Are you worried that if handled, a ball python can pee on you? If it did pee, can it harm you or the snake in some way? What should a ball python urine look like and when should you be worried for your beloved pet?
There are instances where a ball python will pee when handled. Even though most ball pythons tolerate handling, they can urinate on the handler due to stress, post-shed, and by coincidence.
Urination is an essential process for ball pythons to release wastes. But how do they urinate, and what to do if they do not? What should their pee look like? Learn all about this as you read down below!
In some cases, ball pythons will release their urine when they feel stressed or threatened, which can happen during handling. Naturally shy or newly-bought ball pythons are commonly more susceptible to stress.
If your ball python peed on you when you handled it, it is possibly because they are scared. You can determine that a ball python is stressed due to their erratic movements while attempting to flee from you or not letting go of their “balling-up” defense mechanism.
Though some animals use their dung for defense, it is uncertain whether a ball python poops to flee away or because it is scared or stressed. But it’s a possibility.
Even though I have not experienced it with Choco, my ball python, many keepers share that shy or newly-bought ball python urinated on them during handling.
Others have also said that their ball python peed on them after suddenly grabbing it while resting in its hide—which I do not recommend you do.
>>Learn more about handling shy ball pythons in our article about why your ball python is head-shy
For some ball pythons, shedding is often followed by releasing wastes including urine. This is because they tend to hold back releasing wastes before and during the shedding cycle.
Fun Fact: Ball pythons can hold out on releasing their pee and poop for months at a time and are stored in their rectum located at the tail area.
Some also share that on the day their ball python finished shedding, they urinated and pooped while being handled. This can be associated with either stress or their tendency to poop after shedding.
Although not proven, some say ball pythons will pee or release other wastes after they have moved a lot.
Ball pythons remove their old skin by moving their bodies inch by inch. This is a strenuous process for them which can be considered a “mini workout.”
I also notice this behavior most of the time from my ball python. Choco leaves his poop and urates wrapped up in his shed when I spot-clean the next day.
There are also times when ball pythons urinate on their keepers by chance. This can happen in common scenarios like handling.
If they feel like peeing, ball pythons will do it even if they are being handled or not. So when your ball python peed on you, there is a chance that it really just needs to relieve itself.
So do worry if you are chilling with your ball python for 5 minutes then it suddenly peed while resting on you.
Other keepers even speculate that our body surface temperature (89°F) triggers waste release from ball pythons.
Ball pythons mainly release their urine in a solid form called urates, though it can sometimes be in liquid form as well. A ball python’s urine can be determined by 1) appearance and 2) smell.
Appearance-wise, ball python urates are hard, chalk-like chunks of uric acid with a typical white, yellow, or green coloration. While liquid urine is often yellow in color.
The urates ball pythons release is different from what you’ll see in other snakes from different families (colubrids and viperids).
A ball python’s urate is tougher and will crumble like chalk if pressed hard enough . Ball python urates must be a white-yellow coloration, having hints of green is also fine.
You should be worried if there is a strong green/black/red coloration. A fully green or black urate is a sign of a bad meal or a possibly sick ball python and should be brought to a veterinarian immediately to determine the cause.
If the urate of your ball python has spots of red in it, it can be due to a minor scratch while passing through the rectum area. If the red/ blood coloration is very pronounced, I suggest bringing it to a veterinarian to test for possible parasites and major internal injuries.
Do ball pythons have liquid pee?
Ball pythons can also have liquid pee that has the same consistency as human urine. However, their pee may sometimes have a slime-like viscosity when they are dehydrated.
Ball pythons in captivity are often found producing liquid pee due to the regular source of clean water.
A ball python’s liquid urine should be clear-yellow in coloration. It typically looks like regular human pee unless there is some blood discharge on it.
In cases of bloody urine in ball pythons, immediate veterinary care is recommended to check for possible parasites and injuries.
Ball python urine typically smells of ammonia with varying levels of intensity. Though it is often tolerable, its smell intensity will vary depending on the hydration level of the snake and substrate absorption.
Their liquid pee will smell the same as the solid ones. Some keepers also observed that the more concentrated the coloration (yellow) of their pee is, the stronger the smell will be.
Dehydrated ball pythons will release bad-smelling urates due to the high concentration of uric acid. As such, the distinct smell of ammonia will be noticeable in dehydrated ball pythons.
The smell of ball python urine can also be affected by the substrate used. Newspapers absorb but retain the smell of pee when used as a substrate.
I used newspaper when I first got Choco during the time that he lived in a temporary enclosure for a month—for quarantining. Although it is easy to clean and inexpensive, newspapers, in my experience, do not minimize the smell of waste, especially pee.
One example of an absorbent substrate is aspen shavings, which I now use. Along with good ventilation, I have not yet experienced any strong or bad smell around the enclosure.
Warning: Aspen bedding is a great substrate in naturally humid locations. But for those having humidity problems, it is not recommended as it can sap moisture and cause a lower ambient humidity.
As an all-around substrate, cypress mulch and coco-fiber products are recommended by many keepers. But if you have the budget and space, you could try out going bioactive too!
Ball pythons release pee and fecal matter in their cloaca which is an orifice that allows both solid and liquid wastes to pass through. Urination frequency varies from each individual ball python, but it is usually observed once a week or more.
Unlike most mammals, ball pythons excrete nitrogenous waste as a solid uric acid instead of a liquid form (urea). Although they can excrete urea, it will depend on whether or how hydrated they are.
Fun Fact: Excreting urates is an efficient way for ball pythons to conserve more water in their body . This is their main adaption to battle scarcity of prey and water sources to survive more than 1 month. In addition to this, they also get hydration from their prey.
They can also excrete all excrements (feces, urates, and urea) at the same time. This is why when your ball python poops, there is white/yellow, chalk-like matter along with the feces.
>>Learn more about ball python poop in our article does ball python poop smell
In regards to frequency of urination, there is no rule of thumb for ball pythons as each snake has a different diet, metabolism rate, and husbandry parameters. Some can pee 3–4 times a week, while some will only urinate twice a month.
If a ball python has not yet urinated, it is recommended to do the following:
- Check for signs of urine
- Make sure to provide clean water
- Re-assess husbandry parameters
- Observe for constipation
- Veterinary consultation
Depending on your substrate, urea is not that noticeable in comparison to urates. Besides checking the smell of the substrate, you can use a blacklight to see signs of urination.
I recommend checking the hide area and the corners of the enclosure as it is the usual spots where ball pythons defecate.
Warning: Do not shine the blacklight directly into the ball python because it might damage their eyes, especially the albino morph. Move the snake to a temporary enclosure when checking for urine.
If there is no urates/urea found, make sure to replace the water dish of your ball python at least twice a week or as soon as it’s soiled. Ball pythons can sense if the water is dirty and will refuse to drink from it.
Dehydration is one of the main causes of a ball python not being able to urinate. Even though they can absorb water through their skins, they still need to drink from it to efficiently rehydrate.
The main factors for ball python urination are humidity and temperature. Humidity is important to prevent dehydration while the temperature is important to ease possible cloacal block.
The humidity and temperature must be around 60-80% and 80-90°F, respectively. These levels will allow easier passing of wastes like urates and urea to a ball python.
Ball pythons will sometimes release their feces and urine at the same time. This is why if your snake has not yet pooped, there is a chance that urates/urea has not yet been released either.
In other words, making it poop can help release possibly blocked urates. Weekly warm baths for a month are recommended to ease out the blocked cloaca.
If your snake still has a “sausage butt” even after a month of weekly warm baths, then it might be suffering from a severe case of impaction which needs assisted removal from a veterinarian.
Bloody urea/urates with a weird coloration is also a sign of parasitic infection or other illnesses. Immediate veterinary care is also recommended.
Is ball python pee dangerous?
Unless ingested, or passed through an open wound, ball python urine is not dangerous. Contact with human skin is not harmful unless the skin itself has allergies or is highly sensitive.
Do ball pythons urinate through their skin?
Ball pythons cannot urinate through their skin, instead, they pass their feces, urates, and urea in their cloaca which is an orifice near their tail area. In addition to this, ball pythons are ectotherms meaning they cannot sweat or release waste through their skin.
Ball pythons mainly pee when handled due to stress, post-shed, or by coincidence when they deem it the right time to pee. Ball python excretes mainly a solid (urates) uric acid but they can also release liquid pee (urea).
A ball python’s cloaca is their main passageway for releasing wastes like urates, urea, and feces. Ball pythons also urinate at varying frequencies from each individual, with some peeing 2-3 times a week while others only do so a few times a month.
If a ball python has not yet peed, it is recommended to first check for signs of pee, then make sure to provide clean water 2-3 times a week. Next is the observation of husbandry parameters and constipation. Lastly, if mentioned steps do not work, veterinary consultation is advised.