Human culture has enjoyed a long history with tiny creatures that creep and crawl. In the United States, there are over 2 million hamsters in households, 50 thousand pet snakes, and an uncountable number of rats. Snails might seem like an unusual choice for a pet, but they happen to be one of the most popular “pocket pets” in Europe.
Snails possess some fascinating characteristics that make them perfect for pet ownership – they’re low maintenance (they can go up to 3 months without food!), don’t smell (unless they’re hungry), and are easy to handle. In addition, as a pet, they make very little noise and won’t disturb the peace of your neighboring apartment.
Snails as Pets before 1978
Snail Care Before 1978
In 1968 there were no pocket pets in Europe. People kept them in glass aquariums that were somewhat messy and difficult to clean. In 1974 a group of snail owners in Germany started a snail association, which grew into a nationwide organization for snail enthusiasts. They began to promote snails as pets by educating people about their unique characteristics and providing advice on keeping them healthy. Snail enthusiasts from all over Europe began to write articles for the snail newsletter, which became its periodical (“Cephalopod News”).
Snail enthusiasts adopted snail names, which were used for membership in the association. For example, the snail president of Germany’s association, ARKO, was the German word for “snail.” Other common nicknames were “Bouncer” (for those with high energy), “Cutie” (for those with good looks), and “Shellie” (for those who keep their shells clean). Before members could be accepted into the association, they had to pass one of several snail exams.
Snails as Pets after 1978
The first public snail exhibition was held in Berlin in 1979. Initially, it was focused on showing people how to handle and care for snails. The animals were auctioned off at the end of the show. Then, in 1980, a snail circus was held in Germany for the first time in history. A snail circus is a collection of animals that perform for an audience – sometimes up to 200 people. Snails were also exhibited in 1980 at a pigeon exhibition in Aachen “Meeres- und Weltmeerexperten” (Sea and World Ocean Explorers).
In 1981 a children’s snail club was started by a group of students from the University of Hildesheim in Germany. In 1982, after receiving permission from the government, several hundred snails were imported from Germany to Ireland to be bred and sold as pets. In 1984, a snail circus was held in Braunschweig, Germany. In 1987, the first snail club that was exclusively for children was established. In 1995, about 1 million snails were imported from Germany to all over Europe as pets.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, people began to keep pocket pets of different sorts in their homes – often dogs, cats, or birds. There was a trend toward keeping aquatic creatures such as fish and turtles as pets, but most people eventually returned to keeping dogs and cats. Snails were considered a bit too “unhygienic” for these new trends.
Snail enthusiasts in Germany began to introduce snail pets to English-speaking countries such as the United States, Australia, and Great Britain. In 1979, a snail club was started in England. In 1980, snails were imported for sale under special permits from Germany to the United Kingdom. The first company in the UK to import snails was Dave’s (Snail) Pets (snailpets.com). Since then, many other companies have become involved with importing snails to Europe and America.
Snail clubs were established worldwide – most notably the American Snail Club (ASNCC), which was founded in 2000 by Jacqueline Bradshaw (now President) of Toronto, Canada.
12 Reasons Why Snails Make Perfect Pets:
- Snails cost nothing.
You can get them for free at a pet store or from a friend, or you can purchase your very own online (average price: $5). You will need to purchase a terrarium and some substrate (like sand), but generally, the only expense will be food and decorations (like shells and toys).
- Snails don’t require much space.
After they have grown to full size, they don’t need much room to move around. The only thing they require is space for their tank – bigger is better!
- They won’t bother other pets in your home.
Snails are quiet. They make a lot of noise while they eat, but otherwise, they are relatively low-key. Even if other pets begin to stir while the snail is eating, the snail isn’t very bothered by their actions.
Each snail has a unique personality – just like humans! They have different food preferences and interests that will be different from every other snail you ever owned. In general, snails that have been kept in captivity for at least one year have less fear of people and tend to be more friendly than young snails.
- It’s easy to take care of a snail.
Snails have soft bodies and can be immediately released from their shells. They don’t need other foods aside from their regular food, so you won’t have to go out and purchase special pet foods or anything else.
- They don’t climb or jump around.
This is a plus if you have other pets in your home, as it will keep them from getting into trouble by climbing over furniture or walls, hiding under things, etc. Unfortunately, none of your other pets want to get into the snail tank!
- They don’t bark or meow.
They aren’t noisy on purpose – they’re just quiet!
- They’re easy to hold and pet.
Their bodies are soft and squishy, unlike the stiffer bodies of other pocket pets, so they’re really fun to handle! While taking care of them, you can set them on your hand or shoulder. Your snail will also enjoy being held in your hand for a while – it’s one of their favorites things!
- They are low maintenance.
Snails are perfect for someone new to the hobby of pocket pet keeping because they are straightforward to take care of. For example, you can let your snail roam around your room while you’re studying because they won’t bother you, and while you’re gone all day, they won’t need to be taken out for walks or anything like that.
- They are quiet.
Generally, the only thing your other pets will hear is the occasional squeak when your snail is eating his dinner. However, if he is feeling particularly active (and this happens often), he might squeak when jumping off things (like walls).
- They are clean animals.
They love to clean themselves! You only need to clean their tank once a week or so – or whenever you notice it needs cleaning (if it’s filthy). Then, you can use a screwdriver to scrape the gunk from the bottom of the tank.
- They’re easy to handle.
Snails aren’t skittish, and they don’t run away when you touch them (if they do, it’s usually because you startled them and not because they were scared). Handling your snail is one of their favorite things, and most snails will crawl onto your hand when they see it coming toward them!
- They come in many different colors and sizes!
Some people like snails with stripes, some like snails with spots, and some like snails with solid colors (there are black, white, brown, beige, gray – there’s something for everyone!).
If you have been thinking of getting a pet snail, but have been put off by the fact that you might need to buy a whole new tank and some food and water, then don’t let this discourage you. Snails are cheap and easy to look after.