5 Reasons Behind Ball Python Mouth Opening Behavior

Ball Pythons, like all reptiles, display many forms of interesting behavior, and part of learning to care for one of these snakes is understanding what their actions mean. So, what does it mean when your ball python is opening its mouth? 

Your ball python is opening his mouth because he’s stretching his jaw, hungry, or using Jacobson’s organ to smell something more pleasant. It could also be because he’s sick. Another cause is stretching during shedding. 

This article will cover why your snake looks like it’s yawning. Let’s get started! 

Is It Normal for Ball Pythons To Yawn?

When a ball python opens its mouth wide, you might think it’s trying to yawn. However, snakes don’t typically open their mouths when tired, and the cause is usually something else. 

This behavior, called mouth gaping, is normal if the snake doesn’t hold its mouth open for long periods. 

I’ll discuss the reasons ball pythons stretch their mouths open below: 

The Ball Python Is Stretching Its Jaw

The most common reason for ball pythons to open their mouths is to stretch their jaws before or after a meal. This is a snake’s version of stretching before and after working out. 

A snake’s upper and lower jaw bones are separate and connected by ligaments. By opening their mouths, your ball python is stretching those ligaments. After eating, the mouth gaping can also help them realign the lower jaw. 

Stretching for Shedding

Another type of stretching your snake might be doing is stretching the skin around the mouth to prepare for shedding. Shedding in snakes typically starts from their mouths and noses, where the old skin starts to peel off. 

If you notice other signs that your ball python is getting ready to shed, such as duller colors and cloudy blue eyes, there’s a high chance that opening their mouths is just another part of that.  

The Snake Is Hungry

Your ball python could also be opening their mouth to tell you it’s hungry. In this case, the reptile will likely be more active in general, moving around a lot and flicking its tongue. Pay attention to your python’s feeding schedule and see if the timing matches up.   

It’s Trying To Smell Something Better

It may seem odd, but a ball python with an open mouth might be smelling their environment. While snakes can smell through their nostrils, there’s an organ in the roof of their mouth called Jacobson’s organ, which is used for chemoreception. By opening its mouth, the snake’s tongue can catch odor particles from moist air and bring them to the organ. 

The Ball Python Is Sick

In most cases, a snake with its mouth open isn’t a cause for concern. However, if your ball python is frequently opening its mouth and keeping it open for a long time, it could be a sign it’s having trouble getting enough air into its lungs and that you need to see a vet.

Respiratory diseases are dangerous for snakes, which have two functional lungs as opposed to one in other species.

Other signs of illness to watch for include: 

  • Swelling in or around the mouth
  • Discharge around the nostrils
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite


When a ball python opens its mouth, it’s usually because it’s stretching its jaws. Other reasons include: 

  • Stretching for shedding
  • Illness
  • Hunger
  • Attempting to smell something more pleasant in the environment 

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