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Taming a Hermit Crab

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It may come as a surprise that hermit crabs don't like to be alone and actually thrive around other hermit crabs. Your crab would prefer to share his home with another hermit crab -- or two or three. He may also like spending time with you, after he gets used to your company. In most cases it's a matter of allowing Hermie enough time to feel comfortable with you.

Time to Adjust

It's extremely rare for hermit crabs to mate in captivity because they use the sea to hatch their eggs. That means that Hermie's used to a home that didn't include living in a crabitat. Consider his and his buddies' circumstances: They've been taken from their natural habitat and, if they're lucky, end up in pet stores whose caretakers understand proper hermit crab care. In the best scenario, hermit crabs are in an appropriate habitat where strangers aren't permitted to poke and prod them at will. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Most pet store hermit crabs live in less-than-ideal conditions, subjected to people knocking on their shells and handling them carelessly. It's a factor in why captive hermit crabs need some time to come out of their shells, literally, when you get them home.

Picking Up Hermie

The first step to taming a hermit crab is understanding how to pick him up with confidence. Move slowly around him so he's not startled by sudden movements -- it's a natural instinct for him to pinch in those conditions. Also take care to steer clear of his compound eyes. Hold him by the shell with your dominant hand, placing your other hand just below his walking legs so they are touching your outstretched hand. If he wants to grab you, gently raise him a bit. If he can feel your palm beneath him, he's less likely to pinch because he feels more secure and less likely to fall.

Handling Hermie

When you're comfortable picking him up gently -- and he's confident that you won't drop him or dangle him in the air -- let him sit on your outstretched hand. Keep your hand taut so it's difficult for him to pinch you. If you allow him to rest in your palm, the warmth of your hand may make him restless in his shell, prompting him to make an appearance. Every crab is different; some come out relatively quickly while others take a long time. It's a matter of your crab understanding that you're not going to harm him and learning to trust you.

Out of His Shell

Whether it takes minutes, days or weeks, whenever Hermie makes an appearance, try talking to him in a low voice. When he's in your hand, keep it flat so he doesn't have anything to pinch. Chances are you will get pinched at some point -- even the most seasoned crab handlers experience this. If Hermie grabs on to you and is reluctant to let go, try coaxing him to walk along to something else, such as one of his climbing toys from his crabitat. Running him under gently running warm water sometimes works; however, sometimes the crab will pinch even harder.

Tame or Not Tame

If you're patient and allow Hermie time to trust you, chances are your efforts will be rewarded. If that's the case, try hand-feeding him bits of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meats. He might enjoy roaming free, but if he does don't allow him anywhere he can fall, such as on a table, or where he's vulnerable to other pets or of potentially ingesting something harmful, like chemicals. In the end, despite your efforts to socialize your critter, you may just have a crab that isn't interested in interacting with you. If that's the case, allow him to enjoy life in his crabitat and focus your attention on one of his housemates. Hermit crabs are pets, not toys, which is the most important thing to keep in mind.