Keeping A Tarantula As A Pet

A look at the care and feeding of pet tarantulas, as well as other considerations.

Some people grow pale and dizzy at the thought of having a spider in their house... especially if that spider is large and fuzzy. Obviously, a tarantula is not the ideal pet for these people. However, if you happen to think that large, hairy spiders are much better than simple things like mice and hamsters, you might want to look into adding one of these creatures to your home.

Tarantulas actually can make very good pets, and can even be leash-trained to a point. They rarely bite, and most people aren't going to be seriously affected if they do. Before you run right out and buy one, though, there are a few things that you need to know about how to care for a tarantula to keep it healthy and happy.

The first thing that you'll need is a cage for it. While you could theoretically let it wander loose in your house, it's not a good idea... aside from the danger from other pets, having a large spider crawling around in the middle of the night can just lead to trouble. The walking-to-the-bathroom-and-stepping-on-something-squishy-and-furry kind of trouble.

When selecting a cage, the best kind to get is a glass or plastic smooth-sided cage or tank, with a meshed lid so that air can get in but the spider can't get out. The size of the tank or cage is up to you... if you want a 10-gallon fish tank for your spider, then he'll have plenty of room to crawl around.

Tarantulas are desert spiders, and prefer a dry habitat... sand or small gravel can make a wonderful lining for a tarantula's cage. Place a few rocks of different sizes in the cage with it, and even a small cactus if you desire... the tarantula's home design is only limited by the space that you have available and your imagination. You do need to include a small dish of water with a sponge in it, though... tarantulas don't drink the way that mammals do, and will instead brush it's mouth against the sponge to get moisture. (Alternately, you could spray the side of the tank with a fine mist of water, but the sponge is much lower-maintenance.)

To feed the tarantula, place the food in its cage... they'll eat crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects, as well as small mice. Be sure to feed the tarantula with live prey. If you have problems with cockroaches or other insects in your house, you can even fashion a leash and harness out of string or other materials and take the tarantula "hunting". Some tarantula owners have been known to take care of bug problems within a matter of days using this method.

In general, tarantula bites are no more dangerous than being stung by a wasp or a bee. They can hurt, and there may be some swelling... in the long run, however, no harm is done. It should be noted that some people are very allergic to tarantula bites; a single bite can kill them if they don't receive medical attention. Should you be allergic to tarantulas (or suspect that you might be) and still desire to keep one as a pet, you can. Don't pick up or touch the spider, however... if it must be picked up, use tongs to gently lift it.

Owning a tarantula can be a joyous experience, and it's a good way to freak out new friends... just be sure to give the spider the respect that it deserves.

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