JUNE
2001

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

06-28-01

Some Pets Not of the Warm and Fuzzy Kind

Humans have kept pets throughout recorded history.  Cats or dogs are the companion animals of choice for most people.  Some folks have both.

While canines and felines are the most popular pets, other warm-blooded creatures have served the role as well.  Rabbits and guinea pigs for instance.   Even rodents are kept as pets.  Rats, mice, and hamsters might not appeal to everyone.  But then neither does a ferret.

Some people fancy birds as pets.  These fine-feathered pets sing, look pretty and sometimes talk.  Fish are popular pets.  Fish don't sing or talk and they are not easy to pet.   But they are enjoyable to watch.  And you don't have to walk your pet fish!

Snakes, lizards and salamanders are good pets.  But many people have trouble thinking of a cold-blooded animal as a pet.  Especially those cold-blooded creatures known as arthropods.

Some arthropods though are becoming more common as household pets.  Insects, spiders and millipedes are sold and kept as pets.

For many children their very first pet may well have been an insect.  A caterpillar discovered wandering on the lawn.  Or fireflies put in a jar following a merry chase on a warm summer's night.  More often than not such episodes ended in disaster, with a dead insect!

Tarantulas are the most popular of the arthropod pets.  There are several reasons for having a spider as a pet.  They are unique pets; not everyone has a tarantula.  Tarantulas live a long time -15 to 20 years.  Some species are easy to handle.  And, well, tarantulas are interesting creatures.

Scorpions, like spiders, are also arachnids and some are also kept as pets.  The sting of a scorpion and the bite of a tarantula are poisonous so these pets must be handled with care.  Indeed petting an arachnid is not something most owners do.

Some pet stores sell giant tropical millipedes.  These multi-legged worm-like creatures are just large relatives of the millipedes we find in our compost pile.  Like the local millipedes, these creatures feed on dead plant material.  They are part of nature's recycling crew.  While millipedes are safe, unusual pets, the same is not true of the centipedes.  Centipedes are predators and have a poisonous bite.

Cockroaches are not an insect that people like to have in their homes.  The Madagascar hissing cockroach is an occasional exception.  This cockroach gets its name because it is found in Madagascar and makes a hissing sound when disturbed.  That sound combined with two eye-like protuberances on the front part of its body allows the insect to mimic a snake.

The Madagascar hissing roach is a recycler in nature.  So people who have them as pets feed them almost anything.  Dry dog food works well.  But don't forget the water.  Cockroaches like other animals need water.

Madagascar roaches are the largest cockroaches in the world by weight.  So having one for a pet allows the owner to brag about having the largest roaches in the world in their house!  Not something many people would like to brag about, I'm sure.

The nice thing about a roach is that you don't have to have someone care for your pet when you go on vacation.  Give them excess food and water and they will be fine when you return.  But be sure to keep the lid on the container, otherwise your pet might have decided to live in the sofa or kitchen cabinet!

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox