How many people have considered having a sloth as a pet? After all, they are gentle, lovable, adorable creatures. They are the slowest-moving mammal (and one of the slowest-moving animals) on the planet, so there is very little chance that a pet sloth would ever make a mad dash and escape, chasing after the kids in the neighbourhood. They eat mostly leaves, so food costs should be very low, shouldn’t they? So, can sloths be pets?
In this article, I will explore this idea further in an attempt to come up with an answer to this question. I will do this by discussing the following about sloths: their habitat, their diet, their physical characteristics, and their personalities/lifestyle. I will also present some additional factors to be considered when discussing pet sloth ownership.
Sloths are built for a slow-paced life way up in the trees, certainly not for speed on the ground. They live in the rainforests of Central and South America and spend most of their time high in the trees. Taking them out of their natural habitat in an attempt to have them as pets has so many problems associated with it. In an attempt to recreate the proper sloth habitat in your home, many conditions would be required, some of which include the following:
- You would need to have lots of space.
- Many high trees and branches would need to be present.
- You would need a living situation where it is always warm and humid, just like the rainforests of Central and South America.
- A “Plan B” would be required in case the power goes out (sloths cannot handle the cold, so being outside is not a viable option for them in many parts of the world).
Yes, sloths eat mostly leaves in their natural habitat of Central and South America. However, feeding a pet sloth comes with a whole new set of problems, which is nicely summed up by Brevard Zoo: “… Our new baby sloth requires round-the-clock care. This includes 30-minute bottle-feeding sessions every two and a half hours, even in the middle of the night…And adult sloths require a special diet because of their complex digestive system.”
The physical characteristics of a sloth make it very challenging to consider having as a pet. As examples:
- Sloths have claws that are long, curved, sharp, and strong, which enables them to hold securely onto tree branches. It is these same claws that can grab onto you if the sloth feels threatened or feels that it is in danger.
- Sloths also have large teeth, which they can cause damage with if they are scared (or if you tick them off).
The personality of a sloth makes it difficult to have one as a pet. Here are some examples:
- Sloths are wild animals and they have instincts that go along with being a wild animal.
- According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “They are also a solitary species that lives alone in the wild. That means that they do not like to be petted, groomed or bathed because these are not natural behaviours for them.”
- Sloths are the prey of some other animals and when humans approach them (even with good intentions), sloths can become stressed because it may appear to them that this human coming towards them is attacking them. Furthermore, when sloths are afraid or feel threatened, their survival instincts tell them to be as motionless as possible. They may look comfortable and relaxed to us in instances like this, but the exact opposite is probably true. Even more challenging still is the fact that three-toed sloths always appear to have a smile on their faces.
- According to The Sloth Conservation Foundation, “When they reach independence (at the age of about 18 months ), even the most gentle of hand-reared sloths just do not want to be handled any longer. We suspect that many people are going to learn this the hard way and will find themselves with an expensive, hard-to-handle sloth that could live for up to 50+ years.”
- Because of the stress of being in captivity, a pet sloth will quite often exhibit behaviour issues. This is not a natural environment for them, so how can they be comfortable being someone’s pet?
- When it is mating season, a female sloth will make her calls out to the males in the form of screams. I don’t know about you, but I do not think that I would want that as my random alarm clock!
As if all of the above reasons do not show very clearly that sloths should not be pets, here are some more for you to consider:
- If sloths are even legal to own in your area, I can’t imagine that it would be cheap to purchase the required licenses, permits, etc. that would be legally required.
- What if your pet sloth gets sick? Where do you go for checkups? Good luck finding a veterinarian that will take on this challenge!
- What if you need to leave town for awhile? What if you want to take a vacation? What if you end up in the hospital for awhile? Who the heck would you get to look after your pet sloth while you’re gone? Once again, good luck finding someone that will do that for you!
The Answer To The Question, “Can Sloths Be Pets?”
From a purely technical and legal perspective, in some areas of the world, sloths can be kept as pets. However, that does not mean that they should be kept as pets or that they would even make a good pet. Sloths are cute, lovable, and adorable – I totally get that. But after presenting and discussing so many reasons why having a pet sloth is a horrible idea, the obvious answer to the question, “Can sloths be pets?” is, in my opinion, a resounding “NO!!!!!”
Finally, what might be the most important consideration (and possibly the best reason to forget about having a sloth as a pet) is the fact that most pet sloths are initially snatched from their homes in the rainforests of Central and South America as part of illegal smuggling of wildlife. The more demand there is for pet sloths, the more this cruel trafficking activity will be encouraged to continue.
Instead of a pet sloth, how about rescuing and loving an abandoned animal at a shelter instead (like a dog or a cat)? Or perhaps owning sloth merchandise of some kind might make you smile?
Thank you for reading and if you have any comments that you’d like to share, I would love to see it and read about it.
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