In many areas of the world, snails live in abundance and are sometimes considered a pest. It is not uncommon for people to stomp on them, think they are gross or overlook them completely. Among select groups of people, however, snails are beloved pets, best friends and even family members. Land snails as pets are great because they are low maintenance, live long, and are super photogenic!
Why are snails awesome?
I could spend days explaining this and it’s not all objective, so let me summarize some scientific facts for you. Snails have much longer lifespans than the average house pet, under special conditions they can live up to 25 years! There are around 35,000 species of land snails alone: some only grow up to a centimeter while the largest snail ever recorded was 40 cm long and weighed 0.9 kilos!
Snail owners have a lot of fun picking out names for their snails, and yes, thousands are named after SpongeBob’s Gary. The best part of choosing a name is deciding on the snail’s gender. Although gender assigning is frowned upon in today’s society, snails really don’t mind as they are hermaphrodites and have both male and female reproductive organs.
Everyone knows that snails are slimy, but why? The mucus they produce keeps them hydrated and allows them to hibernate in unfavorable climates and during colder months. It also has countless beneficial properties which are why some salons will offer to let snails race on your face.
Slow and steady wins the race is every snail’s motto. A common garden snail can reach the maximum speed of 1.3 cm per second. Snails are known for being one of the slowest creatures on Earth. But when in a hurry, they can take advantage of slime trails left by others. Traveling across a pre-slimed path gives them a turbo boost on their strenuous journey to a tastier patch of lawn. Because even snails think the grass is greener on the other side.
There’s no need to sing lullabies to snail babies: they are completely deaf but they can see, smell and feel. They are sensitive to bright sunlight as they are nocturnal and prefer to bury themselves underground during the day – unless it’s raining. They can also smell food from meters away!
Snails are shameless fatties and one of their favorite hobbies is eating. Calcium is vital in a snail’s diet and they can also eat fruits, berries, vegetables, all sorts of plants and even meat. Omnivores by nature, most snails will eat worms, small insects and even newborn rat or mice babies (pinkies). Veganism is not popular among snails, but cannibalism sure is among certain breeds.
Like ants, snails are strong and can lift up to 10 times their own body weight! They are tough and can heal a broken shell and survive great falls. Snail mothers are also very admirable, laying thousands of eggs a year. But even Superman has a weakness and a snail’s kryptonite is salt.
Why get a pet snail?
Now you know that snails are cool. But you may still be wondering why so many people dedicate hours of their time pampering snails, buying expensive food, decorations for their tanks and taking millions of photos of their slime-babies?
There is no single answer to this question, so I decided to get the scoop by surveying members of a popular Facebook group for snail enthusiasts, Achatina Snailcorner:
Kim Jonkmans, founder of Snailcorner:
“I have kept snails since I was able to walk but a few years ago I met someone who had some big Achatina fulica (Giant African Land Snail). In the months after, I became really sick and almost died. While I was in intensive care, I promised myself that if I survived this, I will put all my time into what I love most: snails.
I want to make a difference and I’ve started doing imports from Africa to create my own breeding groups to produce snails with strong genes. I work with scientists from the natural biodiversity center researching African land snails and I also do behavioral research on species from around the world. I think it was good to become so sick… it made my dreams come true.”
“I suffer from depression and I find that owning many snails really helps by giving me something to love and care for. Caring for over 80 snails brings me lots of joy and happiness: making their tanks nice, giving them a wide variety of foods and getting them regular snuggles.”
“They are gentle peaceful creatures with each other. They have beautiful and kind mating rituals: kissing and dancing. Their biology is weird and fascinating – retractable eyestalks! They are devoted vegetarians, most of them, and a great way to put those peels and scraps to good use. Capaeas clean their shells like cats! Snails enjoy baths and showers.”
“I got my first snails because I wanted a pet that was easy to take care of and a bit unusual. Now I keep getting more and more snails because I love them and they come in so many species and variants that I cannot simply stop collecting them!”
“I love being a snail daddy because as far as pets go they are easy to take care of and fun to watch. They’re usually seen as gross but if you get up close to them they’re really cute.”