Can Snails Feel Pain? The Mysteries of Snails’ Sensory Perception

Do Snails Feel Pain

Can Snails Feel Pain? The Mysteries of Snails’ Sensory Perception

Snails, known for their slow and steady movements and unique shells, have long captivated our curiosity. However, one intriguing question has perplexed scientists for years: can snails feel pain? This controversial topic raises the inquiry into the potential sensory experiences of these tiny mollusks.

Determining whether snails can feel pain is difficult as they have unique physiological and anatomical features. However, studies suggest that snails exhibit behaviors that indicate they can detect and respond to harmful stimuli. Therefore, it is important to handle them with care.

In this article, I will explore the latest research on whether snails feel pain and shed light on this mysterious aspect of their existence. So, let’s dive into the world of snails and find out if they really do feel pain!

Snails’ Response to Stimuli

Snails have a relatively simple nervous system, lacking a central nervous system like that of humans and other animals. This makes it difficult for scientists to determine whether or not they can feel pain.

Additionally, snails have unique anatomical and physiological features that further complicate this question.

For example:

  • They do not possess a spinal cord or brain.
  • They lack the kind of complex nervous system found in most animals and humans.

However, studies illustrate how snails exhibit behaviors that suggest they can detect and respond to dangerous stimuli. This is why care is needed when handling snails and why many experts believe snails can feel pain.

With this in mind, more research is needed to fully understand the nature of sensory experiences related to snails.

If you’re a curious snail enthusiast wondering if your shelled friend can indulge in grapes, then I’ve got an article that you don’t want to miss. In it, you’ll find everything you need to know about snails and their dietary preferences.

Let us take a closer look at this issue by considering a few more questions:

Do Snails Feel Pain If Their Shells Break?

Snails have a network of nerves which means they can detect harmful stimuli. These nerves send signals to the brain in much the same way as happens with animals and humans.

This also suggests that snails may feel pain, and it’s reasonable to think this might apply if their shell is broken.

After all, snails are attached to their shells, and any damage to their protective shell will surely have physical consequences.

Moral of the story: More research is needed to know if snails feel pain if their shell breaks, but they most certainly react when this kind of harmful stimuli is experienced. 

Do Snails Feel Pain From Salt?

Salt is a huge threat to snails because it causes them to become dehydrated. This is why some gardeners use salt to deter snails, but this approach is discouraged as it causes great distress to the snails.

We know this because snails exhibit signs of distress when they encounter salt, which involves the following:

  • Secreting mucus.
  • Retreating into their shells to try to escape.

I delve further into this topic in the article titled “Why Does Salt Kill Slugs and Snails?

But Can Snails Actually Feel Pain When Salted?

It depends on the context and what we mean by “feel.” Snails can certainly detect danger and clearly react when harmed or damaged. This shows they can physically feel whatever is happening. Still, it does not necessarily mean they can feel in terms of emotions.

Once again, more research is needed to make a clear decision, as it’s still unclear if snails can feel pain like animals or humans do.

Can Snails Feel Emotions?

At this point in the article, you can probably guess the answer to this question. Snails have a rudimentary nervous system that is not as complex as the nervous system of humans or animals. This means they are unlikely to have the same capacity to feel emotions like sadness or joy.

However, snails have some cognitive ability, as evidenced by their ability to learn and remember. For example, snails can remember the smell of food and learn to follow these senses in search of it.

Therefore, we can assume that snails can feel emotions in some form, but unlikely in the same way that humans or animals feel emotions.

Perhaps future studies will prove otherwise, but research suggests snails are not exactly emotional creatures.

What Hurts Snails?

While it’s unclear if snails can feel pain the same way as other life forms, they can sense and respond to harmful stimuli.

What we do also know for sure is that:

  • Snails can incur physical damage to their shell or soft body.
  • They can also hurt due to coming into contact with certain substances, especially in terms of salt, chemicals, and other toxins.
  • Snails are common prey for rodents, insects, and birds.
  • They can be affected by environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature.

The above reasons are why people are encouraged to handle snails carefully and avoid exposing them to stressful or harmful substances/situations.

So, yes, snails can get hurt and are vulnerable like all other life forms. 


While their simple nervous system and unique anatomy make it challenging to determine definitively, studies suggest that snails respond to harmful stimuli in ways that suggest they can experience pain.

For example:

  • Snails exhibit avoidance behaviors when confronted with noxious stimuli, such as salt or predators.
  • If a snail’s shell is damaged, it may exhibit signs of distress, such as decreased activity and movement.

While it’s unclear whether snails feel emotions like humans and other animals do, they can experience some level of physical discomfort. Therefore, handling snails with care and avoiding any unnecessary harm is important.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do snails feel pain when stepped on?

The ability of snails to feel pain when stepped on is still a topic of scientific debate. While this topic is still under scientific investigation, it is prudent to treat all creatures respectfully and minimize unnecessary harm. Thus, it is advisable to exercise caution and avoid intentionally stepping on snails or any other animals whenever possible.

Do snails feel pain when boiled?

According to most researchers, animals with simple nervous systems, such as snails, are incapable of processing emotional information and, consequently, do not experience suffering. This suggests that they would not feel pain when boiled. The absence of the capacity to experience suffering in these animals is attributed to their limited neural complexity.

Do snails mourn their dead?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that snails mourn their dead. Snails are not social animals and do not have the cognitive capacity to recognize death or engage in mourning behavior. Their primary focus is on survival and reproduction.

Why do snails gather around or on top of other dead snails?

Snails may gather around or on top of other dead snails to feed on the decaying flesh or to absorb nutrients from the shell. Some species of snails also use empty shells for shelter, so they may be attracted to the empty shell of a dead snail as a potential home. However, this behavior does not indicate mourning or any emotional response to death.

What do snails do when they are scared?

When snails are scared, they may retract into their shells or shrink their bodies to become less noticeable. Some species of snails can also release sticky mucus as a defense mechanism to make themselves harder to grip or swallow. However, snails do not have the cognitive capacity to feel fear or experience emotions as humans do.


This article was written by Derek Cullen, a Dublin-born adventurer and travel writer with a passion for exploring the world. The article was expertly reviewed and edited by Paul Odoteh, founder of


  • Paul Odoteh

    Paul Odoteh is an established writer and editor with nearly 10 years of experience in writing and editing. He holds a bachelor's degree in IT and has written for numerous publications and individuals. Currently, Odoteh is dedicated to expanding his blog,, which was inspired by his passion for owning an aquarium.

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  • Derek Cullen

    Derek Cullen is a writer from Ireland with 9 years' experience writing for various online publications. Specializing in health and wellness, Derek uses his expertise to write accurate articles that inspire others toward a more healthy and authentic lifestyle.

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