Anteater as Pet: A Complete Guide

Want to keep Anteater as a pet but don’t know how to care for it? Today we share all the to-do and not-to-do when taking Anteaters as pets.

Anteater is native to a few countries in South America. It is commonly known for eating ants and termites. Anteater is a common name for four different kinds of species including, giant anteater, silky anteater, and northern and southern tamandua.

Among them, the northern and southern tamanduas are more commonly kept as pets. People also keep silky anteaters as pets, but giant anteaters are considered endangered animals, so there are extremely strict regulations regarding keeping them as pets.

These exotic pets are perfect for people who are looking for some excitement when it comes to raising pets. Anteaters make a good companion and they are quite adorable too.

However, these animals require special care and treatment, much different than what you have been seeing in other animals.

So, here you will find out everything you need to about keeping anteaters as pets, including their behavior, food, health issues, and so on.

Anteater as Pet

Natural Habitat

They are mostly from dry tropical forests, rainforests, grasslands, and savannas. While the silky anteaters are most comfortable on trees, the tamanduas are fine with both ground and trees. Moreover, giant anteaters are mostly found in savannas.

Silky anteater is native to the hottest parts of South and Central America and they are exclusively found in arboreal environments. Silky anteaters are the smallest among all the species of anteaters, being as large as a cat.

Tamanduas are much smaller than giant anteaters, but they are fairly bigger than silky anteaters. Tamaduas find their food both on the ground and in trees, especially in dry forests near streams and lakes.

Silky anteaters and northern tamanduas are found in northern parts of America and southeastern Mexico. Southern tamanduas are found in southern parts of America and Uruguay. Also, Giant anteaters are found in Northern and Central America.

Anteater Habitat

Physical Attributes

Anteaters are recognized by their elongated snouts curved slightly downwards, which is their most redeeming physical characteristic. It is equipped with a thin tongue longer than their heads. Their tube-shaped mouths have thin lips but no teeth.

Anteaters use their large foreclaws to tear open ant and termite mounds. They have thick and long fur that would protect them from attacks from insects.

They have tails that allow them to hold or grasp objects. Most anteaters use their tails to hold on to a tree or a branch to keep them from falling. However, giant anteaters aren’t capable of such abilities.

Giant Anteater

They are also known as ant bears. Giant anteaters got their name for being the largest member of the species.

They are mostly found in the tropical grasslands of Venezuela. Giant anteaters are commonly grey with a diagonal white-bordered black stripe on each shoulder.

A giant anteater attains a length of about 6 feet and weighs up to 40 kg. Their overall length includes their long tail.

Unlike the other arboreal or semi-arboreal species that are rarely seen by humans, giant anteater normally dwells in areas near human settlements.

Instead of using dens or other permanent resting places, giant anteaters prefer to choose a secluded spot.

They curl up themselves to rest and use their huge tail to cover both their head and body. Apart from the size, a young giant anteater looks similar to an adult one.

Females would carry the infant ones on their backs till they are a year old. They have the longest lifespan among all species.

Silky Anteater

Silky anteaters are known by several names, such as two-toed, pygmy, dwarf anteater, and so on. They are the smallest member of the species.

In the wild, they would be difficult to spot because of their nocturnal habit and tendency to live in high trees. Not only that, because of their natural yellowish fur, they can easily camouflage themselves.

Silky Anteater

Silky anteaters are very light, barely exceeding 300 grams. The overall length of an adult anteater is about 17 inches. However, about half of that length includes their furry prehensile tail. They have two clawed toes on each forefoot.

They have large eyes that allow them to see at night. Silky anteaters have inborn heel pads below their feet that allow them to grip small and thin branches.

Tamandua

Tamandua refers to the ‘catcher of ants’ in the Tupi language of eastern Brazil. There are two types of tamandua species, namely northern tamandua and southern tamandua. They are both approximately the same size, about 4 feet long, including their prehensile tail.

Unlike the silky anteaters, tamanduas have an almost hairless tail. They are commonly seen having tan color with a black ‘vest’ around their shoulders that continues to their backs. However, some tamanduas are entirely tan or black. They have shorter fur and muzzles than other species.

Life Span

While it is unknown how long they live in the wild, giant anteaters have a lifespan of approx 14-16 years in human care.

Sometimes, they can live for more than 20 years when they are taken care of intensively. However, silky anteaters have a much lesser lifespan.

In the wild, they can live for less than 2 years, and a few months more than that when kept in captivity. Both the northern and southern tamanduas have an average lifespan of 9 years.

However, similar to the other species, they can live longer than their average lifespan if they are taken care of.

Behavior

Anteaters are wild animals and most people believe that it is their innate personality that makes them terrible companions. 

However, that isn’t the case at all. Most pet owners and zookeepers have reported that anteaters have personalities and behaviors similar to cats when kept in captivity.

Anteaters are hard to train but that’s not impossible. They would snuggle and then keep their distance, depending on their mood.

Tamandua Behavior

Anteaters respond to their names and even demand attention when you neglect them. However, they are actually antisocial by nature.

So, it would be recommended to adopt a baby anteater so they can adapt to living with humans and show their cute antics.

Since they are distant relatives of sloths, they love to sleep most of the time. However, they make up for that by being extra active when they are awake.

But they sometimes get too excited and end up damaging your furniture and urinating on your belongings.

Anteaters are nocturnal so they are most active at night. Silky anteaters and tamanduas spend most of their time in trees when they are in the wild.

So, if you are planning to keep one as a pet, you need to have enough climbing spaces in your house, such as a big tree or poles. You can even create some levels in the interior using furniture or other objects.

Tamandua as Pet

As a defense mechanism, they will climb up a tree and use their tail to tightly grasp onto a branch whenever they are threatened or attacked.

They would also ready their claws as weapons, but would rarely get violent. If they feel that the threat is too dangerous, they would release a liquid from their anal glands that are four times stinker than a skunk’s scent.

Housing

For an anteater, housing takes special priority, just like Tarantula has tanks. If you want to keep a silky anteater, you would need to place lots of trees and climbing spaces in its cage.

You can even build a tiny treehouse for it. However, since a tamandua is semi-arboreal, you need to provide both land and trees.

Silky anteaters and tamanduas have a habit of climbing trees, so if you don’t provide them with any, they would start to get restless.

Anteaters have surprisingly lower body temperature as compared to other mammals, so they would easily get cold. They have the lowest body temperature among all placental mammals, ranging from 32 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Their enclosure should have at least 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit all the time. A little fluctuation is fine, but not too much. At 90 degrees, they would be at risk of having a heatstroke. Also, a temperature below 65 degrees would most likely make them sick.

You can create a little hollow space in the tree stump or somewhere in your house, with a heating pad or other heating element that would make a comfortable sleeping place for your anteater.

Remember to secure your important belongings when you let them inside your house or set them free from their cage.

Feeding Habits

Exotic pets require special attention and care when it comes to food. Anteaters have been given their name for their love of eating ants.

However, an average anteater would require almost 10,000 ants every day to fill their stomach. And that number is only for one meal, so considering they need to be fed three times a day, they would need about 30,000 ants.

This is a very large amount of insects to provide them daily. Apart from ants, they also love to eat termites that are just as small. When kept in zoos, they would be provided high-protein insectivore powder mixed with water, insects, honey, and fruits.

Since they are being kept in captivity, anteaters won’t be able to search for food on their own. So, they easily adapt to whatever they have been given since infancy.

The majority of their diet comes from a commercial feed, leaf-eater diet, or cat food, used in different combinations of kibble or powder.

It would be advised to add meat for extra protein. However, anteaters are toothless, so they can only be given soft foods.

Anteater Feeding Habits

You can allow your anteater to eat the ants in your backyard or other outdoor spaces. Moreover, you can occasionally buy ants as part of their nourishment.

The frequency would depend on you. Feed your pet the ants by placing them on a small branch or container with dirt or rocks.

This would be a good exercise for them. You can also offer your pet a few old and rotted logs and tree stumps, where termites reside.

Your pet would itself tear it apart and search for the insects. They like to eat passion fruit, papaya, and almost all sweet fruits.

Anteater Eating

You can try feeding eggs to them or powdered milk mixed with cat food for a change. Anteaters rarely drink water, but instead, receive water from their foods.

You can put a water tray regularly for them inside their enclosure so they won’t get thirsty when you are not available for them.

You can give a few treats by preparing sliced or mashed melons. They often love to break the melons apart with their hands and use their claws to mush them and they then lick them up.

You can also give your pet some oranges, avocado, banana, crickets, yogurt, mealworms, apple sauce, grapes, pumpkin, ants, termites, cucumber, grapefruit, papaya, honey, tomato, coconut, baby food, and apple. They especially love honey and may eat the bee larvae too.

Simple Recipe:

Here is a simple recipe for them. This meal is convenient for them and nutritionally adequate.

1 Pound: Banana, tomatoes, oranges, kiwi, berries, acidic fruit, boiled chicken or turkey breast, boiled liver, freshly cooked shrimp.

2 Pounds: Feeder insects such as mealworms, crickets, silkworms, and so on.

2 boiled eggs, ¼ cup bone meal powder, 1 cup flax seed meal, 1 cup dried red beans ground to powder, 7-15 teaspoons blue-green algae, cell tech animal algae.

Blend these ingredients with fish/shrimp/chicken stock and feed them twice a day. You may skip out a few ingredients, but not too many.

Apart from that, adding a tablespoon of vinegar would help their digestion. Since a silky anteater is smaller in size, you can reduce the number of ingredients proportionally by half.

Benefits of a Few Ingredients

Bananas are high in potassium. Tomatoes have vitamin K, C, and acidic content. Anteaters don’t have stomach acids. In the wild, they rely on the formic acid present in the ants they consume.

However, since being kept in captivity would deprive them of that, you can add food supplements that have high acidic content.

Anteaters require vitamin K to enhance their blood clotting when injured, much like humans. Eggs provide lots of protein. Provide them with insect feeders rather than raw meat. Most people would suggest feeding them raw meat, but there are risks involved.

Raw meats can contain intestinal parasites and bacterial infections, which could be quite dangerous. Not to mention that anteaters don’t have teeth so they would find it difficult to consume raw meat, even if it is properly minced. On the other hand, insects may be a bit more expensive, but the benefits are worth it.

Remember to choose an organic packet of cat food that does not contain any chemicals and has low amounts of grain.

The bone meal provides them calcium which would also help them have a firmer stool. Flaxseed and red beans are high in fiber. The liver is high in vitamin B12 which keeps the blood cells healthy.

Common Health Issues

One of the problems of keeping an exotic pet is that it would be difficult to find vets for them. Normal vets are trained for treating more domestic animals, so pets like anteaters would be out of their league.

Seeing how sensitive they are too cold, even a slight inconvenience would cause them to be extremely sick and develop respiratory diseases.

Cold and dry weather would cause them serious foot problems and dangerously dry skin. Even their paw pads would begin to crack.

So, they need to be constantly kept in a humid and warm place. Without a proper diet, they would develop organ failure and also become anemic. Since they spend a lot of time digging through dirt, they might pick up parasite eggs.

This habit of theirs makes their skin prone to infections and parasites would start sticking themselves to your pet’s fur.

You need to regularly clean and disinfect them to avoid these infections. They have very sensitive skin and noses, so an ant bite would cause inflammation.

You always need to keep an anti-inflammatory cream with you in case of mild inflammation. However, if it is too serious, you need to consult a vet.

Hygiene

Since they have low body temperature, you should never bathe them in cold water. You can water slightly above room temperature in hot weather.

And in cold weather, use lukewarm water. Don’t use warm or hot water because your pet would not like it. Another drawback is that hot water is not good for their fur.

Fill up a tub larger than the size of your pet and then allow them to sink in it.

Tamandua Grooming

Make sure to thoroughly clean their claws with flowing water. You don’t have to bathe them daily, once a week is enough. This would get rid of the dirt or any insects.

Also, animals with fur require hair brushing regularly. You should brush their fur at least once or twice a day.

This would help them get rid of hair mats, dirt, and debris. It regulates their blood circulation and distributes natural oil that helps keep their coat and skin healthy.

Challenges When Keeping Anteaters as Pets:

As mentioned above, anteaters are delicate animals, so their owners need to take constant care of them to keep them healthy and happy.

They require plenty of exercise and attention from their owners. They don’t normally mix well with other pets but if they are raised with them since infancy, then that won’t be an issue.

Maintaining their diet would be quite challenging. They need plenty of nutrition with a specific mix of vegetables, raw beef, and other health supplements.

Anteaters also require plenty of space for their enclosure, including vertical and land spaces. They dislike being kept in cages, but you can’t be sentimental and leave them open all the time because they would create havoc in your house.

Another issue is that it would be quite difficult to toilet-train them. Anteaters have an innate habit of marking their territory with their pee. So, they might do that all over your house until they are familiar with the place.

Price Range

If you are looking for this exotic pet, you have to prepare yourself to loosen up your purse strings. Anteaters can cost between $3,500 and $10,000.

Also, building an enclosure and providing long-term care with nutritious food supplements would cost you double the purchase amount. The price can vary according to their subspecies, age, health, and other factors.

You may even have a hard time finding anteaters in pet shops as they are quite low on demands. Not only that but adopting one require intense paperwork and authorization.

You can buy or adopt one online but you have to go to the location and properly check the animal before taking it home. You also need to know whether they are directly brought from the wild or kept in captivity since a living environment plays a major role in their personality.

So, if you are a beginner, it would be recommended to choose a pet that has already been under human care.

The ones from the wild are hard to tame, and it would be challenging for a beginner to take care of them, especially if the pet is already an adult. But for the wild adult ones, you don’t have to pay a lot of money since they are less in demand. 

Tamandua as Pet

Do Anteaters Make Good Pets?

Despite what you might hear or read somewhere, anteaters can be great pets. They can sometimes be moody as cats, and other times expressive and loving as dogs.

However, most people believe that getting an anteater as a pet would help them get rid of ant problems. That is not the case at all! They are not used as pest controls.

They would always know to avoid fire ants or other troublesome species. If you want to raise this exotic pet, then you have to be prepared to put lots of effort into this.  

We will be posting more articles like this on OurPetGuide. So keep visiting for all the information on exotic pets and also check our article on Tarantula as Pet.

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