Monday, June 1, 2009

Meditation on the Logistics of Anteater Acquisition

I know you didn't think I was serious about the anteater thing, but I was.

I did a little research last week, and here's what I discovered: Anteaters come in three sizes: Small, medium, and large (or “pygmy,” “tamandua,” and “giant” if you want to pass yourself off as an anteater pro when cruising the online anteater discussion boards). I also discovered that some people (probably people who are into giant anteaters) call the medium anteaters “lesser anteaters” and that the lovers of medium anteaters are a little touchy about that. They prefer the “tamandua” label.

Speaking of those who love and hang out with anteaters, it turns out you can actually have a pet anteater in some states, but California is not one of them. If you want to own one here you have to apply for a special permit and build a giant cage in your yard and sign a contract promising that your anteater won't actually be a pet, but an educational/therapy animal. And then you have to take your anteater around to schools and old folks homes and let people pet it. That part actually makes me want one more, because I think that anyone packin' an anteater is going to be the rock star of the therapy-pet circuit. Right? I mean, how many drooly, stinky Beagles and retrievers have those poor kids and old people been subjected to? I think they'd flip out if you brought 'em an anteater. But the other stuff (cage building, permits, contracts) does not make me want one. I didn't envision a cage when I conceived of this whole scheme. I thought the anteater would just come and live with us and eat ants and pop in and out of the dog door at will. I was hoping he or she would make friends with Zadie and that they might even snuggle up together in the same dog nest (which it turns out was not entirely off the mark--the anteater people say they're actually very affectionate animals, bordering on needy, and get along quite well with cats and dogs).

Alas, it is not to be. Not only are the California anteater regulations something of a deal breaker, the cost and the inherent difficulty of caring for one pretty much preclude any anteater relationships that may have been in my future. It turns out that they cost anywhere from $1500 to $4000, and they are high-maintenance companions (physically—not personality-wise). The online community claims that most households do not have enough ants to sustain even one anteater. So you have to supplement their diets with a soup that has fruit and spinach and ants and cheese. Apparently they enjoy avocados as well, but those aren't part of the soup. And if you don't get the nutrition thing perfect they get sick. And wind up costing you thousands more at the vet. The websites couldn't emphasize the fragility of the anteater strongly enough. Oh, and they're cold all the time, so you need to dress them in sweaters (unless you live in a tropical climate).

So there you have it. Ready to pick one up? Yeah, me either. But I really was excited about it for a couple days...


  1. AnonymousJune 02, 2009

    If you get an anteater, I'll learn how to knit just so that I can furnish him with cozy sweaters!


  2. Ali- Are you Dave Barry's long lost sibling??

    Really, you should write a humor column and not squander all of this quirkinesss on a limted audience. I'm sure there are other people out there who would greatly enjoy your meanderings about squirrel pie and anteater pets. You did inherit some of my "slightly-left-of-center genes, so why not cash in on them? It's funny stuff (but I'm still not sure if a part of you is actually serious or not). Sure must keep Shanti guessing!!

    Love, Mom

  3. I like that can-do attitude Cassie! You sound like an ideal candidate for anteater ownership.

  4. Serious as a heart attack Mom! You should know that by now. Shanti is with me precisely because even though he won't admit it, he likes the idea of pet anteaters and squirrel stew.