False water cobra
A false water cobra which escaped from its vivarium in Cambridgeshire RSPCA

RSPCA officers were summoned to a house in March, Cambridgeshire after a "keen snake-keeper" lost her friend's venomous false water cobra under a bedroom wardrobe. Aimee had been looking after the snake while her friend was on holiday when it escaped from its vivarium on 26 September.

"They are very flighty. They move quickly," explained Aimee, who does not want her surname published. Though she tried to get the false water cobra, named Cyrus, out from under the wardrobe, she was unable and was forced to call the RSPCA.

"He folded like an accordion, he was a lot more flexible than I expected," she said. "He got trapped under the wardrobe and I panicked a little bit."

Aimee said she would not have worried had it been one of her snakes as they were all non-venomous but that she was "concerned" about Cyrus being on the loose. RSPCA Inspector Richard Lythgoe was on-call nearby and went to help Aimee rescue Cyrus.

"As we emptied the wardrobe he darted out and we were able to catch him and confine him. I have never seen a snake move so fast!" Lythgoe said.

"It's always important to be extremely cautious when approaching any situation involving venomous snakes, due to the risks these animals can pose. We wanted to make sure Cyrus wasn't injured in any way so we carefully emptied the wardrobe and managed to safely catch him using my long hook.

False water cobra
RSPCA helped recapture an escaped false water cobra in Cambridgeshire on 26 September RSPCA

"Thankfully Cyrus wasn't injured and was quickly returned to his vivarium. I understand he is now back with his owner and is doing well."

False water cobras are not actually cobras and are so named because they flatten their neck to look like a cobra's hood when threatened. According to RSPCA exotics senior scientific officer Nicola White, a bite from a false water cobra "could be painful and produce localised swelling and bruising."

There are no restrictions on keeping the animals, White said, adding: "If a venomous snake does accidentally escape and you do not have the necessary experience to confine the snake yourself then please do call for help immediately from the local police. Keep people and pets away from the area and don't take any risks."