Not every furry friend comes with four legs, some of them have eight. While this might sound something from straight out of a horror movie, it’s actually quite natural when you choose to have a tarantula as a pet.
There’s no doubt that tarantulas are wild and need to be approached with proper caution. However, they are also quiet and love to mind their own business, so having one as a pet can be quite fascinating.
If you’re planning to get one as a pet, there are a lot of things you need to know about this creature. Although they act like other non-domesticated animals, they also need love and attention, just like other pets.
Petting a Tarantula: Things You Need to Know
If you’re one of those people who love to handle their pet a lot, then getting a tarantula may not be a wise choice for you. Before you commit to making one as your family companion, get a solid idea about the behavior, food habits, and other essential things regarding care for the tarantula.
Know The Species
So far, about 1000 species of tarantulas have been identified that belong to the Theraphosidae family. They are native to many areas, except Antarctica.
There are two main groups of tarantulas known as the old world and the new world. Old world tarantulas come from the areas of the eastern hemisphere such as Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia.
On the other hand, new world tarantulas belong to the western hemisphere, having roots in parts of North and South America. Compared to the new world, old world tarantulas are more aggressive and defensive.
Although the new world species contain less potent venom, both types of tarantulas should be handled with care since you may have severe pain, itching, and irritation if they attack you.
Feeding a Tarantula
Since the tarantulas are insectivores, you need to feed them with different types of insects such as crickets, dubia roaches, grasshoppers, and even smaller spiders.
Some tarantulas are big enough to consume lizards, birds, and mice. While in captivity, you can feed them with superworms, mealworms, crickets, and red runner roaches.
There are several local and online shops that have crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches for sale. An adult tarantula needs to be fed once a week, while a growing one should be fed several times a week.
For the sake of your safety, use a pair of tweezers while placing live insects in their enclosure. Also, remove any uneaten insects after 24 hours.
The type of enclosure a tarantula needs depends a lot on its species. While a terrestrial requires a horizontally longer cage, arboreal tarantula prefer to be in a taller enclosure since they love to climb.
If you have one from the fossorial species, you can create an enclosure similar to the one for terrestrial, but ensuring a deeper substrate for it to dig.
Don’t forget to provide a piece of carved bark or a half hollow log as your pet also needs a place to hide. In addition to this, make sure the substrate you’re choosing for it is free from harmful chemicals.
You can add some holes on the side of the enclosure to ensure proper ventilation. Although tarantulas are quite clean in nature, you need to clean their cage and replace the substrate once every four to six months.
Light & Heat
You need to keep your eight-legged friend in a darker area where direct sunlight can’t reach.
Those who require moderate humidity, placing a shallow water dish in the cage and misting every week can work just fine. However, if your pet requires more humidity, increase the frequency of misting.
Do not use incandescent light to keep them warm since it will dry them out. Instead, place heating pads under a small part of the enclosure.
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and humidity of the enclosure. Try to keep the temperature between 75º to 85º F. Extra care should be provided to maintain the humidity in case of high temperature.
There will be a time when you find your scary little friend isn’t eating anything for weeks. It means either they are not hungry or they are nearing a molt.
Molting is a process where spiders shed their exoskeletons and produce a new one. It’s a mandatory phase of every tarantula’s life as it grows and ages.
During molting, your pet will not eat anything and it will continue to not eat until it fully recovers. It may take up to two weeks to recover after molting.
Since it’s a stressful time for the spiders, they should not be bothered. Also, don’t feed them with live insects until their new exoskeletons harden since they are vulnerable to injury.
Common Health Issues
Dehydration is one of the biggest problems tarantulas can experience, particularly when they are kept in captivity. They will eventually become sick if their cages lack the proper humidity.
Another risk for a pet tarantula is it may fall from a great height and get injured. Although they look quite fierce, falling can cause serious injuries, such as the ruptured abdomen.
Getting a Pet Tarantula
If you’re petting a tarantula for the first time, it’s highly suggested that you go for a burrower since it moves a bit slower than other tarantulas.
However, do not go for something from the arboreal species, especially the pinktoe one. This tarantula species tend to be agile and fast, making it difficult to handle.
Female tarantulas live longer than their male counterparts, so going for the former is a better idea. However, do check their health before purchasing to be sure you’re not getting a pregnant spider.
Also, do not go for one that is hunched over with its legs curled under it. Avoid petting a wild one since you will never be able to understand its temperament.
Petting a tarantula can be an interesting job if you know how to handle them. Despite its quiet nature, you should never handle a spider like a dog or a cat since it can attack you back if bothered.
Before you enclose this fierce little creature, remember that about thirty-two species of spiders are listed as endangered by the IUCN.
Like other wild animals, tarantulas are important for the ecosystem, so they are better off not kept as pets.