Exotic pet enthusiasts frequently turn to a pet sloth for a family-friendly, cuddly pet. They have easy-going temperaments and can be affectionate and even playful; they are long-lived, often surviving for 30 years or more in captivity; and they are unlikely to run away. While sloths can make good pets for some people, there are a number of drawbacks to keeping one. As with other exotic pets, they are expensive to obtain, may be illegal in some places and may require special licenses and permits. Depending on the species, they may have special dietary requirements and specialist veterinary care is likely to be very expensive, making costly exotic pet insurance advisable.
To many families and individuals, owning a pet sloth seems appealing, as they are “cute” animals that are usually good with small children. Since they are also typically slow moving, they are fairly easy to keep track of and do not tend to try to escape or run away. Although they can make sounds, they are not generally noisy and are very unlikely to engage in destructive behavior, such as scratching furniture or chewing up clothes or cushions. The fact that they are generally very clean animals that are comfortable living in the house once they have gotten used to it also makes sloths attractive as pets.
The disadvantages of owning a pet sloth, however, are often substantial enough to discourage most people from purchasing one. They are exotic animals that are often difficult to buy legally, so the purchase price is likely to be very high. There is the possibility that the pet may become ill and require highly specialized veterinary care, which could be extremely costly. This makes exotic pet insurance very advisable; it may, in fact, be a legal requirement in some places. Even if a sloth can be purchased and kept legally, many establishments, such as hotels, pet boarding facilities and apartments, will not allow them because they are considered exotic pets.
Types of Sloth
There are two main types of sloth — two-toed and three-toed — which belong to different families. Within these categories, there are four species of three-toed sloths and two species of the two-toed variety, giving six in total. The names refer to the number of toes on the forelimbs; all species have three toes on their hind legs. The three-toed forms have more specialized diets, involving particular species of plants, supplemented by bugs. For this reason, the two-toed types are more commonly kept as pets.
In the wild, these animals spend almost all of their time high in trees, suspended from branches. As pets, they will behave similarly and will enjoy climbing and hanging from anything suitable. In their natural environment, sloths descend from their trees only to defecate, which they do infrequently, typically about once a week. They do, however, produce a large volume of feces.
The sloth’s thick fur harbors many parasites, such as mites and ticks. Because of this, they tend to scratch a lot. Their parasites are not thought to pose a threat to humans, however.
Baby sloths cling to their mothers until they are old enough to fend for themselves. A pet sloth will usually demonstrate similar behavior and will happily embrace its owner, which greatly adds to their appeal. If properly looked after, they are affectionate and, despite their slow movements, surprisingly playful. Many owners have reported that their pets enjoy playing “peek-a-boo” using an old blanket.
A pet sloth needs to be provided with something to climb on that is strong enough to take its weight. It will enjoy climbing and hanging from real or fake trees inside the home. If this is not possible, it may be happy climbing other structures, such as wooden or metal frames, that have been constructed for this purpose. Ideally, it should have a large living space in which it is allowed to roam and play. At the very least, a tall, roomy cage should be provided to give the animal plenty of room to climb around.
Sloths live in areas with continually high temperatures and are not well adapted to life in temperate regions. They have a very slow metabolic rate and are unable to warm themselves in cold conditions by shivering. For this reason, it is essential to provide a constantly warm environment to ensure that the animals remain comfortable and healthy.
Properly caring for a sloth also requires obtaining special food that can be expensive and difficult to find. Suitable food can sometimes be purchased from zoos or zookeeping resources, but this is not always the case. Additionally, some people may be too squeamish to feed the pet its proper diet, which may include insects. Two-toed sloths appear to be less specialized in their diet and will eat a variety of vegetable matter, but it is important for owners to ensure that they receive enough of all the trace nutrients they require. Anyone considering keeping a sloth as a pet should seek expert advice applicable to the particular species.
Sloths are generally considered to be “exotic” pets and this means that potential owners may have to meet certain conditions and obtain special licenses or permits. Before considering keeping this animal as a pet, it is essential to check out any legal requirements. These vary from country to country and, in the US, from state to state. In some countries and some states, it may simply be illegal. Keeping a sloth under these circumstances could result in a large fine or even imprisonment, as well as confiscation of the animal.