The Secret Lives of Pet Snakes

If you’ve been bitten by your snake, it might be because you smell nice. Many snakes detest perfumes, according to Paulette Cooper, author of “227 Secrets Your Snake and Lizard Wants You To Know” (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA, 1999; $8.95). Who knows, if you do get bitten by a venomous snake – if you don’t die from the poison, it could mean you won’t get certain kinds of cancer. Researchers have identified a protein in snake venom (called contortrostatin) that seems to inhibit the growth of tumors.

Commonly kept snakes – all non-venomous snakes – are actually being bred for their gentle temperaments, all enjoying human companionship and attention. These snakes solicit being handled, and seem to enjoy gentle back scratches.

Due to both overfeeding and a lack of exercise, many captive snakes become obese. Researchers at the University of California are experimenting with a solution for this problem, a treadmill designed for snakes. There’s already a treadmill on the market for dogs – so why not snakes?

Cooper also writes that snakes have their own taste in music. It seems they can feel the vibrations, and sometimes they like it, other times they get angry. One woman reported her snake slithered around frantically to the group Nine Inch Nails. Another owner reported that when he “jammed,” his snake would defecate. One answer to the problem might be to place the snake enclose on computer mouse pads, which apparently absorbs the vibrations – or stop playing music that’s offensive to snakes. No word on whether Tipper Gore favors rating some music as snake-friendly.

Perhaps the answer can lie in “Pet Music,” a three-pack of cd’s created to soothe anxious pets. “I know our music can relax dogs, cats and gerbils – so why not snakes?,” says Daniel Rappoport, president of Incentive Media, Inc. in Ambler, Pa., which manufactures Pet Music. The trio of cd’s offers soothing environment sounds in a new age symphony. Rappoport figured if music can really relax children, as some researchers now suggest, why not pets, even cold-blooded pets.

Arguably veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman is the nation’s leading authority on separation anxiety. He’s the author of a book titled for a dog with just that condition, “The Dog Who Loved Too Much,” (Bantam Books, New York, N.Y., 1996; $22.95). “Certainly hearing something instead of silence is something I’ve long recommended,” he says. “Silence can be disconcerting. Still, I’m not convinced that turning on the TV or even better, a recording of household sounds with the members of the household on tape, isn’t a better choice. But it’s possible there is something to this soothing music. ” As for music soothing excited snakes, Dodman says, “I have no idea.”

The Pet Music cd 3-pack is $19.95 and available through or

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