Cave Rat Snake

Elaphe taeniurus ridleyi

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting:
  • Substrate:

Diet Requirements

  • The cave rat snake feeds almost exclusively on bats, but will occasionally eat rodents, birds, and bird eggs.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler. Wrap bottle with newspaper for lizards or snakes traveling with the bottle loose, to make cleanups easier in the case of defecation while traveling.



  • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut. For lizards, the cooler is lined with newspaper.
  • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Rat snakes, particularly Asian rat snakes are known for being alert and “tracking” hands without ever attempting to bite. It can put off a lot of handlers when they reach into a cage. If the handler hesitates, it can then cause the snake to become defensive. When training people to retrieve rat snakes, it’s very important to tell them to reach smoothly into the cage to pick up the snake. Once you commit, don’t stop or hesitate. The snake will turn to look at your hand, but it won’t bite. If the handler is unsure and hovers their hands over the snake, moves back and forth, or is jumpy, that will in turn make the snake jumpy. This species is not for novice snake handlers.


Potential Messaging

  • Snakes are an important link in the food chain. They provide food for many bird and mammal species that prey on them. The main diet of most snakes is rodents. Therefore, snakes provide a very valuable service – pest control. Most snakes are non-venomous and will avoid humans if they can. Venomous snakes want to use their venom to kill small prey animals or to defend themselves; since humans are too big to be considered prey by most snakes, the best way to avoid a bite is not to make the snake feel threatened. Ask guests to avoid any snakes they may see in the wild and appreciate them from a distance.
  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Range: Southern peninsula of Thailand and peninsular Malaysia

Habitat: Rainforest and deep in caves

Physical Description

Cave rat snakes are slender bodied snakes that have a yellow to beige background color that darkens to grey-black toward the tail. A white to cream mid-dorsal stripe starts about halfway down the body and continues to the tip of the tail. Both sides of the head are maked just behind the eye with a black stripe surrounded by blue. Cave rat snakes will on average reach a size of 6 to 8 feet in length.

Life Cycle

Females will lay a clutch of 4 to 12 eggs which will incubate for 70 days before hatching. Females will stay with the eggs to defend them, only leaving to feed.

The lifespan of the cave rat snake in captivity is 15-25 years.


They are known to scale limestone cave walls to feed on roosting bats. Their long, slender bodies allow them to hang from crevices in the cave walls and snag bats as they come and go. Cave rat snakes are constrictors and rely on heat sensitive receptors that allow them to locate bats by its body heat.

Threats and Conservation Status

Not listed by the IUCN

Did you know…

  • Also known as a Stiped-Tailed Rat Snake, Beauty Snake, Cave Racer, and Ridley’s Racer
  • Snakes generally don’t live in caves because the environment is too cold for them, but the tropical caves of Thailand and Malaysia are just hot enough to support the cave rat snake.
  • Cave rat snakes are neither diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular. Instead it is cathemeral which is a term that describes an animal that has sporadic and random intervals of activity during the day and night.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Phoenix Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters