Before you go looking out for a series of deathly deadly pets to fill your home, it is important to know the difference between poisonous and venomous animals. Here, Mike James from Vale Vets discusses the top five poisonous pets, and what makes them special / dangerous / good pets!
Venomous creatures will inject their venom into other organisms using fangs or a stinger or other special appendages. Venomous creatures will normally produce venom in a gland attached to this appendage and it can be used as a defence mechanism or as a means of securing prey.
Poisonous creatures do not inject their poison, but rather secrete it as a form of defence. Their entire body or large parts of it will contain the poison or neurotoxin which will produce harmful side effects if touched, inhaled or otherwise ingested.
1. The Common Quail
Common Quail at Warsaw Zoo. Photo by Guérin Nicolas. License: CC-BY-SA-3.0.
While not normally poisonous, if your quail happens to be partial to poisonous plants, it can be incredibly harmful to humans. Of course this will only occur if you happen to eat your pet quail after raising it, but it is still an important fact to note.
If you are in the quail raising business for meat, make sure to keep an eye on their diet, as you certainly don’t want to be involved in any lawsuits if your customers start complaining of Coturnism after eating your home reared quail. That being said, they are perfectly harmless when kept as pets.
2. Pacific Newt
Pacific Newt. Photo by Patrick Coin. License: CC BY-SA 2.5.
A rough skinned newt; they can be anything from light brown to black with an orange to yellow underbelly. Their rough skin is not slimy but is almost pebbly to the touch. Adult newts can grow up to eight inches long and they consume mostly invertebrates such as blood worms.
They are normally nocturnal and depending on the type of pacific newt can be either aquatic or semi-aquatic. As they secrete a toxin from their skin, when handling your pacific newt, it is important to make sure that as little contact as possible is made with the newt, so only try to handle him/her when cleaning their tank. The toxin is incredibly harmful if ingested!
3. Blister Beetle
Blister Beetle. Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim. License: GFDL 1.2.
Many blister beetles are brightly coloured, marking their toxicity easily to potential predators. They secrete a toxin known as Cantharidin which is a poisonous chemical that can cause painful blistering when it comes in contact with skin. Strangely enough this toxin can also be used to medically remove warts, due to its aggressive nature.
Blister beetles come in a wide range of colours, making them a colourful pet, however it is important that they are not handled as the toxin is incredibly painful when secreted. The beetles will feed on many plant species, including soybean and chickpea plants.
4. Poison Dart Frog
Poison Dart Frog. Photo by Freetoast. License: CC BY-SA 3.0.
One of the most toxic animals in the world is the Poison Dart frog, but surprisingly it is not harmful to humans; only to other animals. This is not a pet you want to keep if you have a dog or a cat! Coming in a huge variety of stunning colours, poison dart frogs come in over 100 different species and originate from the Central and South American Rainforests and the Hawaiian Islands.
Growing up to two and a half inches long (aww!) they can live up to fifteen years in captivity. They are often awake during the day and need a warm and highly humid environment, with a diet consisting of mainly gut-loaded crickets available from any pet store.
5. Puffer Fish
Puffer Fish. Photo by NOAA.
Although mainly present in the liver and other internal organs, the skin of the Puffer fish also contains a poisonous neurotoxin which is incredibly harmful and can even be fatal if you come into contact with it. Puffer fish are known to be the second most poisonous vertebrates worldwide and their poison is a defence mechanism as opposed to a mechanism used to incapacitate prey.
The puffer fish is so named for its ability to fill its elastic belly with water or air, depending on its location, in order to puff itself up, revealing thin, normally hidden spines that will stick into any attackers, making it a pretty nasty meal. Puffer Fish are more exotic pets and are commonly found in aquariums but can also be found in both fresh and brackish water and live well with a number of other fish, although they can nip other fish if not fed regularly.
Whether you are looking for some poisonous pals to gift a fresh new enemy, or you are looking at living life a little dangerously, these poisonous pets can make great companions, just remember not to frighten or startle them, or otherwise you might end up with a little more than you bargained for!