Ball pythons have become exceedingly popular pets within recent years, and for good reason. These docile, calm snakes originate from west and central Africa, and have been bred within many reptile keeping circles to refine their temperament and create new, exciting morphs.

When attempting to interact with these animals, it will be important to know how to read their body language on a basic level to determine if they’re relatively happy or not. Fortunately, this guide is here to do just that.

Determining if Your Ball Python is Happy

For those who may be more accustomed to the behavior of non-reptilian pets, the world of slithery scales and flicking tongues can seem somewhat alien. Nevertheless, it is important to brush up on the basics of snake body language. By understanding what your pet is trying to tell you in various positions, you give yourself the chance to adjust your behavior to better suit your pet. In the long run, this will lead to a better, more communicative relationship for the both of you.

Now, while snakes may not typically express emotions such as “joy” or “excitement” in a way that we humans would typically understand, your snake will demonstrate signs of contentment and relaxation. These include:

  • Having a relaxed grip on whatever it’s hanging from, be it a tree or arm.
  • Casually exploring things.
  • Slowly flicking its tongue.
  • Slow movements.
  • Normal eating habits.
  • Normal sleeping habits.

Signs your snake may be somewhat distressed or upset include:

  • Hissing
  • Striking
  • Flattening its body on various surfaces.
  • Tightening its grip on perches.

If your snake is exhibiting any signs of general discomfort or stress, it can very well be caused by a combination of factors ranging from environmental changes to shedding. To get to the bottom of your python’s plausible malady, we would start by investigating environmental factors. This means checking the temperature, humidity level, space your snake has, and essentially anything else that could have changed in its living space. Of course, a sudden change in environment, such as a move or enclosure transfer, could cause stress to your snake.

The ball python (Python regius), also called the royal python, on the old branche in green forest. Green background.

Keeping on Top of Your Snake’s Health

As with any living creature, much of your ball python’s happiness will be determined by its health. That means understanding how to observe your snake’s health and knowing when to take it to a vet. If your ball python exhibits any of the following signs of illness, be sure to seek medical attention for it as soon as possible:

  • Hiding more than usual.
  • Increased lethargy.
  • Refusal to eat over an extended period of time.
  • Head tilting, spinning, shaking, or other signs of neurological distress.
  • Choking or wheezing sounds.
  • Bubbling around the oral cavity.
  • Signs of gastrointestinal distress such as regurgitation or diarrhea.

Remember, any animal suffering through some kind of physical discomfort or illness can exhibit sudden, undesired behavior changes. This can include unexplained lethargy or aggression. If you see these changes in conduct and have ruled out any change in environment or husbandry that could be causing it, seek out a vet.


When looking for ball pythons for sale, you want to make sure that you’re ready to provide it with the best life possible. That means taking the time to understand its basic behavior and what it’s trying to tell you. With a little bit of common sense and research, however, you will be well on your way to forming a happy, long relationship with your snake.

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