When you think of the sound snakes typically make, “hissing” is the first thing that comes to mind. But are there any snakes that don’t hiss? Or do all of them do?
All snakes hiss to protect themselves against predators. They also hiss if they feel threatened or want to be left alone. So if a snake makes this sound, that is your cue to stay as far away from them as possible.
In this article, I’ll explore what you need to know about why snakes hiss and which ones do this more than others. I’ll also go into some of the sounds snakes make other than hissing — some of which may surprise you.
Do Any Snakes Actually Hiss?
All snakes actually hiss, though some hiss more than others. Specifically, wild snakes hiss more than captive ones because the former has a greater risk of running into predators.
Also, smaller snakes don’t hiss as much as larger ones. That’s because the former can easily slide away into safety, while the latter doesn’t have that option. Hissing is a way for bigger snakes to appear intimidating, particularly to those that want to eat or harm them.
Why Do Snakes Hiss at You?
Snakes hiss at you when they do not feel safe. This is more common in baby pet snakes since they require a bit of time to become comfortable with your home when you bring them in for the first time.
When captive adult snakes hiss at you, it means they don’t want to be handled. This can happen for reasons that include the following.
- Your snake is about to shed. You should leave your snake be when it’s preparing to shed its skin. This process is stressful for your snake, so you want to give it time alone to get through it.
- Your snake is digesting its food. It can take days or even weeks for your snake to digest its food, depending on its type and the size of its prey. The size of its meal determines how much material its stomach needs to break down. Generally, you should wait between 24 hours to three days after your snake has eaten before you handle it again.
How Does a Snake Hiss Sound?
A snake hiss sounds like the letter “s” drawn out. To make this sound, a snake expands its ribs and inhales a deep breath before releasing the breath for a long time. The hiss is produced from the air moving through the snake’s glottis or respiratory structure.
Interestingly, snakes can adjust the volume of their hiss by pushing out more air and squeezing their ribs a bit more, according to Live Science.
Also, although snakes stick out their tongues when they hiss, the action has nothing to do with the sound at all. Instead, snakes flick their tongues out to “smell.” Keep in mind that snakes don’t have good eyesight, so they must use other senses to spot prey and evade predators.
Do Snakes Make Any Noises?
Snakes can make noises other than hissing, including growling or shrieking. The sound a snake can make depends on its species, as different snakes will make different sounds.
To give you an idea of how diverse snake sounds can be, here are a few types of snakes and the sounds they make.
- Bull snake. The bull snake makes a bellowing sound when it feels threatened. No other species of snake does this.
- King cobra. When you think of cobras, the king cobra is likely the one that comes to mind. What’s interesting about king cobra hisses is that they sound like the heavy breathing you make when you’re angry — except much more threatening and almost growly.
- Saw-scaled viper. Unlike most other snakes, saw-scaled vipers don’t hiss from their mouths. Instead, they move into an S-shape when threatened, allowing their scales to rub against each other to make a hissing sound.
- Boa constrictor. Boa constrictors make squeaking sounds when they’re nervous. Some other types of snakes also make this sound when they have a respiratory infection. (Yes, even snake lungs suffer as human ones do.)
- Pine snake. This snake makes a shrieking sound and is the only snake that does, as Living on Earth reports.
- Corn snake. Corn snakes sometimes whistle, which they do when they shed their skin. There are other snakes that also make a whistling sound, such as ball pythons.
You may hear your pet snake wheeze at times. If that happens, it’s imperative that you take your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible, as wheezing is a sign of respiratory infection in snakes.
What Kind of Snake Hisses at You?
All kinds of snakes hiss at you. For these creatures, hissing is how they express that they feel threatened or stressed. Wild snakes are more likely to hiss at you because, compared to their captive counterparts, they have a greater risk of being attacked and eaten.
If your pet snake feels stressed, it will likely show signs such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
What Sound Does a Snake Make?
Snakes tend to make hissing sounds, but they can also growl, whistle, or squeak. Snakes also make sounds when they are moving around, such as a crinkling-paper noise.
In fact, pest expert Michael Dean tells Yahoo that you can tell there’s a snake in your house if there are strange crinkling paper noises or sounds similar to scratching on sandpaper. You can confirm this by checking out dark, enclosed areas in your home, such as the crawlspace or your walls, as snakes are drawn to such places.
Snakes make these noises because their scales scratch against the insulation of your home. Rats make a similar sound when they run along your ceiling, but where rodent footsteps sound hurried, snakes sound like they’re sliding slowly.
What Does a Rattlesnake Sound Like?
A rattlesnake makes rattling and hissing sounds. It makes these sounds using its tail, which has segments of keratin at the tip. When these segments (which are fitted loosely at the tip of the snake’s tail) move, they click against each other, producing a rattling sound.
To make their distinctive sound, rattlesnakes move their tails upward and vibrate their muscles, which causes the segments to tap against each other. Rattlesnakes can shake the muscles in their tails at a speed of up to 90 times per second, according to the BBC.
If you’ve ever heard this sound, you’ll know that it’s a bit like a grating “ch” sound. True to the snake’s name, the sound is like a rattle, almost as though it were an echo in a cave. Rattlesnakes can change the frequency of the sound depending on how threatened they feel — which is the main reason they make this sound in the first place.
All snakes have the ability to hiss. Generally, snakes that are larger and live in the wild hiss more than smaller snakes and those kept in captivity. Snakes hiss mainly to warn or intimidate predators and also to show that they’re stressed. If you suspect the latter is the case, you should remove the stressors.
Snakes can also make other sounds, such as:
- Whistling or wheezing