A pet platypus is affectionate, loving, playful and funny. They need a big space, lots of water and the right nutrition. Pet platypus diets need to reflect what a wild platypus would eat. So that’s nymphs, larvae and crayfish. Getting the right food matters because it helps to keep them active. They love to hunt, which keeps their brains and bodies busy. A pet platypus is a rare sight, because it’s tricky to get a good setup for them and they are actually illegal in some parts of the world! Today we’ll help you to decide whether you are able to give a platypus a home, and how to keep them safe and happy.
- Can you have a pet platypus?
- Are platypus dangerous?
- Natural platypus environment
- Platypus care and diet
- Similar pets
The platypus is an Australian mammal that combines some pretty unusual body parts, like a duck bill, webbed feet, and a waterproof, furry body! Exotic pets are becoming a popular trend, as more people want to care for something more unusual than the standard dog or cat. This desire has led to many people wondering if the platypus could make a good pet. So, let’s take a closer look at platypus care to find the answer!
About the Platypus
The platypus is a water-based mammal that originates in Australia. However, unlike other mammals, the platypus lays eggs rather than birthing live offspring. They can be found living in Australian freshwater rivers and estuaries. But, are potentially under threat because of their specific habitat needs. Until the early 20th Century, they were also hunted for their coat, which led to a decline in numbers.
Platypuses are quite unusual creatures, even to look at. Some of their most interesting features include webbed feet, a wide, flat tail, and a bill which helps them navigate underwater. Their body is covered in fur. And, if those features weren’t unique enough, female platypuses lay eggs and males can produce venom.
Can You Have a Pet Platypus?
There are two main factors that will influence whether or not a platypus can be a pet. Firstly, you must consider its needs and suitability to domestic life. We will take a closer look at this in a moment. But, the second influencing factor is legality for exotic pets in your area. Platypuses are not domestic animals. In most countries and states, they will fall under the category of ‘wild’ or ‘exotic’ animals. And laws surrounding these animals varies depending on location.
In the UK, you usually need to apply for a licence in order to care for and keep a wild pet. In Australia, where the platypus originates, it is illegal to keep a platypus as a pet. And, in the USA, it can vary depending on the state you live in. So, it’s always worth checking local laws before anything else. In most cases, it is not legal or recommended to import and keep a platypus as a pet, because their care needs are too complex, and they can be surprisingly dangerous pets.
Is a Pet Platypus Dangerous?
In general, the platypus is a calm, gentle animal. But, there are times when a platypus can be quite aggressive, and even dangerous. If they feel threatened or distressed, a platypus can become aggressive. This can be quite unpredictable. Though platypus are quite small mammals (usually reaching between 15 and 24 inches in length), they can still deal a significant amount of damage when they are defending themselves.
On top of this, the platypus is one of the few venomous mammals. Males can produce venom during mating seasons. Male platypus venom is stored in a gland at each of their thighs. These glands are connected to sharp spurs at each ankle, which can be wielded in defence to penetrate the skin of the attacker and inject venom.
Though the venom is not necessarily lethal to humans, it’s extremely painful and can be lethal to other animals in your home. This risk, alongside legality and complex care needs, is a major reason why platypuses are not suitable as domestic pets.
Natural Platypus Environment
The platypus is native to Australia. This mammal lives in freshwater sources and is perfectly adapted for a life in water with their streamlined body, waterproof fur, and strong limbs. More often than not, they lead solitary lives. Though they feed in water, they live in small burrows where they sleep and dry off. Some platypuses have been seen swimming in saltwater, but they all feed in freshwater, so can never stray too far from a freshwater source.
The platypus is a crepuscular mammal, so is mostly active around dawn and dusk. Their complex natural environment is a major setback for people who dream of keeping a pet platypus. Most homes would not be large enough to sustain a safe freshwater source in which a platypus could feed. Though some platypuses are kept in captivity, their natural environments are very difficult to replicate in domestic settings.
Caring for a Pet Platypus
Platypuses need plenty of space in which to explore, including space on land and a water source in which to swim. Wild platypus feed in freshwater, which is something that is very difficult to replicate in a domestic setting.
You will need a large indoor pool with some areas where your platypus can easily climb out of the water and bask. Depending on your ambient temperature they might also need a heat lamp.
Pet Platypus Food
A wild platypus will feed on invertebrates that live on the bottom of the river or water source they inhabit. Occasionally, they may also feed on things like frogs, insects, or fish closer to the surface of the water. But, the specific food they regularly eat will vary depending on their exact habitat and the current season.
Keeping Your Pet Platypus Healthy
There are very few veterinarians that will specialize in platypuses, particularly outside of Australia and in areas where a pet platypus is not legal. Because of this, a domestic platypus is at higher risk of complications if they become ill. Owners will not have a reputable source for advice and help relating to pet care, which can lead to a significantly shortened lifespan for your platypus.
The platypus is not a great option for most people, even people whose heart is set on finding an exotic pet. In most parts of the world, it is not legal to keep a platypus as a pet. And, even if it is legal near you, it’s very difficult to replicate the platypus’ natural environment, diet, and so on. On top of this, a platypus can be quite a dangerous pet, as they are one of only 5 naturally venomous mammals.
If your heart is set on finding an exotic pet, there are plenty of other options to consider. But, you should do plenty of research on the specific needs of the animal to ensure you can offer them a good home. And, it may be worth investigating where your exotic pet will be sourced from, since research has shown that exotic pet trade can negatively impact on biodiversity and animal welfare. But, here are some other pets that you could consider if you’re interested in the platypus:
Are You Interested in a Pet Platypus?
The platypus is an interesting and unusual mammal that finds its natural home in Australia. Despite growing interest in the platypus as a domestic pet, they are not recommended in most parts of the world, and are illegal in many others. Not only are platypus care needs very complex, but this can be quite a dangerous pet, since they are one of the few mammals that are venomous! Instead, there are plenty of reptiles and similar alternatives that could be a better choice.
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References and Resources
- Warren, W. (et al), ‘Genome Analysis of the Platypus Reveals Unique Signatures of Evolution’, Nature (2008)
- Grant, T. & Temple-Smith, P. ‘Conservation of the Platypus, Ornithorhynchus Anatinus: Threats and Challenges’, Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management (2003)
- Hawkins, M. & Battaglia, A. ‘Breeding Behavior of the Platypus (Ornithorhynchus Anatinus) in Captivity’, Australian Journal of Zoology (2009)
- Bino, G. (et al), ‘The Platypus: Evolutionary History, Biology, and an Uncertain Future’, Journal of Mammology (2019)
- Nuwer, R. ‘Many Exotic Pets Suffer or Die in Transit and Beyond – and the U.S. Government is Failing to Act’, National Geographic (2021)
- Whittington, C. & Belov, K. ‘Platypus Venom: A Review’, Australian Mammology (2007)
- McLachlan-Troup, T. (et al), ‘Diet and Dietary Selectivity of the Platypus in Relation to Season, Sex and Macroinvertebrae Assemblages’, Journal of Zoology (2010)
- Lockwood, J. (et al), ‘When Pets Become Pests: The Role of the Exotic Pet Trade in Producing Invasive Vertebrate Animals’, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2019)
- Bush, E. (et al), ‘Global Trade in Exotic Pets (2006 – 2012)’, Conservation Biology (2014)