Tarantulas for Pets?


Tarantulas for Pets?

Toe-Toe is a cuddly black pet that lives in a glass cage. When friends of his owner come to visit, Toe-Toe stands on his hind legs to greet them.

Terri is a fluffy pet that resembles a small dust mop. She is very quiet. Although Terri does not bark or meow, she jumps, scoots, and crawls as she follows her owner around the house.

What are these quiet, fuzzy pets that like the attention of humans? Tarantulas!

Tarantulas are the world’s largest spiders. Some of them might be as big as a parakeet, a hamster, or a frog. And like snakes, tarantulas also shed their skin.

A tarantula’s hair is something like the hair on a shaggy dog. Some of Terri’s hairs serve as organs of touch. Each one contains a nerve that, when touched, sends messages to her brain. Then Terri is able to respond to changes in her environment.

Some people are afraid of spiders. But spiders are useful to mankind in that they help to clear our living space of unwelcome insects.

When Toe-Toe was found on the edge of the jungle, he fit into his young owner’s coat pocket. He slept as comfortably there as he had in his dark burrow in the ground.

Toe-Toe grew each year, and now, when he stretches his front and hind legs, he measures almost eight inches long. Of course, Toe-Toe no longer fits into his owner’s coat pocket but must stay in his cage until his owner and his owner’s friends arrive. Then Toe-Toe raises up on his back legs, ready to play.

The tarantula pet crawls on his eight hairy legs like other spiders. But when he is outside, Toe-Toe can move with seeming rocketlike speed to capture his food. He eats insects, lizards, mice, frogs, and small birds.

When asked if his pet would bite, Toe-Toe’s owner shook his head. “He’s never tried to bite me or my friends. A tarantula only bites if he’s injured or feels that he is in danger.”

Terri was bought in a pet shop. She is black and has orange circlets on her legs. Quiet and well mannered, she has never been mistreated and has had no reason to bite. Terri’s owner says she thinks that her tarantula would bite if she were tormented. “The needlelike fangs can hurt about like a bee’s stinger, but the bite is not poisonous unless you are allergic to it.”

Terri seems to like attention. She will scrunch down on the floor and wait for her owner to caress her glossy black head.

A tarantula seems to know when there is danger. If a strange dog comes into the room, Terri scoots behind the sofa. When the dog leaves, she jumps happily back into the middle of the room.

Terri searches for her own food. She eats mostly insects—mosquitoes, flies, locusts, crickets, cockroaches, and grasshoppers.

Terri is almost five years old. Female tarantulas have been known to live up to twenty-five years, so Terri might be around long after her owner grows up.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dwane Cude