March 14th is Save A Spider Day! While I would definitely encourage you to abstain from smooshing any spiders you find in your home, this is also a great time to talk about pet spiders. Tarantulas aren’t a particularly popular pet, but they do have some devoted fans. As your Cedar Rapids, IA veterinarian, I go over a few basics about tarantula care below.
If you’re thinking a tarantula is a short-term pet, think again. Some can live up to 30 years! Be sure that you’re willing and able to care for your spider buddy before moving forward.
There are quite a few different types of tarantulas that are sold as pets, including Costa Rican Zebras, Mexican Redknee, Mexican Redlegs, Chilean Rose, and Brazilian Blacks. They all have slightly different needs: some burrow, some climb, and some are venomous. Do lots of research before deciding. (Tip: the Mexican Redknee and Chilean Rose are good beginner spiders.)
If you want a pet that will hang out on your lap, well, you may want to keep looking. Tarantulas aren’t exactly cuddly. It’s generally best to avoid handling them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Spiders can and do bite if they feel scared. They can also release special hairs, called urticating hairs. This can be quite painful, and can be dangerous to those with allergies. Getting the hairs in your eyes would also be a serious issue, one that can require surgery. It’s also important to understand that tarantulas often suffer fatal injuries if dropped. If you have to move your eight-legged pet from one tank to another, do it on the floor, in a room where she can’t run and hide.
One benefit of having a tarantula? Most adult ones only need to eat once or perhaps twice a week. They do eat bugs, though, so you’ll need to commit to purchasing things like crickets or roaches regularly.
Tarantulas don’t need much room. A ten-gallon vivarium works fine for many adult spiders. However, you will need to offer sterile substrate. Some options are coconut fiber, sphagnum moss, or potting soil (no minerals). Tarantulas also need some suitable hides. You can add plants, but take care not to include anything sharp or spiny. Do plenty of research, and ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
As your Cedar Rapids, IA veterinarian, I’m here to help! Contact me anytime!