfort and to intimidate predators.  Your python might hiss because of something new like food, housing, or even your handling!  

In this article we will explain why your ball python might be hissing, and what to do about it!

What Does It Mean When Your Ball Python Hisses At You?

Hissing is one of the ways a snake can communicate with the world around them.

Unfortunately, hissing is a tool that snakes mostly use to say negative things.  Here are a few things a hiss can mean.

They Might Be Scared.

One of the things a hiss can mean is that your snake is scared.

Both wild snakes and pet snakes hiss when they are threatened or afraid.  In the wild, snakes might hiss because a predator is near and they are frightened.  And believe it or not but your captive snake can be afraid of things s well.

Even though many people say that they are more afraid of snakes than snakes are of them, snakes can be fearful of many things too!  Handling, for example, can be something that frightens a new pet ball python.  If they aren’t used to being handled, they might see this as a threat and decide to hiss because they are scared.

They Don’t Want To Be Bothered.

Another reason your ball python might be hissing at you is that they just don’t want to be bothered.

One way to translate a hiss is to imagine your ball python telling you to ” back off.”  If you always come to your snake with the intention of handling them and sometimes they hiss, it could be their way of saying no.  It’s possible that when a ball python hisses at you, it means they don’t want to be moved or bothered.  This is especially true if your ball python is coiled up and sleeping and you try to move them.

They Might Be Uncomfortable.

Ball Pythons and many other captive snake species will hiss when they are uncomfortable.

This is similar to the way a dog might whine when it hurt its paw.   If your ball python is hissing in general, and it’s not directed at you, they could be feeling uncomfortable!

This might be a sign that you need to check the temperature and humidity of their enclosure and make sure that everything is perfect.  It could also mean that your snake is about to shed and just doesn’t feel 100%.  General discomfort is a reason that snakes hiss.

Now that we know what it means when your ball python hisses at you, let’s talk about some of the other things that could cause them to hiss!

4 Reasons Your Ball Python Keeps Hissing

So your snake keeps telling you, “no,” “back off,” or “I’m scared.”

But, why are they feeling this way?

Ball Pythons all have very different personalities, and its hard to say that one thing will make them all feel the same way!  However, here are a few things you may not have realized could be causing your scaly friend to hiss.

1. New Enclosure or New Elements In Enclosure

If you have recently moved your snake into a new home, they might be a little on edge!

Imagine how you feel when you move into a new home.  All of the sounds are different, you don’t feel safe and you’re not sure where everything is.  Well, your snake is the same. A new enclosure might make them feel uncomfortable and a little jumpier in general.  Even a new hidey-hole or a new water dish could make your ball python nervous at first.

Don’t worry, odds are, your snake is going to get used to the new environment and eventually will stop hissing.

2. They Just Ate

If you’re already the proud owner of a ball python, you know that they don’t eat very often.

Snakes eat infrequently and take quite a long time to digest their meals.  Actually, it can take a snake up to three full days to digest one mouse!  If you feel like your snake is hissing more after a meal, you’re probably right!  Snakes will usually find a place to stay coiled up after eating and generally don’t want to be disturbed.

The next couple of days after a meal, your ball python might hiss at anything that tries to move it away from its resting place.

3. They’re Not Socialized

One of the reasons your snake might be hissing is that they are not socialized.

When a snake isn’t used to being around people or being held by people, they might hiss while you hold them.  Even though ball pythons are one of the most handleable snake species, they don’t all love it right away!

If you think your ball python is under-socialized, you can take steps to get them used to being held by you.  This video shows a great example of how to start the process.

4. Reflection of Themselves

Although snakes are known for seeing with heat they can also see normally, like we do!

If your ball python catches a glimpse of its reflection or of a shadow passing by its tank, it may become curious or even threatened!  It’s not uncommon for snakes to hiss or even strike at their own reflections.  One way to avoid your snake hissing at itself in the glass is to line your tank with an opaque material on the outside o the glass.  This might actually feel better for your ball python because they end up feeling less exposed overall.

What Should You Do If Your Ball Pythons Hisses?

If your ball python is hissing a lot it probably means that something in their environment, health, or routine needs a change.

The best thing to do is to figure out when and why your ball python is hissing.  By understanding the cause of the hissing you can start to fix the problem.

In general, it’s also a good idea to start to handle your pets a little bit more.  This gets them more used to their environment and to you!  The more relaxed your snake is the less they will hiss throughout the day, and that’s a win for everyone!

How Do You Know If Your Ball Python is Hissing or Wheezing?

For first-time snake owners, it might be hard to tell if the hissing sound you are hearing is normal or not!

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are common in pet snakes.  If your snake has a URI it might sound like they’re hissing a lot.  In reality, a snake with a URI is actually wheezing and having trouble breathing.  You might even hear gurgling noises coming from your snake.

Ball Pythons are known to soak themselves in their water dishes.  You might even notice they spend hours sitting in the water if they are feeling a little dehydrated.  No matter how much time your snake spends in the water, their breathing should never be gurgly!

This video gives a little bit of instruction on how to tell the difference between normal hissing and the symptoms of a URI.

If you do decide to look into your snake’s mouth, remember that snakes have teeth!  Be careful not to hurt their teeth and remember that ball python teeth are angled backward towards their heads.

If your snake is wheezing and not hissing, make sure to take them to your local exotic pet veterinarian!  URIs can become serious and are very contagious to any other reptiles you might have.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of strange reasons why your ball python hisses!  Mostly, when your snake hisses they are trying to tell you no or give you a warning.   If you’re worried that your snake is hissing too much and might be stressed out, try to figure out the cause of the hissing!

By reducing stressors and surprises in your snake’s life, you can also reduce the amount of hissing you hear on a daily basis.