Python's Electric Meal: No More Cold Blood? Sometimes snakes eat the darnedest things. Robert Siegel talks with veterinarian Barry Rathfon, who assisted this week in removing a queen-sized electric blanket from the stomach of Houdini, a 12-foot-long Burmese Python. The evasive reptile is believed to have ingested the blanket over the weekend, along with his rabbit dinner.
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Python's Electric Meal: No More Cold Blood?

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Python's Electric Meal: No More Cold Blood?

Python's Electric Meal: No More Cold Blood?

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

There are some headlines that you just can't resist. You have to read what follows. For example, in today's Chicago Sun Times, this headline, Surgery Saves Blanket-eating Pet Python. What follows is a story out of Ketchum, Idaho, fit for the annals of veterinary medicine.

And joining us from the St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum is Veterinarian Dr. Barry Rathfon. Welcome to the program.

Dr. Barry Rathfon (Veterinarian, Ketchum, Idaho): Thank you.

SIEGEL: And you were one of two vets who worked on this particular python. Tell us about the patient first.

Dr. RATHFON: The patient is about 60 pounds and he is around 12 feet long.

SIEGEL: And the python's name is?

Dr. RATHFON: Houdini.

SIEGEL: Houdini. And what was Houdini's complaint in this case?

Dr. RATHFON: It was his owner fed him his rabbit on Sunday and on Monday morning, the rabbit of course was gone, but also so was this queen-sized blanket that gives the snake a chance to maintain his body temperature. And Dr. Fostvedt X-rayed the snake and sure enough, here's the blanket in the snake, the whole blanket.

SIEGEL: A queen-sized blanket would show especially clearly in the X-ray because I believe it was an electric blanket.

Dr. RATHFON: That's correct. There are all types of electric wires and also a control object there.

SIEGEL: Oh, you mean the snake had also swallowed the control button. I see.

Dr. RATHFON: Swallowed the whole thing.

SIEGEL: Now I assume that the snake, Houdini, could not have just gulped down a queen-sized electric blanket. This wasn't in one quick, one fell swoop.

Dr. RATHFON: No, it would probably have taken him about six hours to ingest this. But he did it overnight, is what we surmised.

SIEGEL: How often have you had a python that swallowed an electric blanket?

Dr. RATHFON: Never.

SIEGEL: Never. Well, how is the patient doing after surgery?

Dr. RATHFON: At this point in time he's doing quite well, actually. He is drinking, which is what we like. He won't be fed for probably three weeks or so. They're fed every month, usually, unless they seem especially hungry. Then you might feed them more often but -

SIEGEL: Of course one might infer from what happened that although he did also have a rabbit at that time -

Dr. RATHFON: Correct. The rabbit we did have, we removed with the blanket, because it was still attached to the blanket. And that's probably what made him continue to consume the blanket.

SIEGEL: So you think the snake sort of figured this rabbit just keeps on coming. This is a huge rabbit here.

Dr. RATHFON: Right, exactly. We have to surmise that's what he thinks.

SIEGEL: Well, it's quite a story and thank you very much for sharing it with us.

Dr. RATHFON: Well you're welcome. I know that there's a lot of human interest in this type of thing, and hopefully other snake owners will not leave the blanket with the snake when they feed them.

SIEGEL: Or not serve the rabbit on the blanket.

Dr. RATHFON: Correct.

SIEGEL: In that case.

Dr. RATHFON: Yes. That would be the ideal.

SIEGEL: Well Dr. Rathfon, thank you very much for talking with us.

Dr. RATHFON: Well, you're very welcome.

SIEGEL: That's veterinarian Dr. Barry Rathfon speaking to us from the St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum, Idaho. He and his veterinarian colleague, Dr. Karsten Fostvedt, took part in the surgery removing a queen-sized electric blanket from the inside of the python that had eaten it.

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