Fast they call it ! FAST !
Both Pollyanna and I seem to have survived the longest seventeen weeks of her little life so far.
Pollyanna didn’t eat for a full seventeen weeks, and only at random intervals for the two months or so before that too so I’ve been doing my mother hen impression again. Actually I thought I did pretty well, I was sort of expecting it, I’m on a Facebook group for Royal Pythons and Friends and although I don’t contribute very often, and just as often haven’t a clue what they’re talking about, I do listen to what they’re saying and was quite prepared for Pollyanna to have a fasting period as I watched other pythons doing the same thing for similar reasons.
From what I’ve learned, royal pythons are notoriously bad eaters. If they can find any possible reason to stop eating, they will. Even if your husbandry (that’s a strange new word I’ve been hearing a lot of – I sort of take it to mean keeping house properly – as if looking after a Husband in the correct manner. I’ll have to ask Mr Google what it really means but for my purposes I think my understanding of the word stands up pretty well) even if your husbandry is correct then they can still fast for a multitude of different reasons. Stress is one of the biggest factors. They get stressed for any reason they can possibly think of, Pollyanna didn’t eat when she first came to me because of the stress of moving house – new home – new environment – new me. Then there’s the pre-shed period when she’s pretty vulnerable when the skin loosens over her eyes and she can’t see too well, not to mention the uncomfort she must be feeling in a suit of clothes too small for her.
It took a while but she got used to these things, and since I didn’t really leave her alone to settle as I guess I was supposed to, she got used to me being there when her stressful times arrived, I would take her out for a cuddle at times when she didn’t really want to play, she soon found my sleeve as a comfortable warm place to watch the world go by from. Sometimes I would stand for ages just playing with her inside her viv and so she doesn’t get at all territorial when I’m around. I don’t know if you can train a royal python, but I guess since even cats can be taught I gave it a go and she learned that dinner arrives after the picnic blanket (a folded sheet of baking parchment placed on top of the wood chippings I use for her bedding). In this way I hope she’s less likely to mistake me for food when I’m pottering about with her things in the viv, changing the water, cleaning up her dirty washing etc. I’ve only ever fed her one item of food at a time, some people feed a number of small meals in one go, especially for some of the very picky eaters, but I was lucky that Pollyanna arrived with me already weaned onto rats. Frozen, and defrosted and slightly heated rats at that. Rats are the most boring food for a royal python, but the most balanced diet with, I gather, pretty much the best amount of everything they need. By only feeding her one rat at a time though, I’ve taught her that once she’s swallowed her meal, there’s no point waiting around to try and eat whatever next comes into the viv which is quite a good thing really, because whatever comes next into the viv is usually me to take away the picnic blanket and re-arrange the furniture. I’ve usually already changed the water as she likes to go straight for a drink after dinner, I think I’d probably want a drink after dinner if my dinner was furry too.
Ok, I think we’ve established that she wasn’t stressed, and my husbandry, although probably not perfect didn’t change, I didn’t do anything different, so why did she decide to stop eating.
Well, from what I’ve been watching and listening to, I gather her weight might have been one of the reasons. Although I didn’t change anything in Pollyanna’s set up, she did, she grew. You can see by her size on the stairs now that she’s got a nice length on her. William, Youngest Daughter’s royal python is still longer that Pollyanna, but Pollyanna was considerably rounder. I have to be honest, if this is one of the reasons and she just decided she needed to lose a few grams, I wish I had half of her willpower on my diet too. She was 920g when I weighed her after a couple of picky meals and again I gather that around 1kg is a likely time for a fast.
In Britain, the winter months are breeding season for royals and again, I gather they are likely to fast at this time too. I’ve no intention of finding Pollyanna a mate. Royal pythons are solitary and so she doesn’t need a friend for the company, quite the opposite, they’re quite likely to fight and cause more harm and stress than would be good for either of them. Although there’s no male about – she hasn’t met William – I don’t expect her biological clock to be at all considerate while it continues ticking.
One last factor stepped into the equation at the same time at the other two… the weather. Now this I’m not even going to pretend to understand, I would guess that the thermostat and the ceramic heater in her viv would keep the temperature the same as she’s been used to all along, but apparently the weather has as much to do with the air pressure as it does the temperature.
Since I personally hadn’t changed anything, I really didn’t know what to do to change whatever had happened back again. I just carried on as I would have, offering dinner once a week as normal, she showed little or no interest at all, sniffing at the offering, and then pulling away and skulking off into a corner. Apart from not eating, she seemed normal in every other way, just as active, just as cuddly before a shed – which I made sure went perfectly well by upping the humidity levels to help her along. I just watched and waited. I’m not sure how much longer I would have held out though.
By about the eleventh or twelfth week I dropped feeding down a size and offered a little less that weekly as it was suggested this might be adding stress but finally two weeks ago she showed a little interest and after a little persevering she took dinner from the tongs and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Last week I offered again and she still needed a little coaxing, but there was none of this pulling away and hiding in a corner malarkey, she even came straight back out of her coil when I accidently dropped her dinner on her head.
And so, she’s due another feed, I’ve taken advice and will put her back up to the large weaner size rat, I weighed her last night and although she really looks a lot slimmer to me, she has only actually lost 80g since her January weigh-in which seems quite a small amount in the large story. She’s definitely kept growing, and her extra length would probably explain why she looks thinner than just 80g, but I won’t bother her with the tapemeasure for now, she’s coming up to her second birthday in July so I’ll make a note of her vital statistics then.
In the meantime, fingers crossed for tonight’s feed.
More from before : Playing with “Pollyanna“, my pet python.