Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, my girls grew up and moved out and I filled the empty nest with rabbits. The rabbits died before their time was up and I got so upset that I said I wouldn’t have any more pets… Then I got Pollyanna.
Pollyanna is a Lesser Platinum royal python and although she didn’t come to live with me until October in 2015, she was already three months old, born on 24th July. She was a birthday present from Youngest Daughter, and unlike the rabbits, with a good wind behind her, Pollyanna could live for up to 45 years… so in theory, when I’m an old lady in my nineties I’ll still have a snake for a pet.
Of course, being my pet, you really wouldn’t expect Pollyanna to be a normal snake would you. When I first got her, they said she would need time to settle in and that she would be very territorial about her vivarium … her viv, her little place in the world, her safe place … I think I gave her at least two days before I started playing with her inside her viv so she’s more than happy to share it with me.
Snakes, like other reptiles, are cold blooded so are unable to regulate their own body heat. I, on the other hand, am most definitely warm blooded. Also bear in mind that when she arrived about five years ago, I was already one of “those women” at “that age”, and when Polyanna came out to play, she was more than happy to take advantage of me having the odd “power surge” and settled herself quite comfortably into my sleeve on most occasions. With the amount of time she spent sharing my jumper, Pollyanna soon considered my scent to notify a “safe place” .
Royal pythons are notoriously picky eaters. They eat when they feel like it, and if for some reason they don’t feel like it then they can quite happily not eat again for months at a time until they do feel like it again. I had done quite a lot of research so when Pollyanna decided to have her first fast I was ready for it. I wasn’t worried, I was concerned yes, but not worried. She fasted for seventeen weeks, and when she finally ate again, I was very relieved.
SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU’RE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH HOW SNAKES FEED……
Pollyanna eats rats, not live rats, (to be honest as she was born in captivity if she encountered a live rat, I’m not too sure who would come off best) I buy her rats from the petshop, specially bred, humanely killed, and frozen so that I just have to defrost them and warm them up… Its a bit like you going to Iceland for a steak. I have only ever given Pollyanna one rat at a time and she’s learned that once she’s had one, there isn’t another one coming so I can quite happily poke around in the viv change the water etc without her mistaking my hand for more lunch. Rats are boring, there are much more interesting foods I could give her for treats or to entice her to break a fast, but rats have the complete range of goodness and vitamins Pollyanna needs and long as she keeps eating rats for me I’m not about to introduce something nicer… be honest, would you be happy eating porridge everyday once you’d tasted cake ?
MOVE ON AGAIN HERE IF YOU’RE SQUEEMISH ABOUT FEEDING TIMES …
I find the way Polyanna feeds fascinating, I still sit and watch her everytime. First of all she strikes at her food … “BAM! … Then she hold it tightly in her jaws and wraps her body tightly around it until it stops moving (which isn’t for very long because it stop moving as soon as I let go) … if she’s caught the right place then she’ll keep it in her mouth, if not, then she’ll let go and look for the head, then the amazing bit starts.
She dislocates her jaw and stretches her mouth open to get as much in as possible before using the muscles of her neck to pull the food further in. Have you ever tried to thread a piece of elastic through a hem by fixing it to a safetypin, then crumpling as much of the hem as you can onto one end of the safety pin before pulling it off the other end ? Well, this is the motion Pollyanna uses to swallow her food. As the food moves from her head to her stomach, it passes through the narrowest part of her body and the surrounding skin stretches so much that you can see each separate scale as she swallows…
Just as you wouldn’t buy a full size steak for a child, Pollyanna started off with tiny rats and has now reached a the size of a medium rat. I wouldn’t expect her to need anything bigger because she’s done most of her growing. She eats about once every three to four weeks. I very seldom keep a record of feeding days now because she usually let’s me know she’s hungry by being up and about at the wrong time of day, or by being especially active overnight … in which case Hubby let’s me know because she’s kept him awake.
Pollyanna is often to be found sitting in her bowl of water. She has a new game at the moment where she climbs up to the ceramic heating bulb (housed in a cage to prevent any direct contact and burning), she wraps herself around the cage … and then let’s go, landing in her water bowl with a splash. She wears her skin until she considers it dirty or until its too small from her, then she “sheds” it, and leaves it in the viv for me to pick up like a pile of dirty washing. The first sign of her shedding is she will hide away, I’m sure if she could she would put up a “do not disturb” sign outside her hide.
At this point, I usually check on her to see whats up, and if I pick her up and turn her over I’ll be able to see her underside, her belly, is a pale shade of pink. Her skin in general will start to look darker and a lot less shiny, and then her eyes cloud over to a bluey grey colour. I’ve already mentioned that her water bowl is beneath the heater, this seems to make for the right amount of water to evaporate for a comfortable humidity. When she sheds, Pollyanna needs the viv to be a little more humid than normal for her skin to come off cleanly. When the time is right, she will rub her mouth on a surface until the skin comes away from her head . Then she will spend as long as it takes rubbing herself around the viv until the whole skin rolls back on itself and gets disguarded like a rolled up dirty sock.
Its generally accepted that when your python is about to shed then you do not disturb them, but Pollyanna isn’t a normal royal python, she’s more of a hamster in disguise and just before she sheds is when she’s at her cuddliest. She knows I’m a safe place even then so she just snuggles in and puts up with me.
One question, until last year, I would definitely say no to is “has Pollyanna ever bitten me ?” 2020 was a year ov many firsts, and the first time I was bitten by Pollyanna was one of them. She was tucked away in her hide and I hadn’t seen her out and about for a while so went in to check on her. I quietly slid open the glass viv door, reached in and lifted the hide straight up off her before she had a chance to spread out and cling onto it. She started to move away but I wanted to check her belly so I reached in to pick her up and turn her over, I didn’t catch hold of her properly and only succeeded in twisting half of her upside down. I think she hissed, and when I tried to pick her up properly gave me a little jab to tell me to go away … just a little jab , and I hardly felt it, although it did make me jump … to be fair, if you had taken away my bed and picked me up to turn me upside down, I think I would be quite within my rights to give you a little jab too.
I left Pollyanna to shed in peace, I think the jump had more of an effect on me than the bite. I’ve been told that the worst part of a snake bite is worrying about it, and to be honest I think that’s right. I was a bit nervous about Pollyanna for a little while. I played with her in the viv, unsure about trying to pick her up, I left her completely alone when she was due to shed next time, but it didn’t take long before we were friends again. My confidence soon came back and now we play just as if nothing had happened.
As you can see, I sent off a picture of Polyanna to have made into a jigsaw. I chose a 1000 piece puzzle as I enjoy a challenge, and the standard size 1000 piece puzzle fits on my puzzle board nicely. I was expecting the puzzle to be difficult to do, but I hadn’t counted on the quality of the picture. When I ordered it, the manufacturer gave it a full five stars for the quality so it was plenty big enough to make the puzzle, however, when the picture is blown up big enough to print on the jigsaw, there is slightly more blurring than the size of the picture on the box so following exact lines from the picture wasn’t going to happen. But all’s well that ends well, I picked out all the pieces where Polyanna joined the black background and used that as my starting point, working outwards to the edge instead of inwards from it and once I worked out a plan, the 1000 pieces came together nicely… very slowly but very nicely.
More from before: “Pollyanna“, my pet Python.