By Heidi Hess
At one time or another every family has the conversation: Should we get a pet? My answer is always a resounding YES! First of all, so many dogs and cats are in desperate need of our help. Second, they add a layer of warm and fuzzy to our lives that can’t be duplicated by anything else. But what if it’s just not the right time? What if time or money constraints won’t allow us to have a fluffy little puppy or a snuggly kitten? What if we have allergies to pet dander? What if we live in Hawaii (wait – what? I’ll explain)? No worries. Here are some alternatives.
Let’s start with something light: turtles. Turtles are easy to care for and they will be more than happy to eat the veggies you bought last week when you swore you were only eating salads this week. Not only will they make you feel better about not wasting food, some species live a long time. So the family tortoise could get passed down to the kids when they get their place.
Bearded Dragons. Yes, I said dragon. But these aren’t the fire-breathing sort of dragon. They happen to be medium-sized lizards that love attention and being handled. Their laid-back nature makes them a good starter reptile. Just remember to wash your hands before and after handling them – they can react to the chemicals and dirt on your hands.
How about an itsy-bitsy spider? Like a tarantula? O.k., so they aren’t so itsy-bitsy and, for some people can induce nightmares, but they are quiet and docile. They take up very little space and are easy to feed. Because of their delicate nature handling them can be difficult. You have to be very gentle.
Hedgehogs. These spiny little bundles of fun enjoy being played with and can even be trained with positive reinforcement. Know someone with an allergy to pet dander? These little guys are perfect – they are dander-free. Hedgehogs are rather quiet but they are nocturnal and are known to rearrange the “furniture” in their cages late at night.
At this point, I know you are saying “How about something alternative but kind of normal?” O.k. – how about a hamster? They are so cute, easy to take care of and they only sometimes get out of their cages and end up nesting in your closet or getting stuck in the toaster (speaking from experience here). (Editor’s Note: The hamster was rescued from the toaster). BUT … and this is a big but here – hamsters are illegal in Hawaii (I told ya I’d get back to it…). Hawaii determined ahead of time that conditions were favorable and because its an island, didn’t want to risk being overrun by hamsters and endangering the species native to their island. Hats off to Hawaii for thinking ahead (I’m not looking at you Florida and the Ball Python fiasco that is happening in the Everglades). So, if you plan on moving to Hawaii in the next three years this might not be the best choice unless you want to smuggle them in.
Whatever pet you chose, remember, they are family. They go where you go. Unless it’s Hawaii.