Acquired: Pet store
Posted Mar 28, 2016
Tiki was the first and the only spider I've ever owned. Myself and my boyfriend at the time, Max, bought her from a pet store in Raleigh and at first she was a really awesome pet. I didn't handle her except for one time, Max did that, but I was the one that fed her thawed pinkies from the pet store and cleaned her cage while Max held her. The one time I handled her was really awesome; she was crawling all over me, super active, and seemed like she was having a jolly old time using me as a jungle gym... at least, until what can only be described as the flames of Hell itself began to cover the entirety of my bare arm.
Apparently I was allergic to Tiki, or so we thought until Max ran me to the hospital. I was in excruciating pain. I've dislocated joints, broken bones, separated the cartilage from my ribcage and gone on about my business without a problem... but this? This had me in tears. I felt like someone had poured gas all over my arm and thrown a match on it, but other than a series of tiny red dots littering my arm, my skin looked just fine.
Luckily for us, a doctor at the hospital in Raleigh actually owned a tarantula and knew exactly what was wrong with me! I wasn't allergic! As it turns out, when a tarantula doesn't like someone or they're scared or agitated, they release the hairs/barbs on their tummies as a defense mechanism, and those barbs cause excruciating pain for whomever was holding the spider. There's also nothing they could do for me except to tell me to scrub my arm vigorously and often to dislodge the tiny barbs, but after my boyfriend explained my ridiculous level of pain tolerance and how broken bones don't even make me cry, the doctor was kind enough to give me a script for 10mg percocet. It honestly didn't do much for the pain, but they definitely made me not care anymore.
I refrained from handling Tiki after that and let Max do the handling whenever she needed to come out of her cage, until one fateful night, when Max forgot to pick up pinkies for her so she could eat. She hadn't eaten in about a week, so he was really insistent that she needed to be fed. I remember driving all over creation trying to find a pet store that was open at ten at night, but I didn't have any luck. When I got back, his roommates had arrived, and one of them--Joe--piped up and said "oh! Hey, I'll just go catch a few crickets for her," as if catching crickets by hand was the simplest, easiest thing in the world for him to do. Max and I laughed and said to go for it while we took bets on how many hours it'd be before he gave up and returned empty-handed.
Five minutes later, Joe came back, hands cupped together, and that crazy bastard had actually caught a cricket with his BARE HANDS. In under five minutes! I'd never seen anything like it before and I haven't seen anything like it since. The dude straight up just walked outside, heard a chirp, and grabbed a cricket as if it was as easy as putting on his drawers.
We learned a very, very valuable lesson from all off this, so bear with my long-winded story.
Triumphant in his cricket hunt, Joe marched straight to me and Max's room, pulled back the top on Tiki's tank, and dumped the cricket in. Tiki went batshit crazy. I don't mean she went batshit crazy chasing this thing down to eat it, I mean she went batshit crazy running around the terrarium, trying to get as far away from that cricket as possible. She was TERRIFIED of it. Terrified of a cricket that wasn't even 1/4 of her size. We'd never seen anything like it in our lives--the predator was actually scrambling around, trying to get the hell out of the cage... and running from the prey, which just sat there and chirped. The cricket was probably just as stunned by her reaction as we were.
"Max, I think your spider's a pussy," Joe laughed. "She's actually running from an itty bitty cricket, what the hell, man!?"
Four hours later, Tiki was dead. Max's heart was broken. I had NEVER seen him cry in the 3 years we'd been dating. He beat himself up for days, thinking that Tiki scared herself into the spider version of a heart attack or something. When we found out why she'd died, he felt even worse and was a hot, bawling mess: it turns out that you're not supposed to feed store-bought tarantulas and snakes wild mice or crickets. Or wild anything, for that matter. Why? Because snakes and spiders that have been born and raised in captivity don't have any resistances to parasites and illnesses that their wild brethren either inherited from their parents or developed in the wild. Feeder mice, crickets, rats, and whatever else pet stores sell to feed pets that are natural predators are clean. They're free of parasites and diseases and safe for your critters to eat. Now that you know this, you can guess what happened to poor little Tiki.
Yup, the cricket that Joe had so amazingly caught by hand had some sort of parasite on it... and Tiki knew it. She wasn't being a pussy, as Joe had claimed and laughed hysterically over; Tiki was running from the cricket because she knew it had something that could kill her.
And kill her it did. Max beat himself up about it for the longest time, and I even felt bad about it for months. So my advice to anyone that wants a tarantula as a pet is this: make sure you also have a good stock of pinkies on hand. Do NOT ever feed your pet spider or reptile wild mice or crickets. Only ever give them feeder mice or crickets from a reputable pet shop that sells them for that express purpose! Also, make sure you handle your tarantula regularly so it's used to your scent and being handled in general. If you wind up feeling like your arm's on fire, you know why after reading my review. Good luck, and remember that just because it's a spider doesn't mean it's ugly and scary! Spiders can be wonderful, awesome pets!