Photography and text by Sara Caruso

Hermit crabs are one of the most popular first pets for children. With the right care this inquisitive, quiet little animal can be a wonderful pet. Learning how to properly handle your new friend can make for a closer, more enjoyable relationship between crab and caretaker.

An active, healthy crab should come out of its shell to investigate you and its surroundings – even if it’s new and feeling a little shy. To help it adjust, when picking up your new crab, it’s a good idea to hold it by the shell for the first few days. Let the crab see your face and hold it over the palm of your open hand so it knows you are friendly.

Once it gets used to you, try placing the crab on your hand, making sure your hand is completely open, palm up, and flat. Take care not to cup your hand around the crab. When you cup your hand, your skin folds and the crab might grab on to it for support. As a result, you can get pinched. Should that happen, don’t assume the crab is bad or aggressive. That’s just not the case. Hermit crabs like to climb, it’s their natural-instinct to hang on to anything. Often, people get pinched simply because they don’t know how to properly hold their crab. Sadly, some people have hermit crabs for years and never interact with them because they are misinformed.

As with any pet, washing your hands before and after handling is always a good practice. Washing prevents the crabs from ingesting chemicals from lotions or other things that may be present on your hands. Hermits like the natural salt produced by our skin and may occasionally pick at your hand with their feeding claw. It tickles like crazy. Most importantly, there is no truth to the myth that hermit crabs can spread disease. This myth may have started because hermit crabs are scavengers in the wild.

The hermit crab you adopt may be understandably timid or even frightened at first. Gentle handling at least once a week will help the crab become more comfortable. Less stress is always a good thing too. Hermits love to explore. A dollhouse, or little obstacle course built from LEGOS can provide stress reduction and enjoyment. Let your crab enjoy a well-supervised crawl around your room now and then so it gets used to your routine. Lastly, adopting a crab that is receptive to you from the start will make handling easier. By following this basic guide, you and your hermit crab will have many happy years together.

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