When it comes to pets, there’s little more offbeat than choosing a tarantula, a praying mantis or a walking stick over cats and dogs. Of course, there will always be people who screw up their noses when they hear you’ve got a giant hairy spider in your living room. But for the more open-minded pet owner, you’ll find that invertebrates have a lot to offer.
As someone that has been keeping all manner of “creepy crawlies” for over 25 years, here are some of my favorite things about invertebrates as pets…
1. A fascinating talking point
First and foremost, few people would deny what a talking point owning invertebrates can be. Whether it’s entertaining friends, talking to strangers or something to discuss at a job interview, rest assured that people always remember “the spider man.” You’ll be surprised just how fascinated people really are over such offbeat pets, and furthermore how many people can quickly overcome their phobia when faced with a gentle giant.
2. A glimpse into another world
In many cases, exotic pet owners aim to try and recreate the wild environment of their pet. They create beautiful, landscaped terrariums, where their pet can behave as naturally as possible. Rather like a fish tank, this gives you a privileged glimpse into another world. You’ll get to watch your pet feeding and growing over time. Furthermore, this ability to be transported into another world, from the comfort of your home, can be an amazing way to de-stress at the end of a long day.
3. Minimal time investment
Dog owners will know just how much of a commitment such a pet is. Regular walking, feeding, and cleaning can quickly start to get old. Not so with invertebrates, however. As a case in point, many tarantulas will only eat once every week or so, and don’t need to be cleaned out for months on end. This is just one reason why many exotic pet keepers end up with quite a collection in the end; each animal requires only minimal time each week to stay happy and healthy.
Sitting next to my computer right now sits a bright green praying mantis. She produces no smell and almost no mess. True, she tends to drop the wings of the crickets she eats onto the floor of the cage, but besides this there is very little in the way of cleaning required. What’s more, the base of her tank is lined with kitchen paper. Once a week I simply remove the paper, wipe round her cage and replace the kitchen towel; a process that takes a matter of moments.
Contrast this to many small mammals such as hamsters or mice, where a very noticeable smell starts to emanate from their cage within days of a clean. No, invertebrates are naturally clean and hygienic animals, perfect for house proud pet owners.
5. Low cost of set-up
Invertebrates require very little in the way of specialist equipment. They don’t need huge cages, for example. Any artificial warmth can easily be provided with a low-power heat mat. Substrate for the bottom of their cage tends to be very cheap, and feeding generally presents no serious outlay either.
This means that you can be set up with a new praying mantis, tarantula or leaf insect for a very small financial investment; perfect for those without the budget for more expensive pets like fish or rabbits.
6. Huge range of life spans
An adult praying mantis or leaf insect may only live for a matter of months. At the other end of the spectrum, some female tarantulas have been recorded living for over 30 years. The huge diversity of species available is also a benefit, allowing you to select the perfect species for your situation. If you’re considering an invertebrate as your child’s first pet, for example, then a few stick insects shouldn’t represent a long-term responsibility.
On the other hand, if you want a “set and forget” type of pet, then investing in a female tarantula can provide entertainment for decades into the future.
7. Ease of care
The most challenging part about keeping exotic invertebrates is learning how to set up their vivarium at the beginning. Once you have all the necessary equipment, routine care is very simple indeed. Most children are capable of putting some new leaves into the walking stick cage, or dropping a locust into the tarantula tank.
This ease of care can also be benefit at vacation time; I can happily go away for a week knowing that all my pets will be just fine while I’m away. No need to worry about booking a pet sitter or convincing my long-suffering relatives to help out… again.
8. Start your own colony
Lastly, many pet invertebrates can be successfully bred in your home. Walking sticks will lay eggs. Praying mantis will produce oothecae. Even tarantulas can be encouraged to breed at home. Not only does this offer yet another element of interest, but the progeny you produce can help to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of your pet.
I’m sure there are still some readers who would never consider adding a Giant African Land Snail or a huge millipede to their household. But for those willing to consider something a little offbeat, I hope you appreciate now just what great pets many exotic invertebrates really can make.