If you’ve been following my blog for a long time, you probably know that I’m an animal person. My huge hobby is learning about reptiles, but I’m generally interested in all types of animals. I love watching nature documentaries, I love visiting zoos and I watch loads of YouTube videos about keeping exotic animals as pets. When my life situation allows it, I plan to get some snakes and lizards and a few high maintenance insects – but for now, I became a mum of two six-legged girls.
My two girls (I named them Minnie and Bunny) are Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. And before you call me crazy for keeping pet cockroaches, let me tell you this: cockroaches are widely misunderstood. They’re often associated with infesting dirty (or not) human habitats in warm climates. The truth is, there are (according to Wikipedia), 4600 species of cockroaches, out of which 30 occur in human habitats and 4 are known as pests. The majority of the remaining species live in virgin rainforests and have nothing to do with humans. They’re harmless, clean, and generally interesting insects.
Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (scientific name Gromphadorhina portentosa), as their name suggests, are one of the largest species of cockroaches, reaching up to 3 inches as adults. They’re also one of the most common cockroach species in the exotic pets hobby – sometimes kept as pets, and sometimes used as feeders for insectivore lizards. As their name also suggests, they come from Madagascar and… can hiss. And it’s a surprisingly loud hiss for this size of animal – it can be scary when you hear it for the first time, which is exactly the whole point of the hiss – they make the noise when they feel threatened, for example, when you try to touch them.
The reason why I decided to keep these two girls as pets is because I was looking for a small, low maintenance animal that can survive a few days without me. Their enclosure is simple – just a plastic box with holes for ventilation, a couple inches of bedding, some leaf litter, a few sticks and some hides. I do plan to give them a prettier and larger enclosure after I’ve moved house, but it will still be fairly simple. No need for lights or heating – they do well in room temperature.
They do like high humidity and I mist their enclosure with water quite frequently, but the substrate holds moisture pretty well and cockroaches generally are hardy animals, so they can easily survive even a week or more on their own, although it’s not recommended to skip regular maintenance if you don’t have to.
I feed them fresh vegetables or fruits every few days. They definitely seem to like leafy greens and carrots, I have also tried giving them bananas, raspberries and strawberries. They also always have a few pieces of dry cat food available in their little food dish. For hydration, instead of a water dish, I give them bug gel – it’s water in form of a jelly, safer than a water dish as they won’t drown in it. I’m not actually sure if they eat it (they generally don’t each much, so it’s hard to tell if any of the jelly disappears), but I offer them some just in case.
As for keeping my cockroaches as pets, I’d describe them as pet rocks. I’ve had my girls for over two months and I can tell that they don’t generally do much, they’re usually hiding away from the light in one of their hides. They can’t fly and don’t make any noise, unless threatened. They’re rather slow too, so it’s unlikely for one to escape when you open the enclosure. I don’t handle them often as they seem to get stressed by it, but I enjoy the experience when I do. They’re skilled climbers (capable of climbing glass), so they legs feel like they have a great grip on your skin. It’s a little ticklish and fun. 🙂
I can’t wait to get more interesting and interactive animals in the future, when my life situation allows it. My dream would be a living room with one wall dedicated to animal enclosures – I’d love a corn snake, a milk snake and a hognose snake, a crested gecko, a bearded dragon, a chameleon and a leopard gecko, praying mantises, giant jungle nymphs, dart frogs… and more. Have I mentioned that I’m a huge animal nerd yet?
I’ve been to an exotic animal expo and it was great fun, check it out here:
Also check out my other animal adventures: