By: Rachel Womek
Tarantulas make good pets. Seriously! Granted if you are looking for something warm and cuddly that purrs or wags its tail a spider, no matter how large, will never fit the bill. However for those interested in a low maintenance exotic pet primarily for viewing, Tarantulas are one of the best options. For several years I used to work in a pet store and I would get an endless parade of customers who thought they wanted some other kind of exotic pet but really would have been much better for having purchased an arachnid instead.
The fact of the matter is that most exotic animals are, well, exotic. They require specific and dedicated husbandry, not to mention expensive specialized equipment. Fish need spacious aquariums with high quality lighting and filtration, careful monitoring of water chemistry, and religious water changes. Reptiles and Amphibians need special lighting, supplements, and a strictly controlled temperature and humidity. Hermit crabs also need a spacious habitat specially created with their needs in mind, a varied, natural diet, two types of water…etc. On the other hand tarantulas are easy and inexpensive to keep, by anyone’s standards . They can be kept in habitats much smaller than those of other similarly sized animals, they only require weekly or even bi-weekly meals,and they do well in any temperature in which you would not need more than a light jacket. They can be kept for a few minutes and a few dollars every month. Many species are gentle tempered and some have extraordinary lifespans. They are clean, quiet, and do not transmit diseases like salmonella to humans. They are a far cry from the demonic man-eating monsters portrayed in the media.
I have been keeping Tarantulas as pets for nearly 4 years now and I have never regretted the decision. They continually bring me joy and are never burdensome. (can’t say the same of my pants-eating basenji, though I love her dearly).
Here are a few myths and facts about tarantulas.
Myth: Tarantulas are deadly
Fact: Though tarantulas, as all spiders, do possess venom it’s primary purpose is in subduing small prey items. For most species the venom is no more potent than a bee sting, and they use it less readily. Tarantula envenomation has never been responsible for a human fatality.
Myth: Tarantulas need to be defanged in order to make them safe pets.
Fact: See above in regards to the venom. Tarantula’s use their fangs to capture, kill, and masticate their prey, without them the spider will eventually starve.
Myth: Tarantulas can jump at your face!
Fact: Although some arboreal tarantulas can jump they jump down, not up. A tarantula can jump a few inches towards it’s prey, but not far enough to jump at your face, even if it was inclined to do so. Which it isn’t.
Myth: Tarantulas eat birds.
Fact: While some South American species may occasionally scavenge a bird carcass tarantulas are primarily insectivores: bug eaters. Other prey may include small lizards or rodents but only rarely. In captivity a strict insect only diet it the best option.
Myth: Tarantulas can be trained to do tricks.
Fact: Tarantula brains simply aren’t that complex, although some keepers believe that tarantulas can become acclimated to certain routines, handling for instance, don’t expect your spider to fetch or play dead.
Well there you have it! Giant spiders are actually pretty awesome and misunderstood animals that make great pets! to find out more about them and their care check out the American Tarantula Society.