Here’s the deal. Newts are popular pets for both young and old, but if you don’t fully understand these tricky, little amphibians, they can sometimes be more trouble than they’re worth.
Let’s start with the basics. Newts are a type of salamander. They are lizard-like in appearance, with a cylindrical trunk, fleshy toes (some have fully webbed feet), and moist, slick skin. They are slow-moving, semi-aquatic, and survive on a diet of earthworms, slugs, snails and crickets. So far, what’s not to love?
Newts tend to stay out of the sun, hiding under rocks and logs during the day. Although they are not, surprisingly, camera shy. Newts not only shed their skin, but are capable of limb regeneration (so that, for example, if a newt were to put its foot in its mouth…and then accidentally bite it off, another foot would grow back), which makes them surprisingly resilient.
And, despite their diminutive size, newts can be deadly. Newts have a highly toxic skin, as they produce a mucous poison that can kill their enemies. The Ribbed Newt has needle like tips on its ribs and can squeeze its muscles so that its own ribs pierce through its skin and into any would be attackers. Now that’s dedication to self preservation. The newt, then, is a very dangerous animal when cornered and if you attack one you should expect a venomous retort.
Thus, if you intend to keep a newt as a pet, you should never eat food or touch your face after handling your newt. To be safe, I would recommend never touching newts at all…it hasn’t worked out well for anyone yet. You should also make sure that your newt’s aquarium has a tight lid, as newts are conniving and will crawl out of any crack they can find. Every time you may think that newt is trapped, it’ll find a way to scurry away.
But perhaps most interesting of all is a newt’s mating habits. Young, male newts form a mentor relationship with an older female, who will teach the young newt, and then become its first reproductive partner. But newts do not mate for life. As soon as this older female becomes frail or sick, the male newt will move on to a younger mate. But even this younger female will age and male newts will eventually seek out a female as much as twenty three years its junior.
So, how am I going to do it? How will I convince people that the newt makes a poor pet? Although newts have been known to flourish in such southern states as South Carolina and Florida, do we really want them in our homes? Do we want our children thinking that slick, poison-spewing, lizard creatures who hide in the dark and sneak around with younger mates are the answer? Sure, newts may be interesting to study from a distance…but if you put one of these in your house, you’ll be cleaning up its mess for years to come.