The Basics about Tarantulas

Over the past twenty or so years tarantulas and other arachnids such as scorpions and hermit crabs, have become one of the fastest growing pets around. It has become quite a hobby to maintain and care for these exotic animals, but very few of us who purchase these animals actually know what they are getting themselves into, this simple article is to go over the very basics of tarantulas and what they are all about and to help dispel some of the myths and dogma that may surround them.

Tarantulas are arachnids, this means, unlike insects, they have eight legs instead of six and their bodies are divide into two parts (also known as segments) instead of three. Unlike other arachnids however, spiders have several adaptations that make them uniquely special! Like the ability to create and produce silk.

To complicate things further tarantulas aren’t what we hobbyists like to call “true” spiders, there are a few differences which separate the two, Araneomorphs (true spiders) and Mygalomorphs (your tarantulas).

Mygalomorphs have fangs that move up and down, while true spiders’ fangs open outwards and inwards. Although hard to notice, mygalomorphs have two claws or adheasive tufts on each pretarsus, mygalomorphs also have two sets of lungs and the venom sacs are entirely located in their chelcerae, whereas in Araneomorphs you’ll actually find them located in their cephalothorax. So enough with scientific talk, what this all means to the common folk is that despite common misconceptions, tarantulas cannot be classified (scientifically speaking) as a true spider.

Tarantulas are often divided into two categories, terrestrial and arboreal tarantulas, and are further classified (depending on where they are located) as either a New World Tarantula or an Old World Tarantula.

In general, New World tarantulas are your most commonly found tarantulas in local pet stores and are often the types of tarantulas that hobbyists recommend for those just starting out. This is because New World tarantulas are often much more docile, aren’t nearly as quick, and their are less likely to bite. In fact, most New World tarantulas are more common to defend themselves by kicking up irritating hairs from their abdomens (these hairs are known as urticating hairs). New World tarantulas are located or found in the Americas and common species of New World tarantulas, although not limited to, are the Chilean Rose Hair (Grammostola rosea), Mexican Red-kneed (Brachypelma smithi) and the Pink Toed (Avicularia avicularia).

Old World tarantulas are much different than their New World cousins, they are often much more colourful (signalling to their enemies that they are dangerous), they are often much more defensive (more prone to bite), and extremely agile whereas most New World tarantulas tend be slow and sluggish. Those involved in the hobby often recommend Old World tarantulas to those more experienced, not only because they are often swift, agile and more prone to attack, it is also because of their habitual needs is often much more extensive than those tarantulas in the New World category. Old World tarantulas are found anywhere in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Common species of Old World spiders include the Blue Cobalt (Haplopelma lividum), the Baboon (Pterinochilus murinus), and the Chinese Bird (Haplopelma schmidti).

Earlier we threw around the terms “arboreal” and “terrestrial” this simply refers to those tarantulas who often climb and live in high places (arboreal) and those tarantulas who wander on the ground and rarely scale the sides of their enclosures (terrestrial). Both New World and Old World have a variety of selections of arboreal and terrestrial tarantulas.

Despite popular demonisation of tarantulas as dangerous pets it’s grossly exaggerated by those who know very little to nothing about these animals. Most tarantulas are very quick to get away from a stressful situation, choosing to run rather to stand and fight as their first option, and will often choose other forms of defence to ward off predators, resorting only to biting as a last resort. The toxicity of a tarantula bite various greatly from person to person, in general those who are allergic to spiders will often have a much more severe reaction than someone who isn’t.

Common reactions to a tarantula bite include, but isn’t excluded to; swelling, itching, tingling, vomiting, nausea, cramps, fatigue and fever.

We, and this also include the hobbyists, always recommend that if you are bit by your tarantula for the first time to go to the hospital, it isn’t because the venom is going to kill you, it is because by going to the doctors’ you are able to figure out exactly how the venom effects you and what exactly it is doing to you. A smart owner of a pet tarantula should never handle their animal, they do not require our attention and if anything causes stress to the tarantula been handled. The potency of the tarantula venom isn’t strong enough to kill an adult human being.

In here so ends the basics of tarantulas, in the following articles that follow topics of tarantulas, we will discuss common species of tarantulas and their proper care and husbandry, various products, what to expect, the handling (when, ifs and hows) of your tarantula, what to look for when you are going to buy a tarantula and diseases and illnesses that are common to most tarantula species.


Who is Walking Whom By Wendy Maeots






Everyone wants a well behaved dog, but how do you get one?  From the day you bring a dog into your home, either as a puppy or an older dog, they are looking for leadership.  If you don’t provide that leadership, they will automatically assume that they are “in charge”.  It is important to pay attention to your dog’s behaviour on a daily basis and react consistently when they misbehave.  You need to be “firm” when they challenge your authority but, at the same time, you should never hit or yell at your dog.  It is also very important to spend time working with your dog because the more time and effort you put into your dog’s training, the better he or she will be.  While food (treats) is a great motivator, it should not be the only way you encourage your dog to behave.  Whether you are new to dog ownership or have had dogs in the past, working with a good trainer can help you to better understand your dog and accomplish your goals a lot sooner.  Dog training isn’t rocket science, it’s very logical.  If you learn to communicate with your dog in a logical and consistent manner, he or she will eventually learn ­listen and respect you.



Wendy Maeots is a dog trainer for Olympus Dog Training Academy and has successfully trained hundreds of dogs. and works out of The Urban Zoo Pet Store 

Reptiles for the beginner

So you are thinking about buying a reptile and aren’t sure what kind to get. Well, reptiles are one of the most interesting of gods creatures. Most Reptiles you buy in a pet store usually have a very good disposition. They can be sweet and cuddly and they are not slimy like a lot of people think. If you find a slimy one then chances are that it is sick. Don’t buy it.

A lot of people who buy reptiles are inexperienced and don’t do enough research before they make the plunge. Owning a reptile can take considerable time and effort. For example, cleaning their tanks, feeding and watering them, and taking them to the vet when they are sick is just a small part of the responsibility of owning one.

Do you have the time and patience for this, if you do, then it is just a matter of deciding what kind of reptile to get.

Before you buy, do the research on the reptile you’re thinking of buying. Each species has different characteristics and some require much more care than others. Think long and hard about this before you decide which species of reptile you want to buy. Baby reptiles are recommended for first time buyers because they will bond and grow with you. Adults are extremely cautious at first and the potential to bite or attack is more prominent

If you are a beginner, consider these factors:

Ease of maintenance – should be a primary factor in determining what type of reptile you want to buy. it is a given that All reptiles require attentive care, but some species are easier to maintain than others. Reptiles that are easier to maintain are usually tolerant of a wide variety of environmental conditions, and are naturally very hardy.

How fast will it grow and how big will it get – The easiest reptiles to care for are small or moderately sized species.

How docile will it be – No reptile likes to be handled all of the time, but if you wish to be able to handle it on a limited basis then docility is important, consider which species is the most tolerant to handling.

Feeding vigor – The easiest species are usually the most voracious feeders.

To sum it all up, the most suitable reptile species for beginners should be small to moderately sized at a price you can afford. They should be captive born and be able to tolerate a wide variety of environmental conditions. They should be able to tolerate some handling and be voracious feeders.

Some of the reptiles that could easily fall into the above catagories would be:

  • The Corn Snake
  • The Leopard Gecko
  • The Bearded Dragon
  • The Ball Python
  • The Blue Tongue Skink
  • The California Kingsnake

Signs of illness in your bird

We often read or hear from the experts, that if your bird is sick, he will hide any signs of illness until its to late.

Although I have yet to have that experience with Max my Blue and Gold Macaw, I do think I know him well enough by now, that I would notice any subtle changes quite easily. Ultimately, this did get me thinking and I decided to do some research.

These are some of the signs of illness i discovered while doing my research. I’m sure there are more, but i think that these ones would be the most important.

A change in your birds sleeping habits:

This is a very good indication that your bird may be sick. I noticed that when max sleeps, he tucks one foot up into his chest. A sick bird might sleep on both feet with his feathers fluffed up for warmth or he may crouch on the bottom of the cage.

A change in attitude:

In this instance, there is a possibility that something could be wrong as healthy birds are for the most part active and playful. If your bird is listless, withdrawn, or laying on the bottom of it’s cage all of the time, it’s time to call the avian vet.

Excessive sneezing or nasal discharge:

This is a sign that something may be wrong although that isn’t always the case. It could just be an allergy. Discharge of bubbles from the nares are probably a sign of a respiratory infection. Either way, this is a warning sign that its time for a visit to the avian vet.


(Not to be confused with regurgitating), which is what birds do when courting or feeding their young, is another sign of illness. Vomit will usually stick to the chest feathers or around the face. Take your bird to the avian Vet.

Lack of Preening or plucking:

A healthy bird is always preening his feathers. If your bird is starting to look ratty or disheveled, its time for a visit to the avian vet.

Tail bobbing:

Birds lack a diaphragm to separate their chest cavity from their stomach. Their tail muscles help them to breath. Respiratory disease will result in Their tail muscles working harder than normal. Common sense will tell you whether the tail bobbing is a sign of a possible respiratory disease or just a little to much excitement or exercise. If your bird displays this behavior while at rest, take him to an avian vet right away.

Air sac mites:

This is more common in canaries or finches, but it has been diagnosed in other birds. A sign of this could be a clicking sound from the beak as he breathes.

If you have more than one bird in a cage, the sick bird will usually be the one who gets picked on or even killed. Separate the sick bird right away and give him a warm safe place to rest until you get him to the avian vet. Don’t wait to long.

Changes in Vocalizations:

Although this may be a little harder to diagnose, you should still be able to pick up on this. Sick birds are usually less talkative and you may notice a change of frequency in their tone.

Weight loss:

Birds will usually ruffle their feathers for warmth when they are sick so you may not notice any weight loss. Weight loss can be devastating to your birds health. A loss of strength is a good sign. Weigh your bird regularly and you will know if he is having trouble maintaining his weight.

Cloudy Eyes:

Cloudy eyes are a good sign of respiratory, nervous, or muscular disorder. Take him to a avian vet immediately.

Abnormal Droppings:

Depending on what you feed your bird, the color of his droppings will most certainly vary. What you need to look for is yellow, rusty brown or tarry droppings. They could be an indication of internal bleeding or other serious problems. Look for changes in consistency. If they are too runny or firm, it is time for a visit to the avian vet.

For the consciencious bird owner, these signs should be immediately recognizable. Examine your bird everyday and make sure you keep a good relationship with your avian vet. Your bird is depending on you to keep him in good health so make sure you keep tabs on any behavioral change he may display. After all, you want your beloved bird to be around for many years to come.

Parrot Proofing Your House

Parrots are like small children, ever playful and curious. They will scrutinize their surroundings very carefully, homing in on things like plants, electrical cords, and chemicals to name a few. The dangers they face whether loose in your house or yard are considerable and it is up to you, the owner to prevent situations from occuring that could seriously injure or even kill your beloved parrot. Here are three things you may want to consider before you bring your beloved parrot out of his cage for play time and exercise.


Toilet seat lids should be kept closed to keep your Parrot from drowning. Wings should be clipped so he can’t escape through an open window and keep him away from areas where you may have mouse traps or flypaper hanging as these can also be detrimental to his health. Turn off ceiling fans when your parrot is out of its cage and Keep him out of the kitchen where a hot stove, sudden changes in temperature, or fumes could do irreparable harm to him. Keep him away from any electrical cords as he will chew through them. Don’t take him outside on a cold day and keep his cage away from drafty or overly sunny windows. Even though they come from a tropical country, they can still get heatstroke. Keep the cage just a few feet away from the window This way he can still look outside.

Even some of the toys you buy for your Parrot can harm him. It is important to use caution and examine these toys closely. Examine your Parrots rope toys for frayed or unbraided rope as this rope may get tangled around his neck and strangle him. Bells and chains can snare toes and beaks which is why i don’t buy bells for my Macaw and any chains i buy are stainless steel. Galvanized chain will kill your Parrot because of the chemicals in the metal. Keep an eye on plush toys and huts to make sure your Parrot isn’t ingesting the material.

Fumes and Poisons:

Any substance that gives off a vapor can be potentially deadly to your Parrot. Here are some of the things to keep him away from.

  • aerosols
  • cigarette smoke
  • fingernail polish remover
  • Plug-in air fresheners
  • fumes from overheated non-stick cookware
  • other Teflon-coated products
  • space heaters
  • pine-scented car air fresheners

If you have to use these products, keep your Parrot out of the room and open the windows for ventilation. Lead paint is also poisonous so its time to remove it if you have any. Many well known plants and trees in your house or back yard are poisonous when ingested, so keep your Parrot away from them. If he ingests any poisonous substance, and starts to vomit or have a siezure. Remove him from the source and call your vet immediately.

Other Pets:

The safest household for a parrot is one without cats or dogs. If you must have other animals, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Never allow a Parrot and a cat to roam around in the house at the same time and never leave a dog unsupervised around a Parrot that is out of its cage. Despite his powerful beak, he may still get the short end of the stick when it comes to your cat or dog no matter how mellow they may be. An instinctual impulse could change things in a second. Also, a cats saliva contains a bacteria called pasteruella, which can be fatal to your Parrot. The general rule….Parrots are helpless against animals equipped with sharp claws and teeth, so its best to keep them separated.

It’s good to bring your Parrot outside for fresh air and playtime as long as you don’t leave him unattended. Even though he may be clipped, he can still flutter short distances and may be able to clear a backyard fence. In seconds, he could be dinner for an agile alley cat or other bold predator. I’ve even heard of cases where hawks have snatched Parrots off their owners shoulders. If you are going to have your Parrot outside for extended periods where you cant watch him all the time, it is probably wise to build him an aviary. Build it with double walls to keep any predators out.

Your Parrot and his toys

The importance of toys in your birds life cannot be stressed enough. As you learn more about your birds behavior, you will start to see a multitude of benefits that bird toys can serve for your birds happiness and well being such as:

  • They will stimulate and keep your birds mind captivated
  • Your bird stays healthy and active
  • Toys take away that urge to chew up your house, furniture, or belongings
  • They can help relieve boredom which can sometimes result in feather plucking

Most Parrot owners enjoy watching their birds at play with a new toy, but what can be frustrating, is how your bird sometimes ignores the toys you affectionately provide for it. Some of the reasons for this could be:

Your Parrots Environment

Most birds are super sensitive to the environment around them. If your bird feels uncomfortable or fearful in his environment, he may ignore the toy or even display extreme and unusual behavior. Try to make your bird as comfortable as possible in his environment and he will probably become interested and start to explore his new toy.

Chances are, that if you like the toy, your bird won’t. Most Parrots are more interested in what the toy is made of and how to destroy it than what it looks like.

Your parrot doesn’t know how to play

This is more common than what most Parrot owners would think. Your get your little buddy all excited, curious, and playful and he still doesn’t know what to do with that new toy you just gave him. More often than not he just may not know how to play with the toy.

Without some sort of visual instruction (show him what it is and what fun he can have with it), the toy may not peak his curiosity. He may simply ignore it. We can condition our Parrot’s perception of things around his environment by teaching him how to play.

So now you are probably wondering,

How do I teach my Parrot to play?

There are many ways you can teach your Parrot to play. One example would be to take your Parrots new toy and play with it in front of him while he is in his cage. Make sure he is watching you and spin it around, throw it in the air, be vocal and make it look like you are having fun with the toy. Place it back on the floor and walk away. Repeat these steps a couple more times.

You may find that you have peaked your Parrots interest because you are playing with something that he can’t have. Once your Parrot’s curiosity starts to peak, reluctantly give it to him. If you do this enough, you can probably get your parrot to play with almost any toy you buy.

Since you are probably the head of your flock so to speak, the introduction of new toys and games falls squarely on your shoulders. With a little imagination and careful thought, the methods you use will encourage curiosity and acceptance of any new toy you introduce to your bird.