Gray rat snake, Pantherophis spiloides

Origin: Central US

Size: 3-6 feet

Lifespan: 10-20 years

Basking Temperature: 85 degrees

Cool End Temperature: 75-79 degrees

Humidity:  50-60%

Substrate: Aspen, coco chip, cypress

Baby enclosure size: 20″ x 10″ x 10″

Adult enclosure size: 3’ x 2’ x 1’

Difficulty: Novice

Gray rat snakes are long, slender snakes found in a wide variety of habitats throughout the central US. They’re amazingly active and adaptable, capable of climbing and swimming with ease in search of prey. In captivity, they make inquisitive and lively display animals, generally larger and more spirited than corn snakes, but with similar care and keeping.

This guide is a brief overview of basic care and minimum husbandry requirements and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to care. Our best advice:

Read, read, read! Studying about your new pet is the key to a long and happy life for them, and years of enjoyment for you.


Enclosures must be long enough for the snake to stretch out fully and exercise. Gray rat snakes do not require vines and foliage, but will climb eagerly if they are provided. Upgrade your snake’s enclosure any time they are no longer able to stretch out. As humidity is not a substantial requirement for these animals, glass aquariums with screen tops are acceptable, though they are not our recommendation.


Aspen is ideal for gray rat snakes. Coco chip or cypress are also acceptable. Gray rat snakes are generally tolerant of changes in humidity. When using aspen, remove any wet or mildewed substrate regularly.


A basking spot can be provided at one end of the enclosure regulated to 85 degrees. Ceramic heat emitters are preferable. When using heat emitters, a guard must be present and secure to avoid burns. Use a thermostat to regulate the temperature with the probe secured directly in the basing spot. Do not guess! Do not use only a thermometer. Overheating can be quickly fatal for your new pet. Basking spot may be cycled for day-night, with a constant ambient temp in the mid-70’s. Gray rat snakes do not require UV lights though they are beneficial in maintaining circadian rhythm..


Humidity is not a substantial requirement for most gray rat snakes outside of their shed cycle, although scaleless individuals may benefit from more humidity. A humid hide with damp sphagnum moss should be provided when the animal’s eyes and skin have a dusky or blue appearance. This is important for scaleless individuals in particular.


Provide your snake with a non-porous water bowl and change it frequently. Snakes frequently defecate in their water bowl, so frequent disinfection is essential. We recommend F10 Veterinary Disinfectant or original (yellow) Listerine diluted to 10% with water.


Gray rat snakes should be handled frequently from the time they are young to help develop into docile, well-socialized adults. This takes minimal effort for most gray rat snakes. Keep two hands on the snake at all times as they are extremely agile and can get away quickly. Use a firm but comfortable grip. Young snakes that are being socialized may bite. The best reaction is no reaction. Children should always be supervised when handling snakes. Do not handle them while they are in shed or right after meals.


Allow your new snake at least a week to adjust to its new habitat before feeding. Mortal Coil Serpentry supports feeding frozen feeders. Your new pet is already feeding on frozen thawed. Live feeding is not recommended. Warm frozen prey to a natural body temperature (~90 degrees). Do not feed your snake from your fingers. Present prey with tongs, holding it by the base of the tail, and wiggle gently in front of the snake. Do not handle for at least 24 hours after feeding.

Hatchlings to 2 years:

1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once per week. Mice and African Soft Furs are superior to rats of equivalent size for nutritional value.

2+ years:

1 rodent the approximate girth of the snake once every 1-2 weeks. If the snake is refusing meals ~50% of the time, adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.

The correct body shape for a gray rat snake is slender, with muscle tone visible.