Are Caimans Evil? No, They are Caimans!

I have only owned one caiman and although I do not regret owning him, I do not think I’ll own another. His name was Satan and technically, he was a Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman, with the scientific name – paleosuchus palpebrosus. He grew more vicious every day and taught himself how to do it. He did not need to learn it from mom and dad; this came from the many millions of years of genetic material he was born with. Satan was not evil, he was a caiman, doing nothing more than caimans, alligators, and crocodiles do… act mean, vicious, and intimidating. They are far from any typical household pet. I have read (on the Internet, so it must be true) that it is “in theory” possible to tame a caiman. I have only owned one caiman, so maybe I am not an expert, but in my amateur, layperson opinion – I think it would be easier to bring Elvis back to life and ask him to start a world tour.

Dwarf Caiman

Dwarf Caiman

So reviewing caimans as a possible pet is somewhat difficult. First, I am not sure about the legality of owning a caiman anymore. And frankly, neither are several states in our United States! So, if you are looking into getting a caiman, you need to check very carefully into the state and local laws where you live. Sometimes it is legal to purchase a caiman, but illegal to own one – and visa versa. It can get very confusing and end with you facing a stiff fine. When I got my caiman, they were legal to buy in Rhode Island and I had no clue whether they were legal to keep in Connecticut; I didn’t even think about it back then. After he grew to about three feet (from one, in around two years) – I was able to sell him back to the same pet store, thank God. A full grown Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman can grow up to about five feet long and I will tell anyone that animal would seriously injure any size human if not handled professionally!

My advice if you have small children (okay, any children) is do NOT get a caiman. These animals are too tempting and the risk that something will happen is too great. Caimans of any size can do a lot of damage when they bite. I have said in other reviews children come first. Do not get any pet that poses any risk to a child. Parenting 101.

Caiman Eye

Caiman Eye

Caimans are fascinating animals however. It is extraordinary to have a pre-historic (dinosaur) living with you. These animals have survived for (okay, I’m not exactly sure, but we are talking crocodile family so in the 80 million year range!) a very long time, through virtually every type of living condition imaginable. They ingest stones into their gizzard that allows them to digest their live food (for me it was mostly sun fish and frogs), which they swallow completely when they can, so you have to make stones available. Caimans eat frequently, well I suppose for caimans, I fed Satan two to three times a week. This meant his terrarium needed cleaning regularly. There are smart ways to clean caiman terrariums. After covering the caiman with a dark moist towel (use lukewarm water) slowly empty the aquarium into a bathtub that has about four inches of water in it. If the caiman is less than three feet long, this should suffice. Better yet, use a bathtub that has a Plexigas sliding door for the shower, and you’ll have something that is escape proof. Maybe! However, be prepared for the worst; have someone else who can help with you and have a back up plan. The idea was to leave Satan uninjured and to stress him out as little as possible.
The way back into the terrarium is a little bit trickier, but it works. This time, again cover him with the towel and when he is nice and relaxed (the dark towel will do this) simply grab him behind his front legs and place him back into the terrarium. Grab him firmly, but do not squeeze and wear gloves if you need to, at least until you have gained some confidence.

Satan was kept in a twenty-gallon terrarium, with stones and water. The room he was in was about fifteen by twenty, a bedroom, and when anyone opened the bedroom door, Satan immediately began hissing. It started out very slow and very intermittent. As you approached his home, it grew louder and the hissing became angrier – he was letting you know that he was ready to hurt you if you had plans to come too close. And he did not stop there; as soon as anyone got close enough, he’d strike as though there was no glass stopping him. Gradually, he realized this was futile.

Baby Caiman

Baby Caiman

If you have the right personality for a caiman and are willing to care for it, it can make for a great exotic pet. If you create a safe environment for it and for you and anyone around you, including other pets, all should go smoothly. If not, you will regret the experience, it really is that simple.

Do your homework, research the law regarding caimans, and best of luck!

Boston John

The Brown Haitian Tarantula

During my first year at college, my roommate and I did not get on-campus housing. This was both a blessing and a curse. We were placed in off-campus apartments, close to campus – a blessing because we were less supervised and a curse for the same reason. One of the many decisions I made, which I would not have been able to make, was to pursue my fascination with animals and purchase a brown Haitian tarantula from a pet store. It was early 1982, there was no Internet, I did no homework (other than asking the pet store employee a few basic questions) and I came back to surprise my roommate, Bob, with our new pet. We are great friends today. Back then, it was still a big question mark.

I did my best to take care of Caesar (was he male?) and I did purchase one of those small eight by five inch booklets “all about” tarantulas in an effort to do my best to care for it properly. I had the ten-gallon terrarium set up with a warming lamp and I think I had a heated rock (thirty-two years ago!) together with stones, a sandy area, and ending in a small area with water.

Brown Haitian Tarantula

Brown Haitian Tarantula

So, do tarantulas make good pets? Like any other pet, it depends on whether or not you are willing to care for it and what you expect to get in return, right? Obviously, a tarantula is not going to crawl up your chest and cuddle up under your chin! And this brings up an interesting point. To this day, I am shocked to hear that most people believe tarantulas are poisonous. They are NOT, tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, and there is NO record of a tarantula ever causing a human fatality, anywhere! But, if you own a tarantula, you can (as I did) misinform people that they are indeed extremely poisonous while you let it crawl all over your arms and hands. You do come across very brave, as well as crazy. It is also fun to see the extent of arachnophobia in some people – I’ve had some relatives, well over 200 pounds, that refuse to enter my apartment, even if Caesar was in his terrarium. Caesar also made a faint hissing sound sometimes… and that added to the fun of tormenting others!

Now, some species of tarantulas – including the brown Haitian, do have significant fangs and if you are bitten – you will know it! Caesar bit me once… it was entirely my fault, my hand was in his space while there were crickets (his meal of choice) bouncing around and I deserved it. I am just glad I didn’t hurt him from being startled. Note that, like a bee sting, some people can be allergic to the venom of a tarantula – so in that rare case, if you happen to be allergic, you’d need to get to an emergency room. For the allergy, not because you might die! A great way to find out how aggressive your spider is: when you first handle him, wear a pair of gloves thick enough to fend off those fangs until you are comfortable enough to go barehanded. Typically, a tarantula will “rear back” prior to biting (kind of stand up on it’s rear legs) giving you some notice of a bite and you may have time to pull away.

But I digress. Other things to know about brown Haitians (and tarantulas in general) are that they are extremely fragile, so they must be handled with extreme care. If one were to drop from even a couple of feet, it would shatter this invertebrate’s exoskeleton, killing it instantly.

I fed my Caesar almost exclusively insects, mostly crickets, because they are easily purchased at most pet stores, and because he liked them. Other than that, it’s important to make sure clean water is available; I also had a small, clean, wet sponge inside – I must have read that somewhere?

If you want your tarantula to survive, you must keep the terrarium very clean. Tarantulas poop… they are very small (round) poops, but nonetheless they attract parasites and mold that will kill your spider very quickly. If you are not up to cleaning his home regularly, don’t make this investment! It is just money and a tarantula down the drain. What a waste that is.

In the end, I could not keep Caesar. My mother refused to allow me to keep him in HER house after my first year in college. So, he was adopted by a friend who did take good care of him and for several years, I did get updates. Lesson learned!

Now we have the Internet so DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Learn everything, good and bad, about a potential pet! It is the only fair thing to do for everyone involved, especially the pet, and it avoids heartbreak down the road.

Best of Luck, Boston John