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RIDLEY'S RAT SNAKE Caresheet
Common Name: Cave Dweller, Cave Dwelling Snake, Cave Racer, Ridley’s Racer, Ridley’s Rat Snake
Scientific Name: Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi
Origin: Southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia
Size: 4-6 feet
Lifespan: 15-25 years
You will find many ways on the internet on "how to" take care of this animal. This care sheet is showing the way we found works best for us from our many years of experience of caring for this species.
As one of the common names suggest, Cave Dwelling Snakes live in caves in Thailand and Malaysia, although they can venture outside the caves too. Your baby snake can start out in enclosures as small as 10 gallons. At around a year old, you can increase the size of the enclosure. There are several kinds that work, e.g., glass aquariums, snake racks, or any of the commercially available, molded plastic-type reptile cages. For a yearling, you can step up to an enclosure that is at least 12 x 30 inches (like Zilla critter cage 20 Long) or go to the adult enclosure size. Adult Cave Dwellers can be in a 2’ x 3’ size, though something larger is even better.
If you use a glass tank, you'll want to provide a humid hide--that is a hide that has some damp moss in it for extra humidity. A snake will feel more secure if there is a hide for it on both the cool and warm sides of the enclosure (more about that in the heating section).
Cave Dwellers are good climbers on cave walls, so it's important to place a branch or driftwood piece inside your tank for them to crawl on. Leaf cover or other “protection” is also recommended.
They're skilled escape artists. It's extremely important that your top is clipped or locked to the tank to prevent them from getting out.
You can use many types of bedding for your snake. The ones that help hold humidity are Zoo Med repti bark, Zilla jungle mix, Zoo Med eco earth, and Zoo Med forest floor. Spot clean the bedding whenever they defecate. You should only need to clean the whole thing out about once a month. Disinfect the enclosure and change out the bedding at that time. Zoo Meds wipe out or vinegar and water both work good for cage cleaning.
LIGHTING AND HEAT
Because Cave Dwellers are native to Southeast Asia, they like it warm. Although they need to be able to cool off if they want to. Like all reptiles, they are dependent on external thermoregulation to control their body temperature. This essentially means you need to provide a hot side and a cool side to your enclosure. All the heat elements should be on one side and the other will then be the cool side. This way your snake can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs.
The hot side basking spot should be at 85-88 degrees. Put one hide there and another hide on the cool side. The cooler side can be between 75-80 degrees. At night, it can drop down to 72 ambient temperature. It's a good idea to use a basking light and an under tank heat pad also. The heat pads are usually placed on the hot side with a hide over it. We recommend a Zoo Med heat mat or Exo Terra heat pad that stays on 24/7 to give them a little bit of supplemental heat during the night. Both of these are placed on the outside, underneath the enclosure. You want a heat pad that only covers half the tank (or less). The basking light should be housed in a good quality light dome like Exo Terra and Flukers that has a ceramic housing to tolerate high heat and an on/off switch.
Use a good quality temperature gauge, like Zoo Meds digital temp gauge or Exo Terras Thermometer to figure out the temperatures in your enclosure. Don't guess at it. You can also use a rheostat and/or timers to control your heat source. We do not recommend the use of hot rocks. They have a tendency to heat unevenly over too small an area and can cause serious burns.
Keep a non-porous water bowl in with your Cave Dweller and make sure they always have clean water. Exo Terras water bowls or Flukers water bowls are good decorative choices or a good ceramic crock dish. Scrub the bowl at least once a week to keep bacteria slime from building up. If you maintain a humidity level of 70-80%, your snake will be able to shed properly. Hand misters are usually sufficient, but if you don't care to remember to mist the cage, an automatic mister like the Exo Terra monsoon or the Zoo Med fogger are nice options.
Do not handle your Cave Dweller for several hours before it's fed. We do recommend feeding in its own enclosure. Feeding in its home will not make your snake more aggressive or associate you with food. If you are worried about your pet associating food with you, get yourself a good snake hook for when you take the snake out. Gently hook your pet out of its enclosure when you want to hold it. Check out these hooks: Exo Terra collapsible hook for babies and larger hooks for adults. Using a snake hook will greatly reduce the chances of you being bit from a feeding response. If you don't have a hook and are still worried about picking up your snake, reach around and pick your snake up from behind, rather than from the front. This way your hand is not coming at his face.
1 rodent of appropriate size once a week. This means the girth of the rodent should not exceed the girth of the snake (at it's biggest point, not his neck size) Some people say you can give them rodents 1 1/2 times as big as the girth of the snake. However, we have found that snakes eat better and tend not to skip meals if you don't exceed their girth. Do not handle your snake for at least 24 hours after it has eaten.
Snakes in general tend not to eat when they are in shed. Just wait to feed until it sheds.
Cave Dwelling Snakes that are handled regularly when young are well acclimated to humans and are not aggressive. But can be "moody" some days and not want to be messed with.
When holding your pet, always remember to support your snakes body. Once it realizes that you will not hurt it, it often seem to enjoy being handled. Relax and give your snake time to get used to you. Avoid touching the top of your snake's head. Unless it knows and trusts you, touching the top of the head will cause it to jerk away from the touch. This is called being "head shy." The fast movement of the snake tends to scare a lot of new snake owners.
Give your pet at least a day to settle in to its new home before handling. Start slow and gradually increase the amount of time you have your snake out. Remember your new pet's life is in your hands. So please take care of it properly.