Do Snakes Have Emotions? Can They Feel Happiness?

Published: March 21, 2023
© Gonzalo Jara/
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When people get pets, they often expect to have a new best friend. This can happen easily with a cat, dog, and even rodents like rats. However, can it happen with a pet snake? For a snake to form a bond with its owner, it would need to have emotions. Do snakes have emotions? Can they feel happiness? Keep reading to find out!

The Personality of a Snake

Snakes are not social animals. They do not nurture their young and are not friendly toward other animals. They operate based on instinct. However, they have been shown to like comfort and familiarity.

Not all snakes are the same. Some are more comfortable with human contact than others. If you have a pet snake, you will need to spend some time with it to figure out what kind of interaction the snake prefers.

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Do Snakes Feel Emotions?

It’s pretty common knowledge that some animals can feel emotions. Dogs and cats have been shown to feel love for their owners, for example. However, whether or not reptiles feel emotions is somewhat more dubious.

Snakes and other reptiles do exhibit certain emotions, mainly aggression and fear. Dr. Sharman Hoppes, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, states that snakes exhibit certain behaviors when they are feeling these emotions. For example, if they feel fear, they may act aggressively or try to flee the situation.

When snakes are feeling aggressive, they may hiss at you or coil. However, most snakes will not do this unless they perceive a threat.

Can Snakes Feel Happiness?

As far as evidence suggests, snakes do not feel happiness the way that humans and other mammals do. However, it is possible that they feel pleasure when you stroke them or offer them food.

Pet Snakes - Boa Constrictor
Although snakes don’t possess the intellectual capacity to feel affection for their owners, they can recognize people who frequently take care of them.

©New Africa/

Can Snakes Recognize Their Owners?

Snakes primarily rely on their senses of smell and taste in order to navigate their way through the world. They have the same five senses that humans do, although their vision is very poor. In addition, they have a sixth sense. They are able to detect heat emanating from other creatures without touching them.

Snakes are capable of using their senses to identify people. They are also able to tell one person apart from another. Specifically, they may possess the ability to recognize their owner. Therefore, when you feed them often and spend a lot of time with them, they can recognize that you are important in keeping them healthy and alive.

Can Snakes Love Their Owners?

Many in veterinary communities feel that snakes are not capable of love, as this is not an emotion that naturally benefits them. However, this does not mean that you cannot form any bond with your snake. Pet reptiles often recognize people who frequently take care of them.

In some cases, reptiles seem to respond positively to human contact. For example, lizards and tortoises can sometimes enjoy petting. They show this by becoming calm and still and leaning into the interaction.

Snakes can recognize their owner’s specific smell over time and associate it with food. Because of this, they will see their owner’s presence as positive.

However, snakes do not possess the intellectual capacity to feel affection for their owners. They may enjoy time with people, especially ones who are feeding them, but they simply aren’t capable of forming a strong bond with you.

Snakes do not have good vision or a good memory, so they won’t recognize how you look. Additionally, they don’t see you as a companion; you are just an object that they positively associate with their food.

How Do Snakes Show They Like You?

Even though snakes can’t feel love or affection, they can show an affinity for you as an object. There are many signs that a snake sees you as an object it likes.

For example, they may rub their heads against you. This is known as “head-bobbing.” They may also try to wrap themselves around you. Hissing can even be a sign that the snake likes you, although this depends on the species.

One sign of contentment from a snake is rubbing its head on the ground or an object. Alternatively, the snake may coil up. These are signs that the snake feels safe in its environment. Content snakes will also be more likely to explore their surroundings rather than hide.

In order to earn your snake’s trust, it’s important that you don’t appear to be a threat. The snake needs to feel at ease around you in order to receive your affection positively.

Generally, if a snake is trying to escape from you, freezing in place, or trying to bite you, this means that it does not enjoy your presence.

Ball python snake
Some snakes enjoy being handled, and others not so much. It largely depends on the species of the snake.

©Krisda Ponchaipulltawee/

Do Snakes Enjoy Human Contact?

Some snakes enjoy being handled, and others not so much. It largely depends on the species of the snake.

It may be risky to start by making direct contact with the snake. If the snake doesn’t like it, it may become hostile or aggressive towards you. If you want to start handling your pet snake with no prior experience, it’s a good idea to start by picking up its cage. This way, the snake can get used to your scent.

When you do start to handle the snake, make sure to hold it around the middle with its tail unexposed. If the tail isn’t restrained, the snake may try to escape or bite you. Make sure not to try to hold the snake immediately after its mealtime, or it may be aggressive toward you.

Are Snakes Good Pets?

Even though snakes can’t feel real love or affection for their owners, this does not mean that they are bad pets. As long as you do not feel the need to bond deeply with your pet, you can get quite a bit of joy out of keeping a snake.

If you feed your snake and give it an appropriate enclosure, you can give it a better life than it would have had in the wild. You can ensure the animal is comfortable and its survival needs are met without too much effort. 

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