Saturday, November 21, 2009

A tiny pet sitting client: how do you care for a baby box turtle or a hermit crab?

Box turtle

I must say I’ve had some interesting clients. This week I cared for a newborn box turtle. Gregory, as the neighbor kids have named him, is about the size of a quarter. His owners found him wandering around in their outdoor box turtle enclosure, obviously very recently hatched. They brought him indoors so a bird or other predator won’t eat him.

Gregory gets one little tiny waxworm every day, set on a rosebush leaf. The worm is barely ¼ inch long. Each day when I arrived, I put a little water in a bowl and set Gregory in to soak and drink. I was careful not to make it too deep, because box turtles cannot swim. Just enough to get him wet.

He is currently living in a dishpan with some dirt in the bottom that his owners keep moist for him. He also has a few little hiding spaces, and a little Flintstones house/cave that is heated from the top for when he wants to get warm. Reptiles cannot regulate their body temperature, so they rely on the warmth around them. If they get too cold in the winter, they will hibernate. Gregory has plenty of room to move around so he can get away from the heat when he needs to.

Hermit Crab

Recently departed form this earth, Eugene the Hermit Crab was another of my tiny clients. I regret that his family never took a photo of him, or I would immortalize him here. Eugene also shared his home with April the daughter, and Maggie and Summer, their dogs. The dogs were the primary reason for my pet sitting visits, but Eugene needed care too.

Eventuallly, Maggie and Summer started coming to my house when their owners traveled, so Eugene came along too. He had a place of honor in his little plastic terrarium with sand and plastic palm trees, and a few shells for him to move into as he grew bigger.

Hermit crabs need a moist, warm habitat, and fresh water to soak in. They don’t swim either, and will drown if it is too deep. I would give him a couple tidbits of crab food and a tiny bit of lettuce.

One day I came in from an errand, and Eugene’s terrarium was on the floor- sand and palm trees everywhere, and NO EUGENE. I panicked and started frantically looking under the table, wondering if one of the dogs ate him. I got lucky, or at least Eugene did. He had fallen behind the baby gate that was propped against the wall, and was wedged between the wall and the gate. Safe and alive.

I scooped up the sand , shells and other hermit crab furniture, and reassembled his little home. And carefully placed it on the top of the highest bookcase. It had never occurred to me that the dogs would think he smelled like food, but hermits do have a slightly fishy smell.

I had one more moment of terror with Eugene, when he decided it was time to molt. When he came out of his shell and started to shed his skin I about had a heart attack. NOW what had I done to him??? He survived without my interference. Whew.

Eugene lived several more years. The photo here is a hermit crab currently residing at the Petco store in Poway, CA. They have a nice care sheet you can pick up in the store. Here are some other resources for information on hermit crab care.

©2009 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.


Liz Palika said...

Baby box turtles are very fragile - amazingly so!

Having raised generations of them from my box turtles!

ladybug15057 said...

For proper hemit crab care please visit the Crab Street Journal and read the care sheets, articles and FAQ's. Petco's care sheets are very basic and hermit crabs do need more. Two sites are out dated and the other site listed as well as the one not actually having correct info. A UTH on the side does not permit for a warm side to the substrate as well as 85*F is too warm.

Terry Albert said...

Please tell me more so I can update my blog. What is a UTH? My vet told me 85 degrees was the optimum.

What info is outdated on the other sites? It is important to me that I give out accurate information, so I appreciate your comments, and hope you will tell us more.

Now I'm off to check out the Crab Street Journal.