10 Best Pet Snakes

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: September 12, 2022
Image Credit Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?
Key Points:
  • Many snakes can live for several decades, so choose carefully
  • The Children’s Python is a great choice for beginners
  • Snakes require live food and special habitats.

Choosing to keep a snake as a pet is very different from other livestock and companion animals. It’s a tricky and potentially risky process. The creatures have unique care requirements and husbandry. You need to make sure you choose one suited to your best handling capabilities.

Picking a Pet Snake

Most snakes are tame. Many are dangerous (even the tame ones). But it’s usually the conditions the aggressive behavior. If you’re going to keep a snake — and trust they will fascinate! — you need to commit and be empathetic to their needs.

If you’re thinking about a snake, take the following into account:

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Think You Can?
  • Snakes can live for two decades. This is a long-term commitment.
  • Houdini could learn from snakes. They are extraordinary escape artists. Snakes don’t go looking for freedom but they find it. It’s important to have an enclosure that your snake can’t outwit.
  • Most likely, you’ll need to feed live prey to the animal. You can offer them frozen or pre-killed prey (the safest choice), but the live food will keep them active and interested. If you go frozen, prepare yourself for storing everything from insects to rats and mice in your freezer.
  • Unless you’re a skilled handler, keeping constricting or venomous snakes — even ones that stay small — is not recommended.

Use a Breeder

Get your pet from reputable breeders and vendors. Wild snakes that you capture will be stressed. They are prone to disease and parasites. These traits will make taming difficult.

Plus, when you use a breeder or proper vendor, you increase the chance of getting a healthy creature. You’re no vet but before getting a snake do your own cursory review. Look for retained skin, bubbles coming from the nose, mouth rot, or closed eyes.

Ask the proprietor for a feeding demonstration. If you’re going the pre-killed route, you need to know if your desired reptile takes to it and eats well. For example, the ball python is a finicky eater and is famous for feeding issues. You want to clear that up before you get a snake in your home.

How to Handle a Snake

You want to acclimate the pet to your presence. And no owner wants a snake they can’t hold! But you want to do it safely. Young snakes, not used to human touch, will take some training.

Wash your hands first. Any scent may be mistaken for food. Cleaning also reduces the possibility of harmful parasites or bacteria transferring to the snake. One day, it may be unnecessary, but you want to get the snake used to the human presence.

Before the first handling, rest your hand in the cage for up to three minutes. The suspicious snake will likely avoid you in the beginning. Eventually, their strong sense of smell, recognizing you, will lead them to investigate.

Don’t feel a soothing conversation may help. While snakes aren’t deaf, they can’t hear human speech. So just read your magazine or watch “America’s Got Talent” while your hand sits in the tank.

Always move predictably and slowly. Never surprise a snake! Even when you’re just looking through the glass. Approaching your snake — in or out of its enclosure — straight or from the side. Not from above and never by surprising it. That snake will surprise you!

And while we’re on the topic of surprises, avoid trying to pick up a hissing snake. The snake is either afraid or on defense. Don’t mess with it after it’s had a meal. KEEP AWAY when it’s shedding. Until it’s used to you, a good time to handle your reptile is when it’s feeling sleepy, but awake.

The Best Pet Snakes

Snakes make for great pets! They are unique and fun. There are over 3,600 species worldwide and the majority of them are adaptable to captivity. The following 10 animals are popular and relatively low maintenance. These are breeds that stay small. Most breeds eat live food, so if you’re squeamish about that, get a guinea pig. You’ve got options for kids, beginners, and the experienced.

So here’s a list of great snakes, known for their ease of care, temperament, and appearance.

#1 Children’s Python

Best Pet Snakes
The Children’s Python gets its name from the scientist who first described them in 1842, John George Children, the curator of the British Museum’s zoological collection at the time of the discovery.

My Lit’l Eye/Shutterstock.com

Children’s Pythons grow between 2.5 and four feet making them rare medium-sized snakes that stay small. These are great pets for beginners and are docile enough to be around supervised kids. The reptile requires the most basic care and diet on rodents. Their temperaments are excellent when handled gently and regularly. They live up to 30 years and will run you anywhere between $70 and $350.

#2 Common Boa Constrictor

Best Pet Snakes
Boa constrictors are non-venomous snakes famous for their method of subduing prey: squeezing, or constricting, it to death.

Natalia Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com

Due to their very large size, boas aren’t the best pet for the novice. At a titillating 13 to 16 feet in length, the boa constrictor needs an experienced handler. Found in South and Central America, the boa snacks on deer, lizards, fish, and other creatures. As a pet, you can feed them rabbits, rats, and chickens. You want to keep them away from kids. Boas are strong and may wrap tight if stressed or threatened. The common boa costs between $60 and $200.

#3 Western Hognose Snake

Best Pet Snakes
Western Hognose Snake with its hood inflated. The hognose snakes’ most distinguishing characteristic is their upturned snout, which aids in digging in sandy soils by using a sweeping, side-to-side motion. 

Steve Oehlenschlager/Shutterstock.com

Native to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the Western Hognose Snake is known for its upturned pug-ish nose. Active in the mornings and evenings, the breeds snack on toads and small lizards, and mice (when toads and lizards aren’t available). The Hognose digs holes to find toads hiding in the sand. The Hognose’s good with proper handling and their hissing isn’t aggressive behavior. The boa costs $100–$700.

#4 Garter Snake

Best Pet Snakes
Common eastern Garter snake, coiled in the grass. Garter snakes don’t have fangs and aren’t venomous. However, they do have a few rows of small teeth and can bite.

K Quinn Ferris/Shutterstock.com

Garters are among the world’s most populous wild snakes and popular home pets. Captive garters gnaw on worms and small fish. With common heating and lighting requirements, they don’t need a lot of maintenance. It’s good to set them up with a basking lamp as the garter enjoys resting in the sun. They grow no longer than four feet, making them rare small snakes. The garter snake is a famous backyard invader and being pretty harmless and tame, they’re good for kids. The snakes are inexpensive at less than $50.

#5 Ball Python

Best Pet Snakes
Ball pythons are named after their natural defensive behaviors. They tend to curl up into a ball with their head toward the center of the ball when threatened.

Krisda Ponchaipulltawee/Shutterstock.com

The ball python is famous for its pickiness and its food. They prefer thawed or freshly killed meals, but there then are periods where they stop eating completely. But their nature is being calm and docile, and suspicious. You’re going to spend some time earning their trust. One characteristic of the snake is curling into a ball when intimidated. They can get thick that stay small, maxing out at five feet. Ball pythons live up to three decades and cost, depending on their rarity, cost $25–$200.

#6 California King Snake

Best Pet Snakes
California Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis californiae) are called kingsnakes because they sometimes eat other snakes, as does the king cobra.

Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

The Cali King Snake is usually brown-black with yellow stripes, bands, or speckles. An excellent beginner snake, the Cali King is a shy, docile animal with frequent handling. When stressed, the snake doesn’t lash out. The breeds would prefer coiling up and hiding. They have basic care requirements, eat mice, and live as long as 20 years. You can have one of your own for between $70 and $170.

#7 Corn Snake

Best Pet Snakes
Corn snakes are constrictors, wrapping themselves around prey to squeeze and subdue it before swallowing it whole.

Enrique Ramos/Shutterstock.com

The Corn Snake is a top choice for beginners. Native to the United States, they’re typically in terrestrial habitats. If done by professionals, you can capture them in the wild. Captive breeds though are healthier with calmer temperaments. You can keep the three to four-foot-long snake in a 20-gallon aquarium. They eat pinky mice and have few medical problems. Look at a cost typically in the $40 to $100 range.

#8 African House Snake

Best Pet Snakes
African House Snake Lamprophis fuliginosus at the Louisville Zoo. They are named “house” snakes as they are frequently found around human dwellings, feeding on the rodents that congregate around the human waste.

Ltshears / Creative Commons – License

The adaptable African House Snake can live in many ecosystems. In its native sub-Saharan Africa, they find comfort living around human dwellings. These animals are harmless but tend to stress over unfamiliar environments and loud noises. But as they’re more likely to run than bite, the animals are a safe bet for kids. Outside of its brown shade, you’ll distinguish the African house snake by a thin stripe of white or tan running across the top of its body from head to tail. Prices start at $70.

#9 Milk Snake

Best Pet Snakes
Louisiana Milk-snake found after a fall cold front blew through southeast Texas. The common name “milk snake” originated from the false belief that these snakes milked cows.

TheTexasNaturalist/Shutterstock.com

The milk snake calls Mexico and the States home. A rare smaller snake for beginners, it has rings of orange, red, white, yellow, and black. Often confused with the coral snake, the milk snake’s not venomous and has an impressionable docile temperament. You cannot have more than one in a single environment as these creatures tend to cannibalize each other. They grow up to six feet in length. Depending on the species, a Milksnake costs between $70 and $100.

#10 Gopher Snake

Best Pet Snakes
The gopher snake is commonly misidentified as a Rattlesnake because of its markings and defensive behavior. It may hiss loudly, flatten its head, vibrate the tail, and strike when annoyed.

Creeping Things/Shutterstock.com

There are nine subspecies among the gopher snake breeds, including the bullsnake, the Sonoran gopher, and the Pacific and Great Basin gophers. Sizes range from three to seven feet. Behavior and coloration often have them mistaken as various venomous species. This is also because one of their defensive traits is fooling predators by imitating dangerous animals like rattlesnakes. Though not particularly domesticated, the gopher does make good pets if handled with care. A gopher snake costs between $30–$100.

Here is a Summary of the 10 Best Snakes to Keep as Pets:

RANKNAME OF SNAKEBEGINNER?
#1Children’s PythonBeginner
#2Common Boa ConstrictorExperienced
#3Western Hognose SnakeIntermediate
#4Garter SnakeBeginner
#5Ball PythonExperienced
#6California King SnakeBeginner
#7Corn SnakeBeginner
#8African House SnakeBeginner
#9Milk SnakeBeginner
#10Gopher SnakeIntermediate

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What should you name your pet snake?

Pet snakes often have names based on their color, what species they are, their size, or classic names based on how snakes behave (like Slider). Check out our comprehensive guide ‘Snake Names: 77 Incredible Names For Your Pet Snake‘ to discover more ideas!.

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