California Kingsnake Lifespan In Captivity | How Long Do They Live?

How long do California kingsnakes live? California Kingsnakes are a popular choice for a pet snake.  As a great pet owner, you certainly want to know their likely lifespan and what you can do to help your California Kingsnake have a long and healthy life. So in this article, we are going to cover all of the questions on the California kingsnake lifespan and just how long they are likely to live in captivity. 

In captivity, a California Kingsnake typically lives between 10 and 15 years.  With good care and conditions, they often reach 20.  Scientists are still uncertain what the snakes’ lifespan is in the wild, although the most common suggestion is 9-10 years.  

An owner that takes good care of their California Kingsnake can extend their snake’s life significantly.  We’re going to look at why these snakes have such a long lifespan and what affects this lifespan in captivity. 

How Long Do California Kingsnakes Live In Captivity?

The California Kingsnake has a life span that averages more than many other pet snakes. In fact, pythons are really the only type of snakes that live longer. The California Kingsnake has several strengths that contribute to this longevity

Why California Kingsnakes Have Such A Long Lifespan

California Kingsnakes are adaptable animals that live in a range of habitats; – everywhere from high desert to coastal woodland. 

They are skilled hunters. In the wild, the snakes’ diet is varied- rodents, birds, other reptiles.  They even go after rattlesnakes. They kill by constriction and their squeeze is much stronger than you’d expect for their size. This gives them another advantage. 

In a cold winter, they will disappear underground and go into a type of hibernation

These strengths and their versatility helps increase their overall life expectancy compared to other snakes.  For a captive snake, the care and attention provided by their owner adds another advantage.

Overall, you can anticipate a captive, well cared for California Kingsnake to reach 18-20 years; and up.  The oldest recorded captive California Kingsnake lived to be over 33 years.  

California Kingsnakes Live Longer Than Most Pets

The lifespan of a California Kingsnake means that any pet owner is taking on a long commitment.  In contrast, the average lifespan for pet dogs is 10-13 years, though particular breeds can live longer.

If you are considering getting a California Kingsnake, make sure you picture the next 20 years (or more). Where will the snake fit in then?

Because of its striking range of colors and easy nature, a California Kingsnake is often a starter snake.  But perhaps you are nervous about how you can care for your new snake and ensure its long life? If you decide this snake is perfect for you there are lots of ways you can help extend the lifespan of your pet.

What Can Affect the California Kingsnakes Lifespan?

Sadly, there are no guarantees, but if you provide your snake with the best possible care, then you will give it a great chance to live a long life.

Tank Size and Type

In general, the bigger the better when it comes to the enclosure size. A good rule of thumb is that the enclosure length should be at least twice as long as your snake. Other things to include:

  • At least a 20-gallon tank but a 40 gallon is more appropriate
  • Wooden vivarium (it’s a better insulator than a glass terrarium)
  • Add a hide with damp moss if using a glass terrarium
  • Have a hide in the cooler area and another in the hotter area
  • Ensure a secure lid, California Kingsnakes have a reputation for escaping
  • These snakes do not require a UVB light

We also a whole article to help you choose what size enclosure you will need for a California Kingsnake

Tank Cleaning and Care

We’ve mentioned that proper care goes a long way towards the longevity of your California Kingsnake. Here’s a routine for cleaning that you’ll need to follow:

  • Clean area where the snake defecates
  • Clean the water bowl at least weekly; more often if the snake defecates in the water
  • Clean the whole space monthly

Diet and Feeding

Your snake won’t want to eat often, especially as they mature. To avoid obesity, you want to stick to a regular schedule, like this one.


  • 2-3 times per week
  • small newborn mice (defrosted)


  • Feed every 5-7 days
  • 1-2 large mice (defrosted)


  • add a water bowl that is large enough for the snake to curl up inside, without overflowing
  • place at the cooler end of the vivarium

Kingsnakes have a relatively quick metabolism. You’ll get into a feeding pattern once the snake is mature.  One or two rodents every week or so would be typical.  Some tips for the feeding process include: Tips for Feeding Your California Kingsnake!

  • The temperature of food. Defrost prey to near body temperature as this entices the snake to eat.
  • Rodent size. California Kingsnakes are thin for their length, so you need to choose a rodent that is smaller than the girth of your snake.  If larger, the food might just be regurgitated.
  • Location. Try and feed your snake outside their enclosure. This reduces aggression when you handle the snake within the enclosure. 
  • Timing. In addition, try not to handle your snake in the 24 hours after they’ve eaten.  Also, the snake is unlikely to eat whilst shedding. Therefore, just wait out this process and return to the feeding pattern later.

For more on this check out our article on the California kingsnake diet!

Ideal Temperature and Humidity For California Kingsnakes

California Kingsnakes, like all snakes, need body heat to perform many essential bodily functions. You need to provide for this in their habitat.  California kingsnake enclosures should have a cool side and a warm side. On the warm side of the cage, the temperature should be about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool side of the cage should be 72-78 degrees. 

The best way to regulate these temperatures is with a high quality under the tank heater such as a Zoo Med Reptitherm sized for the enclosure. Next, you are going to want to invest in a good heat lamp as well. Note that most of the ceramic heat lamps do not come with a light dome. So be sure to purchase one of a fitting size.

Both should be placed on the warm side of the cage. Regulate and monitor these temperatures with the proper high-quality thermostat and thermometer.

Do not use hot rocks.  They heat unevenly and can cause burns.


You’ll want to place a hygrometer in the tank to keep an eye on humidity. Your California Kingsnake is fairly adaptable, but you’ll want to keep the humidity at about 50-60%.

Dry base material, such as newspaper, artificial turf, or aspen chips, can help lower humidity.


You’ll want to handle your snake in a careful and consistent way. A few tips are:

  • Start slow, increase the amount of handling gradually
  • Use a hook if you’re removing the snake for feeding. This prevents the snake from associating you too closely with food
  • Always support the snake’s body
  • Over-handling can stress your snake

Following these tips and suggestions will help increase the chances of a long California kingsnake lifespan. Sadly though, there are still a few health issues to look out for.

Common Illnesses That Can Affect California Kingsnake Lifespan

Thankfully, the California Kingsnake is a hardy creature and illness is relatively rare.

Here are some issues to watch for though:

Rodent scratches:  If you leave live mice in the snake’s cage, they can scratch and claw the snake. So, don’t feed live prey to your snake. 

Colds and respiratory infections: These usually happen when the temperature of the snake’s cage is below what’s needed. If this happens contact a vet and adjust the enclosures temperatures. 

Mouth rot: Usually caused by debris in the snake’s mouth. This can come from some types of substrate (bedding). You could replace the substrate with one that does not flake (eg: artificial turf) and visit a veterinarian

Internal parasites: Relatively rare in captive-bred snakes. Look for parasites in fresh stool samples

External parasites: Ticks and mites can be seen on the snake and its habitat.  You need to treat the snake and its environment. A visit to a vet will determine the best treatment course. There are some things you can buy at the pet shop or online for mites. 

For a more in-depth article on caring for the California kingsnake, I would suggest you check out my complete California kingsnake care guide!

In Summary

The lifespan of the California kingsnake is typically around 10-15 years but can go up to 20 years or even longer. So you are talking about a snake that can live a pretty long life in captivity.

However, their lifespan means you are making a serious and long commitment.  It’s important to balance experimenting as a snake owner with the decades of care a California Kingsnake could need.

Recent Posts