Reptiles eat many living creatures in the wild but in captivity our food options are pretty limited. Mice and rats are most commonly fed to pet reptiles and the debate of whether or not to feed live prey is a hot topic in the reptile community.

Prey Options

Feeder mice, rats, fuzzies and pinkies are the typical rodent prey options for pet reptiles. Sometimes anoles, guinea pigs, rabbits, and chicks are used for variety and size options but the everyday pet owner doesn’t have the finances or resources to feed such options to their pets.

Feeding Live Mice and Rats

Fuzzies and pinkies are not capable of causing harm to a pet reptile so these are still often fed live but most people will discourage reptile owners from offering live adult mice and rats to your pet.

Live mice and rats have sharp teeth that can deliver a nasty bite to your pet. If your reptile misses when striking, doesn’t kill on the first strike, or the mouse or rat is left in with your pet you risk the chance of your reptile getting an injury. Snakes are especially prone to injuries from live prey since they lack any sort of harder scales like many lizards (like monitors) possess.

How to Reduce Risk of Injury to Your Reptile

Of course not feeding live prey will ensure your reptile never gets injured by his food. But not every reptile will eat a freshly stunned or killed mouse or rat, or a frozen and thawed rodent like they will eat live food.

If you must feed live food to your pet make sure you never take your eyes off of the rodent. Never leave the mouse or rat in the feeding tank or home enclosure with your reptile unsupervised. If your reptile doesn’t eat it in 15 or so minutes remove it from where your reptile is.

By not purchasing a wild-caught reptile you can also reduce the likelihood of them not wanting pre-killed prey to eat.

Tips for Getting Your Reptile to Eat Pre-Killed Prey

If your reptile refuses to eat thawed, frozen rats or mice or even a freshly stunned or killed rodent, try using long forceps to wiggle the rodent in front of your pet. This will mimic the rodent’s movements when it was still living and perhaps trick your reptile into thinking it is still alive.

Other tricks that work for some pets are to soak the dead prey in chicken broth (to enhance the scent of the food), make a small slit in the rodent to allow some blood to come out, or slowly warm the prey in a cup of hot water to warm the body up as though it were still alive.

Although many people still feed live prey to their reptiles they are running the risk of causing easily avoidable injuries to their pets. Of course if feeding live food is the only way to get your reptile to eat (after exhausting all other options) they need to eat so that risk must be taken. But for people who have reptiles who will eat pre-killed prey, or have young reptiles who may not know any different, the risk of feeding live prey isn’t worth it. Plus, it is harder to find live mice and rats to feed your reptile than it is pre-killed food, unless you breed your own rodents.

By taking the appropriate steps to protect your pet from his own food you can make sure you never have to feel the guilt of taking your bitten-up pet to the exotics vet with injuries that could have been prevented.

Related Articles:

Filed under: Reptiles Foods & Feeding