You may be here for 2 reasons. One is that you are trying to kill a snail but your conscience won’t let you . The second reason is that you have killed a snail before and now you feel guilty about it. So can snails feel pain?

Scientific evidence points towards snails having the capacity to feel pain. Their possession of nociceptors, specialized sensory neurons, and observable reactions to harmful stimuli indicate a level of sensitivity to discomfort

Today I will be telling you how you can easily remove a snail away without killing it. Here you will also find ways to safely guard your garden from snail damage.

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Why Do Snails Feel Pain?


1) Snails Have Nociceptors

Although snails lack a centralized brain , they have a rudimentary nervous system that helps them detect and response to potentially harmful or noxious stimuli. This system has sensory neurons called nociceptors.

Nociceptors in snails are found throughout their bodies.

But, there is a higher concentrations in soft regions that are particularly vulnerable to injury or harm such as the foot and mantle. These areas are more likely to be exposed to potential threats or dangerous stimuli in their environment.

You can see this happen when a snail encounters fear or perceives some sort of potential danger, while most animals will activate flight or fight response , a snail will retract into its protective shell.

This behaviour is an instinctual defence tactic that shields it from harm. If indeed a snail can detect fear, then it can feel some pain.

The presence of nociceptors in snails is different from how we experience pains as humans, snails have evolved a basic defence mechanism to respond to all sorts of adverse conditions.

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2) Snails Can Feel Fear

Snails are highly observant to environmental changes. The best example is an African (Achatina species) As entirely nocturnal creatures, these snails become active during the evenings and throughout the night.

Under the cover of darkness, they venture out of their hiding places to forage for food, using their keen sense of smell to locate suitable vegetation and decaying matter.

Their ability to detect changes in temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors helps them assess their safety while searching for nourishment.

At the first signs of danger, they quickly retreat into hiding or bury them selves in soil, utilizing their retractable bodies to withdraw entirely into their shells.

This behaviour not only protects them from predators but also conceals them from human sight, as their shells blend seamlessly with their surroundings.

Whether this reaction is driven by fear or simply a programmed response to preserve their safety remains a topic of scientific investigation and interpretation.

3) Snails Have Ganglia

Aside from the nociceptors, snails have another remarkable feature known as the Ganglia. The ganglia acts as mini- brains and help in processing sensory information , help movement and responses( Source).

Now, while their nervous is pretty much simple when compared to animals with complex brains( Precisely humans), the ganglia helps snails exhibit various behaviours.

From simple basic reflex actions to more intricate hard movements, these creatures can respond to external stimuli fast.

The ganglia work in harmony with the nociceptors, allowing the snail to make rapid decisions that ensure its safety and survival in its environment.

Together, these features showcase the incredible adaptability and resourcefulness of snails in navigating their world.

Do Snails Feel Pain When Salted?

When salt is sprinkled on snails, they typically die due to the dehydrating effect it has on their bodies. Snails have a delicate physiology that heavily relies on maintaining a proper balance of water.

When exposed to salt, snails not only lose water through osmosis, but the salt can also draw out the moisture from their bodies, leading to severe dehydration. This makes their internal organs and tissues suffer irreversible damage.

I wrote an article on whether snails can eat salt, check it out here!

Also, severe dehydration is not the only thing that happens to snails when sprinkled with salt. They may also feel discomfort by exhibiting distressing behaviors such as squirming or retracting into their shells.

While it’s not entirely clear if snails feel pain in the same way humans do, these reactions suggest they experience discomfort and distress.

The squirming could be a manifestation of their attempt to escape the noxious stimulus and find relief from the adverse effects of the salt.

In my own experience with handling snails, I have encountered them in my garden numerous times.

When I come across snails in the home garden, I prefer to handle them gently and avoid causing them any harm. Instead of using salt or other harmful methods to control their population, I opt for a more humane approach.

I carefully hand-pick the snails and relocate them to a more suitable area away from my plants, where they can continue their natural role in the ecosystem without causing significant damage to my garden.

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Does a Broken Shell Cause Pain to the Snail?


If the shell breaks at the edges where there are no nerves, the snail will likely not feel pain.

But, if the break occurs where the muscles attach to the shell, it will feel pain , get injured and in severe cases, even die.

It is crucial to recognize the sensitivity of snails and their potential to experience pain when handling them.

As garden owners, we should strive to handle them with care and avoid causing harm. The shell serves as their protective gear against the harsh environment, and without it, they would be vulnerable to numerous threats and would not survive.

Do Snails Have Nerves?

You know what’s truly interesting about snails? They actually have a group of nerve cells called the cerebral ganglia, which is like a simple version of a central brain.

Moreover, this cerebral ganglia is located near the snail’s head and does tasks like processing information, coordinating sensory and motor functions( Source).

Even more, snails can do more than just basic reflexes thanks to these nerve cells.

They can handle respond to their surroundings, and carry out essential activities to stay alive and thrive in their environment. It’s incredible how nature has equipped these little creatures with a clever system to navigate their world!

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How to Safely Handle Snails Without Causing them Pain?

Now that we are aware that snails can indeed feel pain, it becomes essential to handle them with care and compassion.

Fortunately, there are several humane ways to interact with these fascinating creatures without causing them discomfort or harm;

1) Handpicking

when dealing with snails in your garden or surroundings, just hand-picking them instead of using harmful substances like salt.

Sprinkling salt on snails can lead to dehydration and a painful death, which we now know is an uncomfortable experience for them.

Hand-picking allows you to also gently lift and relocate the snails to a more suitable area, ensuring their safety without inflicting pain.

2) Use Coffee

Another safe hack most snail enthusiasts use is coffee.

Simply put coffee grounds on your soils.

Snails dislike the strong smell of coffee, so scattering coffee grounds around your plants or garden can act as a deterrent, keeping them at bay. Unlike harmful chemicals, coffee grounds do not harm or kill the snails; they simply encourage them to seek another location.

3) Use Garlic

You can also try use garlic as a natural repellent for snails. The strong odor of garlic is known to deter snails, so incorporating garlic-infused solutions or planting garlic nearby can help create a snail-free environment without causing them pain.


Peppermint is a natural repellent for snails due to its strong scent. Planting peppermint around your garden or using peppermint oil can discourage snails from entering the area.

Its aroma serves as an effective deterrent. This also does the trick pretty well.

5) Vinegar

Similarly, vinegar can be used as a safe and natural solution to repel snails.

Mixing vinegar with water and spraying it on areas where snails are unwanted can help deter them from those spaces.

Vinegar’s strong smell acts as a non-toxic repellent, keeping the snails away while ensuring their well-being.

In Summary

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Snails Suffer Pain?

Snails feel pain same way humans do as they possess a nervous system with specialized sensory neurons called nociceptors. These nociceptors allow snails to detect and respond to potentially harmful stimuli. Their reactions to noxious substances or injuries suggest that they may experience discomfort or distress.

How Can I Easily Move Snails Without Handpicking them?

To relocate snails without handling them directly, you can create barriers to guide them away from unwanted areas. Consider using coffee grounds, garlic, peppermint, or vinegar as natural repellents to discourage snails from specific spaces. These substances emit strong odors that snails dislike, encouraging them to move to more suitable locations. Additionally, setting up physical barriers, such as copper tape or sand, can redirect snails away from sensitive areas without causing them pain or harm.

Do Snails Feel Pain Like Humans?

Snails have a decentralized nervous system with ganglia (mini-brains) that allows them to perceive and respond to their environment. When they sense danger, their immediate response is to hide behind their protective shells.


Final Thoughts

Snails have a decentralized nervous system with ganglia, allowing them to respond to stimuli.

Their reactions such as retreating into their protective shell suggest sensitivity.

Relocate them safely by handpicking or using natural repellents such as garlic, peppermint or vinegar to redirect snails away.


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