Sunday, July 6, 2014

There's No Such Thing as a Throwaway Pet

Hi Folks! Thanks for stopping by! As promised, here is a guest blog by my friend and author Cayr Ariel Wulff. I hope you will enjoy reading (and learning from) it as much as I did!

                There's No Such Thing as a Throwaway Pet
                              * A Crabby Perspective *


                                     Cayr Ariel Wulff

A couple of weeks ago, an animal rescue friend of mine transported two hermit crabs four hours and across state lines to my home in Ohio. She’d seen photos of our crabitat and my frequent posts on Facebook, and she wanted the two crabs to have the best possible life in captivity. That might seem weird to some readers. We’ve all heard stories about dogs, cats, and horses being transported from one state to another, but hermit crabs? A lot of people think of them as “throwaway pets”, but there is no such thing as a throwaway pet.

When a person takes a pet into their home, whether it be a dog, cat, ferret, hamster, or fish, they should be morally compelled to give that pet the best life possible. Unfortunately, the media is full of stories of animal abandonment and abuse, evidence that not every pet owner is so conscientious.

It’s hard to impress a pet’s worth on some people when free-to-good-home ads make pets of all ages and types readily available, or when pets like hermit crabs are given away at fairs and festivals as prizes, or made available in pet stores for only a few dollars. A lot of pet stores perpetuate the attitude that hermies are short-term, “throwaway” pets that live only a few months, but a crab has a lifespan of 20-30 years, if properly cared for.

Hermit crabs, also known as “Tree Crabs” are not native to the United States. At least, not the ones commonly sold in pet stores. They are exotic pets, imported from Ecuador, Australia, or the Caribbean. They are not the same hermies as those found on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. In order to give them a long healthy life, they need to live in a certain type of environment, and that environment isn’t anything like the way they are displayed in most pet stores. I’ve seen them displayed in wire cages or in tanks with only half an inch of substrate, neither set-up giving any consideration to their needs. Keeping a hermit crab in a tiny plastic cage and feeding it a steady diet of food meal is just as unfair to them as keeping a dog in a wire travel crate its whole life. Every pet needs the proper environment and stimulation.

Hermies are tropical pets, and therefore need to be kept warm and moist; their crabitat should have a temperature of between 75-85 °F - and humidity around 70-80%. They need to have four inches of substrate or more, so they can bury themselves completely to molt. They need to have company, because even though they are called “Hermit” crabs, they are very social; in the wild, they live hundreds to a colony. They need to have a selection of shells suited to their size and growth. They need the proper food and water, including a saltwater pool for bathing.

When my partner and I found ourselves the unwitting caretakers of a hermit crab, we didn’t have any idea how to care for it. Our first crab had been a gift to our nephew, who was afraid of the pinching creature and asked us to care for it. Once we started looking into proper care, that single decapod crustacean became the catalyst for outfitting five terrariums of varied sizes and acquiring a small colony, or “cast” of eleven crabs. Their current home is a 35 gallon breeder tank, lined with three types of substrate: coral, sand and eco-earth; driftwood; rocks, vines and plants for climbing; a saltwater pool; a freshwater pool; a tank heater and automatic mister to maintain humidity; and even some toys.

Most of our hermies are friendly. They like to be held and spend just as much time looking out at us as we do looking in at them. By keeping them happy and healthy, we’ve been witness to all sorts of interesting behavior.

Some things you might not know about hermit crabs:
  • They are curious and like to explore
  • They are vocal, and chirp, chitter, and squeak
  • They are smart
  • They are omnivorous and love to try different foods
  • They have individual shell preferences
  • They love to dig and climb
  • When a new crab is introduced into an established cast, it may engage in demonstrations of strength and “arm wrestle” with the ‘home’ crabs.
  • Hermit crabs with too-small shells cannot grow as fast as those with well-fitting shells.
  • Hermit crabs usually never reproduce in captivity. Although hermit crabs have been known to lay eggs in captivity, eggs die quickly because the crab is not able to lay them in a natural habitat.

Just because a pet is small, doesn’t mean it is mindless and disposable. Mice, gerbils, and even hermit crabs have individual personalities. When kept in captivity every animal deserves an environment they can thrive in, in order to enjoy a long, healthy life.

C.A.Wulff is an author, blogger, and animal advocate who uses her writing to spread the joy of the human/canine bond. Her books, Born Without a Tail, and Circling the Waggins; How 5 Misfit Dogs Saved Me from Bewilderness, chronicle her personal journey in animal rescue. Her books, How to Change the World in 30 Seconds: a Web Warrior’s Guide to Animal Advocacy Online, and Finding Fido: Practical Steps for Finding Your Lost Pet, are handbooks for animal lovers. Wulff maintains a personal blog entitled Up on the Woof, where she shares biscuits of dog-related info, and is a Contributing Editor at

In this video, Leroy changes shells, but continues to also occupy the shell he came out of so it won’t be stolen.

In this video, The World Federation of Crab Wrestling. New crab and “home” crab engaging in feats of strength.

That's all for now, folks! Until next time, please be kind to all the critters! And please leave a comment so that Ariel and I know you were here!

1 comment:

Ariel said...

Thanks for the opportunity for me to reach your readers, Kelly.
For some reason, the links I provided you are not working. Readers can try these:

Dble Occupancy:

The World Federation of Crab Wrestling: