Rat Snakes as Exotic Pets - Care Sheet

Rat Snakes are excellent Exotic Pets available from Predators of Shipley

Rat Snakes are excellent Exotic Pets available from Predators of Shipley

The Rat Snake make a great first reptile and are an interesting Exotic Pet due to their friendly and active nature. Growing to no more than 6 feet, the snake is a relatively docile reptile.

The Rat Snake can be easily tamed and make a good choice for the new snake keeper. The Rat Snake is diurnal that means the snake is awake in the day and sleeps at night. Rat Snakes are an active snake and will love time outside of the vivarium to exercise.

For beginners, the Rat Snake is a good choice as an Exotic Pet and with regular handling remains safe.

If you are unsure, please contact us so we can answer your questions.

Rat Snakes Size

Rat snakes grow to between 5 and 6 feet in length. Although this sounds quite large they are only slim and they are a relatively small snake.

Rat Snakes Temperament

Friendly and active. They are diurnal so are awake and active during the day and sleep at night.

Rat Snakes Vivarium Setup

A baby rat snake should be kept in a vivarium approx 18“ x 12“ x 12“. This should be large enough to house your snake until it is approx 9 or 10 months old and then will need upgrading to an adult size vivarium. It is important not to put a baby snake into a large vivarium as this can put them off feeding as they don’t feel secure. Adults will require a 36”x18”x18” vivarium.

Do NOT spray water in or around the tank as humidity is bad for their lung they require a dry environment inside their viv.

Temperature Control

Rat snakes are exothermic so their vivs require a hot end and a cool end to enable them to regulate their temperature. The hot end should be around 90?F (34?C) and the cool end around 80?F (28?C) during the day. The temperature at night should not drop lower than 70?F (22?C).

Heating / Lighting

Use a flat sided reflector bulb in the hot end of the viv to regulate the temperature – this is your main heat source in your viv so needs to be replaced as soon as the bulb goes – the bulb should be on 10 to 12 hours a day and switched off at night.

A heat mat no longer than ½ the length of the viv should also be placed in the hot end this can be left on all the time to provide some heat during the night. (Note – in a baby snake vivarium a heat mat is normally sufficient to heat the tank – a bulb would not normally be required.)


Rat snakes require a dry substrate. Recommended substrate would be beech chippings but you could also use Ground Walnut Shells or Aspen.

Feeding / Water

Baby rat snakes require feeding twice a week, adults will sometimes drop to once a week feeding but some continue to take twice a week – this will depend on the appetite of your snake. They feed on rodents – the size of the food will depend on the age and size of your snake. If you are unsure what size to offer please ask for advice. All food offered should be already dead – it is illegal to feed live in the UK.

Rodents can be bought frozen and stored in your freezer. Food should be fully defrosted at room temperature before offering to your snake. Once defrosted if a mouse is not eaten remove it the following day and throw away – do not try and re-freeze. It is normal for a snake to miss a feed if they are in shed if they miss a feed wait until they have finished shedding then offer when they are next due feeding.

Snakes should always have access to clean, fresh water. Keep their water bowl in the cool end of the viv and change daily or every other day.


When your snake is coming up to shed you will notice it's eyes go a milky colour, they will normally then shed a few days later. They should shed all in one go but if they have a "patchy" shed and have places where the old scales haven't come off you can give them a warm bath or buy shedding spray to help remove the old scales. It is important that you make sure all the shed comes off the tip of the snakes tail or it can cut off the circulation and the tip of the tail may go dead and fall off.


Spot clean twice a week and remove any mess, as they only eat once or twice a week they will only mess once or twice a week. Give them a full clean out every 3 weeks or more regularly if required. Do NOT use any household or domestic cleaners in or around the vivarium as they contain harmful and potentially lethal chemicals. Reptile disinfectant can be used in the tank and as a glass cleaner.

It is good practice to wash your hands before and after handling your animal and especially after cleaning your tank or removing waste.

Rat Snake Vital Stats

  • Experience:  NOVICE - A good snake as your first Exotic Pet.
  • Life span:  The average Rat Snake will live for around 15 - 20 years in captivity but can live up to 23 years with the appropriate care.
  • Size:  Rat Snakes reach a mature size of 5 - 6 feet.
  • Price:   The Rat Snake is a relatively inexpensive snake.
  • Enclousure:  Adult Rat Snakes require a large vivarium and the enclosure should be a minimum of 36" x 18" x 18".
  • Feeding:  Your Rat Snake will eat rodents.
  • Legal issues:  There were no legal issues when keeping a Rat Snake as a pet in the UK at the time of writing this article.

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