So what is it about a giant anteater that may not make it a great pet?
For starters they can grow to be 5-7 feet long. They also get up to 140 pounds. The size alone may not be a real problem since many people have dogs that are just as big as or bigger than an anteater. I have seen the damage a dog with a long tail can do in a house. But, a giant anteater has a tail that is 2 feet long and extremely bushy. Having 16 inch hair on its tail might be good for dusting of the coffee table but, it would probably wipe more than just the area you wanted. While the anteater uses its tail to help keep it warm like an attached blanket, not sure it would share with me if we were lost out in the cold.
Anteaters walk slowly on all fours but, they don't walk on their paws. They walk on their curled up claws. Yes, the claws could be a problem. Their claws can be up to 4 inches long. When an anteater feels threatened by a large animal they will use their tail to balance them as the stand on their back legs and fend off the danger with their front feet and huge claws. These slow solitary animals can fight off big cats like jaguars with their claws when needed. If a big cat is afraid of a mad anteater, then I would be too.
These giant ant bears are solitary animals and may not like sharing a yard with other animals.
Now the giant anteater also has some things that are super cool and unlike most other animals. So, they would make a very unique pet.
These anteaters have become so specialized at eating ants and termites in mounds and rotting trees that they don't have a need for teeth. And teeth would not really be useful since the anteaters jaws are fused together; they only have the small opening at the end of their long slender face. They also have a tongue that is around 20 inches long. They have a sticky substance that covers the tongue so the bugs stick to it. It's like having a sticky ant trap that delivers the ants right into the anteater's mouth to be swallowed whole. Now, they can flick their tongue 150+ times a minute, right into the ant mound. Since they only feed at 1 mound for a few minutes, they have to get as many as possible in a short time.
Why do they feed at a mound for only a few minutes? Because after they use their claws to open the mound, and stick their face in, the ants are mad and start biting the intruder. The anteater also doesn't destroy the entire mound so it can come back and eat at another time. Since they eat around 35,000 ants a day, they need to ensure they don't kill off their entire food source. I'm not sure how long my little mounds of ants would feed my pet anteater. I don't really have an urge to import any ants. (So maybe a stuffed anteater would be a better choice.)
Giant anteaters are very good swimmers. Could you imagine what the neighbors would think if I brought a giant anteater down to the community pool?
If I were really serious about getting a giant anteater for a pet, I would need to think of it as a long term commitment as they live for about 14 years.
So, even though they are super cool animals…I don't think I will be getting one for a pet. I'll just let them stay in Central and South America where they are living happily in the damp forest. The fact that they are also on the threatened species list would also make it very hard to get one approved as a pet.
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Image by Scott Liddell from the Morgue Files