For those looking for pets that sleep through the night and have fewer legs, junior Gabi Cole and their fiancé Ajay Lewis enjoy their two rats, Charlie and Princess.
Charlie is like a dog because he likes to run around but is trained to come when Cole or Lewis snap twice. Princess is lazier and prefers to sleep and eat.
The couple encourages their rats to spend as much time outside their cage as possible. Lewis says it’s good to encourage natural foraging. The couple even take their rats on their shoulders to places like the grocery store.
Rats need lots of socialization and attention, Lewis said. The couple also said they are great starter pets because they are easy to care for, inexpensive and clean.
The rats are friendly and never bite, Cole said. Lewis said Charlie loves making friends with cats and dogs.
“They’re a little bit eclectic,” Cole said. “We’re probably an eclectic couple anyway, so it fits.”
The unusual pets are not limited to reptiles and small mammals. Senior Zak Basher and his wife care for nine tarantulas.
He said they originally got a tarantula to cure his wife of her fear of spiders. Initially the spider was young and too small to frighten anyone, Basher said. By the time the spider grew up, Basher said his wife’s fear had vanished.
Now, some of the spiders are allowed to roam around the house when the weather is warm enough.
Though Basher and his wife aren’t that crazy about spiders, they were interested in the different breeds and their temperaments and have collected nine different species including the goliath pink toe, the texas brown and the chilean flame rump.
Basher said it’s fun to feed them and take them for “pocket rides” when they go out, but for the most part they are like having a goldfish.
Junior Tess O’Reilly found her unusual friend on Craigslist. Her hedgehog, Blue Ivy, offered the unconditional love most people seek through pets after O’Reilly went through a difficult breakup.
She said she was inspired to find a hedgehog after seeing Twitter and Buzzfeed videos featuring the animal.
On the car ride home, Blue Ivy was shy and tried to hide, but when Beyoncé’s song “Blue” came on, the hedgehog looked up and thus she got her name, which she shares with Beyoncé’s daughter, O’Reilly said.
Hedgehogs are like babies, O’Reilly said. Blue Ivy enjoys snuggling with O’Reilly while she watches TV, and whenever she’s introduced to something new she wants to taste it. Although Blue Ivy prefers her hedgehog food, she is also fed baby food, but with little success compared to the food made specifically for hedgehogs, O’Reilly said.
More than meets the eye
When visiting senior Tom Olson’s home, the pair of eyes staring back at you from within the potted trees may not be immediately apparent.
Those eyes belong to Pascal, a veiled chameleon, who likes to hide among the branches.
“He’s kind of like a souped-up house plant,” Olson said.
From outside, Pascal may look like part of the tree. He can self-camouflage, which means he can display different colors depending on his surroundings.
Pascal was rescued from a man off Craigslist in Canada who kept the reptile in a cage without any plants or light.
“He said he wanted to trade the chameleon for an Xbox,” Olson said. “That just really bugged me. It bugged me so bad. I couldn’t believe this guy would get rid of this amazing animal.”
Instead of an Xbox, Olson traded $150 and a tablet he never used to bring the chameleon home.
Olson, an industrial design major, said he named his new friend after the physicist Blaise Pascal. Though many of his friends think he must have named him after the well-known chameleon off Disney’s “Tangled,” Olson said he’s never seen the movie.
“Maybe subliminally that’s where it came from, who knows?” Olson said.
While chameleons are typically kept in screened enclosures or aquariums, Pascal roams freely around Olson’s house enjoying the house plants provided for him.
Olson said chameleons are low maintenance.
“They’re a really chill animal,” he said. “Think like a little green cat.”
According to Olson, chameleons have attitudes too. Pascal shows he’s grumpy by refusing to eat. If he gets really grumpy, he will hiss and puff up, but since they don’t have much for teeth, they’re harmless, Olson said.
As long as the handlers are slow and gentle with them, chameleons don’t mind people, Olson said.