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Why Do Snakes Eat Themselves? Understand & Prevent Self-Cannibalism (2024)

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why do snakes eat themselves and how to prevent itHave you ever seen a snake eating itself? You may have heard of this mythical creature called the Ouroboros, which is an ancient symbol depicting a snake or dragon swallowing its own tail. But snakes really do eat themselves sometimes – and it’s not just because they’re hungry.

It’s important to understand why your pet might be doing this and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

From stress factors such as temperature variances and disorientation, to false hunger caused by metabolic changes or shedding issues – there are many reasons why snakes may resort to eating their own tails.

Key Takeaways

  • Snakes may eat themselves due to stress, temperature changes, metabolic changes, shedding, or overheating.
  • Preventing self-cannibalism involves providing a comfortable environment, proper feeding, addressing psychological factors, and monitoring behavioral changes.
  • The Ouroboros symbolizes continuity, rebirth, and the cyclic nature of life.
  • Self-cannibalism is not exclusive to snakes and can be observed in other species like insects and amphibians.

Does a Snake Really Eat Itself Like the Ouroboros?

Does a Snake Really Eat Itself Like the Ouroboros
You may have heard tales of this mysterious creature, the ouroboros, eating itself in a never-ending cycle – but is it really true that snakes can actually do such an incredible feat?

Self-cannibalism has been observed in many species of snakes and is thought to be caused by thermoregulation problems or metabolic changes resulting from false hunger. Shedding confusion or prey confusion due to stress might also contribute to this behavior.

In venomous species, neutralization of their own venom protects them from harm when they bite themselves. Temperature regulation plays a role too; overheating can cause hypermetabolism which leads some snakes into self-cannibalistic states as well.

The symbolism behind the ouroboros represents continuity and rebirth, making it an enduring myth across different cultures throughout history.

Taking precautions like providing comfortable environments with appropriate heat/cooling options, along with regular feeding cycles, should help minimize the risk for your pet snake if you ever encounter self-cannibalism.

Why Would a Snake Eat Its Own Tail?

Why Would a Snake Eat Its Own Tail
You may have heard of the mythical Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail in an eternal cycle. But why would a real snake ever do such a thing? Stress and temperature, metabolism and false hunger, confusion or disorientation can all be factors leading to this strange behavior.

It’s important to understand these causes so that it can be prevented from happening again.

Stress / Temperature

Experiencing sudden changes in temperature and stress can cause a snake to engage in self-cannibalism. Heatstroke, thermoregulation issues, and limited vision are all risk factors for such behavior. Shedding problems, starvation risk, psychological issues, or old age may also lead to hypermetabolism, which further increases the likelihood of stress-induced self-cannibalism.

To prevent it from happening, one must ensure the snake’s habitat is comfortable with sufficient heat and cooling options, as well as regular feeding times. Creating an ideal environment without disruption will help reduce any potential risks.

Additionally, monitoring body temperatures during shedding season is key for reducing the chance of snakes experiencing heatstroke.

Metabolism / False Hunger

If your snake is engaging in self-cannibalism, it could be a sign of metabolic or false hunger issues. Hypermetabolism and restricted vision can lead to confusion when snakes can’t differentiate between their own body parts and prey.

Heat sources may also cause hyperactivity that leads to self-cannibalistic behavior as the snake’s predatory instinct is stimulated by increased warmth.

Additionally, a psychological disorder due to stress can trigger feeding responses even when there are no food sources present. This results in false hunger, causing the snake to eat its own tail. Venom antibodies neutralizing a species’ venom means they won’t die from biting themselves, but they should still seek help promptly if this occurs.

Other health risks, such as shock, remain present with self-cannibalism behaviors for all species prone to it.

Confusion / Disorientation

Disorientation can cause a snake to engage in self-cannibalism, which manifests as confused behavior. It can be caused by blindness or instinctive suppression due to psychological trauma or environmental disruption.

Medical illness, living in a small tank, and mistaken identity when feeding are all potential causes of disorientation too.

Which Snakes Eat Themselves?

Which Snakes Eat Themselves
You may be wondering, which snakes eat themselves? Generally speaking, any snake can potentially engage in self-cannibalism. However, it is most common among small species and those living in captivity due to their limited feeding options and inability to regulate temperature.

Disruptions like the shedding process or changes within the enclosure assessment can also trigger this behavior. When it comes to venomous bites on one’s own tail or species they are able to neutralize its effect through antibodies created by their bodies.

Another myth associated with self-cannibalism is that of the hoop snake – a creature from North American folklore said to roll itself into a circle while chasing its prey and bite itself on the tail out of anger when unsuccessful!

To prevent such an occurrence, proper tank size should be provided along with appropriate heat/cooling sources for thermoregulation. Additionally, regular feeding habits as well as dealing with potential stressors must be addressed if needed.

No matter what type of snake you have in your care, taking necessary steps will ensure that incidents involving eating oneself don’t happen again!

Can I Prevent My Snake From Ever Eating Its Own Tail?

Can I Prevent My Snake From Ever Eating Its Own Tail
By creating a comfortable environment, you can help ensure your snake never has to experience the disconcerting act of self-cannibalism. To reduce fear and manage stress levels, provide ample space for movement with an enclosure size fitting their species.

Also, ensure temperature regulation through heat lamps or mats during the daytime and cooler areas at night.

Ensure proper food sources are in place, such as defrosted prey that mimic wild prey like rodents. Additionally, monitor shedding stages closely to avoid confusion, which may lead them to attempt eating themselves out of hunger or distress due to vision problems.

Be aware of myths such as the Hoop Snake legend from Northern American folklore or symbolism associated with Ouroboros – continuity and rebirth.

What Should I Do if I Find My Snake Eating Itself?

What Should I Do if I Find My Snake Eating Itself
If you find your snake engaging in self-cannibalism, act quickly and decisively. It’s important to understand the root cause of this behavior so that it can be addressed properly.

The most common causes are reactive behavior due to a small brain, problems with thermoregulation or overheating causing hypermetabolism, hunger and starvation during shedding blindness or confusion, limited vision in small tanks leading to suppressed hunting instinct, as well as illness or old age.

The risk of getting stuck while swallowing, paired with backwards pointing teeth hindering release, makes these behaviors very dangerous for snakes.

To prevent such occurrences, provide an appropriate environment with proper heat/cooling options, adequate light-dark cycles, enough space suitable for the species, along with regular feeding times. All of this should be accompanied by minimal noise exposure and handling sessions when necessary.

Take special care if dealing with venomous snakes, since they have antibodies to neutralize their own venom, making them safe even if biting themselves on purpose!

Myths about tail eating persist, but understanding snake’s stimulus response reactions leads us closer towards mastery and control over our reptilian friends’ health and safety, both physically and psychologically, especially in captivity situations.

Rooted in Myth: Ouroboros and Hoop Snakes

Rooted in Myth: Ouroboros and Hoop Snakes
Exploring the ancient ouroboros and hoop snake folklore can give you insight into the deeper meaning behind a snake’s self-cannibalism. It is believed that snakes eating themselves symbolize liminality and rebirth, which could explain why this behavior occurs in certain circumstances.

Snakes may mistake their own tail for prey due to thermal regulation issues or neurological causes. They may also experience confusion when shedding skin or have limited vision in small tanks. Hoop snakes have been part of Northern American folklore for centuries, while cobras are known to practice self-biting out of predatory instinct within their cultural context.

So next time you see your pet snake engaging in this unsettling behavior, it’s important to look beyond biology.

  1. Liminality
  2. Cultural Context
  3. Predatory Instinct
  4. Neurological Causes

Strange Snake Behaviors: Trauma and Distress, or Simply a Mistake

Strange Snake Behaviors: Trauma and Distress, or Simply a Mistake
Though snakes may seem to be acting on their own accord, strange behaviors such as self-cannibalism can indicate underlying issues. In fact, studies suggest that up to 98% of cases are caused by stress or physical trauma.

Shedding confusion and thermoregulation problems could cause a snake’s brain chemistry to become confused and overwhelmed, leading it into an episode of self-ingestion.

Venomous sea snakes have even been known to possess immunity towards their own venom should they bite themselves. However, this same trait does not apply for bites from other species. Therefore, proper environment control is important when keeping dangerous snakes in Hawaii or the Mekong River region, where monster snake discoveries are becoming more common every year due to its vastness and diversity.

Moreover, psychological disorders triggered by stress can also affect a snake’s behavior, which will need clinical intervention if left untreated. It is also important to make sure that myths surrounding symbolism do not lead one astray regarding actual facts about these creatures’ biology.

Snake venom effects vary depending on what type of animal was bitten, yet all must be taken seriously no matter how small the creature appears at first glance.

In other words, prompt action is necessary if any kind of abnormal behavior occurs. Swift veterinarian help should always be sought out immediately before things spiral out of control.

What Happens When a Snake Eats Itself?

What Happens When a Snake Eats Itself
When it comes to snakes eating themselves, there are a number of possible causes. These range from thermoregulation issues and hypermetabolism due to overheating to psychological stress and even hunger or confusion during shedding.

It’s important that snake owners understand the risks associated with self-cannibalism in order to prevent such behavior in their pet reptile.

Problems With Thermoregulation

You may have heard of snakes that engage in self-cannibalism, but it’s important to understand the issues with thermoregulation that can lead to this unsettling behavior.

Poor temperature control due to metabolic issues and shedding difficulties are some of the common problems associated with snake cannibalization. In addition, limited vision in small tanks may contribute as well. These conditions combined can create a stressful environment for snakes, which leads them into a state where they’re more likely to resort to eating themselves as an outlet for their frustration and confusion.

To prevent such incidents from occurring, regular maintenance of your pet snake’s habitat is essential. This includes proper light-dark cycles and appropriate temperatures, while providing adequate space for movement within its tank or enclosure.

Seek vet help promptly if you believe your pet has engaged in self-cannibalizing behavior, so they can get the necessary treatment right away before further harm ensues.


Sweltering temperatures can cause your snake’s metabolism to skyrocket, potentially leading them to eat themselves. This is known as hypermetabolism, and it often happens when a snake is exposed to extreme heat or cold shock for too long.

Vision loss due to old age or illness may also be a contributing factor in some cases. Limited space in small tanks where snakes are unable to properly orientate their bodies can also contribute to hypermetabolism.

To prevent this from occurring, make sure that the environment of your pet reptile remains comfortable and consistent. Provide suitable heating and cooling options while monitoring light-dark cycles carefully.


Stress can lead to snakes engaging in self-cannibalism, a shocking and unsettling behavior. Confinement stress is caused by feeling trapped or enclosed, while handling stress occurs when the snake senses danger in being touched.

Both are major contributors to this issue. Fear response due to environmental changes, such as light levels, may also spur it on. Finally, captivity itself can create undue pressure if not provided with adequate mental stimulation and appropriate living conditions, which cause an elevated fear response over time.

To prevent it from happening, provide plenty of space for movement along with diverse enrichment activities that will ease its mind and body alike, so no urge arises for coping mechanisms like self-eating out of distressful situations.


When your snake is deprived of food, it can lead to hunger-induced self-cannibalism. Eating patterns and age factors have an effect on this behavior, as well as sight issues in smaller tanks. Stress and mental health are also at play when a snake eats itself due to the disruption of their regular eating habits or environmental changes like climate control.

To prevent such actions, ensure proper feeding schedules with appropriate portions for their size. Provide adequate space in tanks or enclosures that suit the species’ needs. Maintain suitable temperatures within its range of comfortability.

Create light/dark cycles that fit into its natural diurnal patterning. Finally, limit handling stressors and noise exposure while observing any signs of unusual behaviors from your pet reptile companion.


Confusion during shedding can cause a snake to mistakenly attempt to consume itself, so ensure proper light-dark cycles and limit handling. To avoid this dangerous behavior, provide the right environment: heat regulation for thermoregulation; a spacious tank so tail swallowing isn’t confused with food; regular feeding cycles; and appropriate cooling options.

Venomous snakes will be protected by their own venom immunity when trying to eat themselves, as well as when biting another of their species.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often do snakes eat themselves?

Self-cannibalism in snakes is rare, yet it can happen. To understand how often this occurs, you must consider the cause and environment of the snake. Understanding these factors will help prevent such behavior and maintain a healthy reptilian pet.

Are there any medical consequences of a snake eating itself?

Yes, there are medical consequences to a snake eating itself. In fact, studies have shown that up to one-third of all snakes who engage in self-cannibalism die from the experience due to suffocation, blood loss, and infection.

Is there any way to identify a snake that is likely to eat itself?

Identifying a snake likely to eat itself can be difficult, but look for signs of stress or illness. Check the environment and feeding schedule for any issues. If you notice changes in behavior, seek professional help promptly to minimize the risk.

Are there any snake species that are more likely to engage in self-cannibalism?

Certain snake species may be more likely to engage in self-cannibalism due to their small brains, thermoregulation problems, or suppressed hunting instinct. Hunger and confusion during shedding can also increase the risk. Monitor your pet’s behavior for signs of distress and take prompt action if necessary.

Are there any other animals that engage in self-cannibalism?

Despite self-cannibalism being an unsettling behavior, it’s not just snakes that engage in this. In fact, some insects and amphibians are known to participate in the same practice. But by understanding the causes and taking prompt action when needed, you can help minimize the risk of your pet snake becoming a victim of its own instincts.


No matter how strange it may seem, it’s true: some snakes do engage in self-cannibalism. Understanding why snakes eat themselves is key to preventing it. Stress, metabolism, disorientation, and other factors can all play a role.

To minimize the risk of this strange behavior, you should provide your snake with a comfortable, spacious environment. Keep its temperature and light-dark cycles regulated. Make sure it’s fed regularly and adequately.

If you do find your snake attempting to eat itself, take immediate action to cool it down and seek professional help. Although it may seem bizarre, snakes eating themselves is a real issue that can be prevented with the right knowledge and care.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a passionate author in the snake pet niche, with a deep love for these scaly companions. With years of firsthand experience and extensive knowledge in snake care, Mutasim dedicates his time to sharing valuable insights and tips on His warm and engaging writing style aims to bridge the gap between snake enthusiasts and their beloved pets, providing guidance on creating a nurturing environment, fostering bonds, and ensuring the well-being of these fascinating creatures. Join Mutasim on a journey of snake snuggles and discover the joys of snake companionship.