I must admit, this is not for me. I am not overly frightened of spiders, though the big ones make me a bit nervous, and being a pretty lazy housekeeper, if I see spiders in the house, I know they will eat flies, so in theory, aren’t they just helping me with the housework?

I was curious to see how much work keeping one for a pet would entail, and if they actually would make a good starter pet. After all, they don’t need taking for a walk, or grooming do they? And probably thrive if you leave them alone to get on with their, well, spidery things.

I was surprised at the different choices of spiders you can keep, I presume you would need to contact an exotic pet supplier to get started, as I don’t think you will find one wedged in the pet shop between the hamsters and gerbils (unless their housekeeping is as bad as mine). Not all spiders take kindly to handling, and some will bite, and some are unsuitable for beginners, so a little homework first wouldn’t go amiss.

They pretty much all need a tank or jar to live in, and the size and shape depends on the type of spider- some need a low wide area as they creep around hunting for their food but not height, as they might injure themselves in a fall. Potting compost, peat or moss are a good base for the tank, together with rocks and leaves to replicate their natural habitat and give them hiding places. The tank will need air vents, but make sure the spiders can’t get out through them, and something with a trapdoor for dropping food through to minimize their escape options would be a good idea!

They don’t need food every day, most live on one or two crickets a week (you can even catch your own), but do need water – a cap from a water bottle would probably be enough. Apparently, they can over-eat, but if you observe them with a crumpled abdomen, they need food immediately.

So what do you get out of a spider pet? Well, they don’t recognise you – but they may be aware enough to recognise you at a regular feeding time. They can’t hear you as technically they have no ears – but they will be alert to you as they have sensitive hairs on their legs which will pick up vibrations. Will they get attached to you emotionally? I believe it is doubtful, as experts reckon they don’t feel emotions the same way we do.

But they will still be fun to observe, some spin webs, some don’t, some burrow, some don’t, and you can watch them forage for food. They aren’t noisy, their tanks take up very little space and they don’t need company. Generally speaking, they don’t like being handled as it causes stress and might trigger a bite, so don’t expect to take them out and pet them. They are clever escape artists, and even just opening the hatch to feed them might just be the opportunity they were waiting for to race up your arm and scuttle off.

If you are looking for a pet you can handle or slip into your pocket and carry around, ‘Incey-Wincey’ won’t be a good choice, but they will certainly get your visitors’ attention!

Spiders