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Apartment-friendly pets

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Crested geckos, like the one pictured, are a favourite choice of pet among apartment owners. They’re inexpensive, don’t have any special lighting or heat needs, and their food is prepared from a powder.

PHOTO BY JEFF MCFARLANE Enlarge Image

Crested geckos, like the one pictured, are a favourite choice of pet among apartment owners. They’re inexpensive, don’t have any special lighting or heat needs, and their food is prepared from a powder. Photo Store

Companion animals have long been considered very beneficial to our abilities to cope with stress in our daily lives.  

Matching the right animal to each person’s needs is very important in maximizing these benefits. Many exotic pets are ideal for apartment living, when only a small space is available for their habitat, and dogs or cats are out of the question.    

Crested geckos are the favourite these days. They’re inexpensive, no special lighting or heat is required, and their food is prepared from a powder — no live crickets to feed! The cage can be as small as 12 inches x 12 inches for a single animal (always, the bigger the better, though), so they don’t take up much room. And they can be quite friendly, as well as always having a smile on their face.

Leopard geckos have been a popular pet, comfortably living in only a 10-gallon aquarium for their entire life. A desert creature, they conserve their water by pelletizing all of their waste products in neat dry little packages, which are as easy to remove as clumps from the kitty litter, except much smaller and not as stinky.

Of all the rodent pets, rats seem to have the most dedicated followers. The Dumbo variety is very cute, and the hairless version now available is so alien-looking that they are captivating.

Needing only a modest-sized enclosure and easy regular cleanings, rats can provide hours of companionship. Once they learn their new master’s scent, they will stick to them like glue, on their shirt-collar, around their neck, especially enjoying playing in long hair or hiding in a pocket. Unlike hamsters, they rarely bite or jump out of your grasp or off your shoulder.

Snakes have seen a growth in popularity again, with so many new and different colour patterns emerging and enclosures becoming easier to maintain. Most tropical snakes have habitat requirements that include both a high heat and a high humidity. New ventilation ideas and heaters have made it easier to provide proper habitats for these animals, and animals like the ball python, which could be very tricky to maintain long-term, are now much easier to keep.

Corn snakes, however, don’t need these special habitats, and hence have become very popular. Originating in the southeastern United States, they get their name from the fact they are found primarily in fields of grain where their rodent prey are plentiful. Small, flat enclosures are all these animals need, with a water source, some heat and a weekly feeding of a frozen mouse. They rarely strike, and are very easy to handle, enjoying the warmth of their master’s skin, often seeking to slip between buttons into the warm darkness of the shirt or a convenient pocket.

Our local exotic pet bylaw has limited some of our choices of apartment pets. Many spiders and scorpions that are harmless and commonly kept elsewhere are illegal in the city, but there are still a few that you can purchase. Red knee, rosehair and pink toe tarantulas may be scary to some, but they are quite gentle and can be very interesting and easy to keep pets.

With a little research and some good advice, a person can find the ideal pet for the space and time they have available.

Contact Jeff with your questions or ideas at aardvarkpets@shaw.ca or visit www.aardvarkpets.com

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