Why Do Snakes Eat Themselves? The Weird Thing You Need To Know

snake eating itself
snake eating itself

When I first heard about snakes eating themselves. It sounded very absurd and dumb to me. So when I fact-checked it with a herpetologist, it turned out to be true. And here is the reason why snakes eat themselves?

When a snake’s body gets too hot, their metabolism rate increases quickly which leads to agitation, and disorientation in their nervous system. This drastic change causes stress and a false urge of hunger. Due to this snake attack their own tail by confusing it with prey and end up eating themselves. 

As snakes are ectothermic, their body is unable to regulate their internal temperature. Thus snakes need to depend on an external source of heat to keep their body warm. As snakes are unable to sweat as we humans do, if they get too hot they need to find a shade or water to cool them down. 

If these things are not available in their habitat then they can get agitated due to excess heat. This can cause a false sense of hunger which leads to attacking themselves.  

However, this incidence of Autocannibalism tends to occur more with the snakes living in captivity. And particularly with the species of the snakes that prey on other snakes.

Snakes like king snakes, and rat snakes, when held in captivity in a small enclosure can misunderstand their tail as other snakes and end up eating themselves.  

Other than this, the odor of prey on the snake’s body can also confuse them and they can end up attacking themselves. 

This is really absurd, but a very serious concern as a snake can cause serious damage once it begins to eat himself. This agitation can lead to some serious consequences to the life of a snake. And here is what you need to know about it.

What happens if a snake tries to eat itself?

If your pet snake ever tries to do this then it can turn out to be a bizarre experience for you. As they can get into some serious trouble, once they start swallowing themselves.

When a snake starts to Auto-cannibalise it will swallow its body to a point where further consumption will not be possible. The snake will not be able to regurgitate, and the enzymes present in the guts will start digesting the organs. This will lead to fatal damage to the body and possibly result in death.

If human intervention is not done at the right time then it can lead to the death of the snake. As the teeth of the snakes are pointed inward it will pierce their outer scales thus making it very difficult for them to regurgitate. This will cause deep wounds and loss of blood leading to death. Other than this the snakes can also suffocate to death while trying to eat themselves.

A snake eating itself is called ouroboros in Greek. Which also represent an eternal cycle of renewing oneself.

As a snake eating themselves is a very absurd thing. Sometimes people get curious that does a snake disappears if they end up eating themselves.

Can a snake eat itself and disappear?

snake eating its own tail
snake eating its own tail

A snake eating itself till it disappears sounds a little funny as a question as the possibility of such a thing is not viable at all and the reason is this:-

A snake cannot disappear by eating itself, because after consuming itself to a certain extent the snake will start suffocating and the internal organs will begin to rupture causing blood loss and death.  

After a certain point, the snake will not be able to swallow its body further and will probably get stuck. Causing death either due to suffocation, organ failure, or loss of blood due to the digestion of internal organs. So it will not be possible through any means for a snake to eat itself and disappear. They will not be able to eat themselves whole but will probably die while trying.

But if you found your pet snake eat itself then you must act instantly as this can cause some fatal injuries and even death. To help you out in this I have mentioned further in this article what you need to do if your pet snake is eating itself. 

Snakes also tends to attack themselves during shedding. Because while shedding they suffer from opaque vision and confuse their tail with a prey.

Things you need to do if your snake is eating itself

Finding your pet snake chowing on itself could be a terrifying nightmare for you. But its not too late, you can probably save your pet snake from ending his life by following these steps:-

  • First of all, remove any source of heat such as heat lamps or heat pads from the enclosure of your pet snake.
  • Mist the snake with cold water to alleviate the stress and reduce the body temperature of the snake.
  • Rush to the veterinarian if the condition is serious and none of the above steps work.

To avoid such an incident you must take necessary steps for your pet snakes.

  • Provide an appropriate size of enclosure relevant to the size of your snake.
  • The enclosure must consist of a hot and a cold place so the snake could easily regulate its body temperature.
  • Provide a water basin, wide enough for your pet snake to soak.
  • Supply with an adequate amount of food consistently to your pet snake
  • Avoid too much handling especially during the process of shedding.
  • Take special care if you have kept snakes like king snake, hognose or rat snakes as they tend to attach themselves more.

This Steps could help you from getting around such incidents. As snakes are not too intelligent creatures they can end up getting into such kind of trouble.


There is no sufficient study that shows the exact reason for this behavior. But these are the most certain reasons due to which a snake ends up eating itself. However, a snake eating itself is a rare phenomenon and there is very little chance of such an occurrence with you. 

Related questions

what happens if a snake bites itself?

As snakes have evolved their immune system they have developed antibodies for their own venom. Thus snake will not die from biting itself. Although the injury caused due to biting can lead to infection and result in death.