Can You Have A Platypus As A Pet? (Should You?)

Platypus, which are endemic to eastern Australia, are semiaquatic, egg-laying mammals that are intriguing and highly unusual animals with a truly unique appearance.

In fact, according to the BBC, when a platypus was first brought from Australia to Britain, most who viewed the animal didn’t believe that it was real but that it was actually two animals sewn together.

Can you have a platypus as a pet?

Although many may find them cute due to their flat bills and webbed feet reminiscent of ducks, paddle-like tails like beavers, and their glossy, furry bodies as seen in otters, you should not pursue to have a platypus as a pet as they can actually be extremely dangerous animals. Notably, they are one of the few mammals that are venomous and are also illegal as pets.

Male platypus essentially have a secret weapon: spurs on the back of their hind legs connecting to a gland (known as a crural gland) that secretes venom. The male platypus uses the venom against predators or when competing against other males when seeking mates.

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The venomous barbs can deliver a poison that is thought to be able to kill small animals and produce severe swelling and excruciating pain in humans.

Venomous spur on hind legs

But there are many other reasons why it isn’t possible to have a pet platypus.

First, did you know that it is illegal to have a pet platypus in Australia? Further, they are not permitted to be kept as pets in any other country.

They also are notoriously difficult animals to keep in captivity, including major research institutions and zoos, due to the conditions they need and their high sensitivity to ecological changes.

Platypus were once hunted for their prized fur, nearly leading to their extinction, yet they are now a protected species due to the passage of the National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1974.

What is a Platypus?

Can you have a platypus as a pet?
Can you have a platypus as a pet?

Platypus are endemic to rivers in eastern Australia and are monotremes, meaning that unlike most mammals, they do not give live birth. Rather, they lay eggs as did their amniote ancestors-vertebrates that underwent embryonic development within the innermost membrane (called an amnion), including reptiles, birds, and some mammals.

Known as puggles, baby platypus that are born from eggs also suckle their mother following their hatching. Although female monotremes do not have nipples, they produce milk for their young that is released through pores in the skin.

As noted above, platypus have flat bills, webbed feet, paddle-like tails, and slick, glossy, furry bodies. Importantly, they are one of the few mammals that are able to deliver poisonous venom when feeling threatened or battling with another male platypus when seeking a mate.

A male adult platypus is on average 20 inches long, including their approximately 5-inch tail, and about 3 pounds. Female adult platypuses tend to be smaller than males, averaging approximately 17 inches in length.

Platypus that live in colder climates tend to be larger than those that live in warmer climates. Ancient platypus fossils suggest that ancestors of modern-day platypuses may have been approximately twice as big in comparison.

Are Platypus Dangerous?

If a person makes a male platypus feel threatened, particularly during mating season, the platypus can be dangerous and may produce his secret weapon and viciously drive his spurs into his provoker.

Platypus tend to be shy and mainly nocturnal and are primarily interested in hunting the river bottom for shrimp, crayfish, and insect larvae. But that changes when mating season comes along. The male platypuses’ level of venom increases, their testes begin to swell, and they begin to seek their mates.

When they fight over females, they may wrap their legs around their rival and violently stab the other with their sharp spurs, injecting venom. As the victor of the mating contest goes off to woo the female, the losing male’s limbs may become paralyzed and collapse. Eventually, he recovers and swims or staggers away.

Following mating season, the male platypus’ venom-producing glands become dormant, and the testes return to normal size.

Interesting mating facts: It is thought that the male’s sharp spurs on the hind legs may be used to hold down the female for successful mating. When a female decides that she accepts the male as her new mate, she may allow him to bite her on the tail, and she responds by biting his tail in return.

The mating occurs in the water, and the courtship dance, which can last for days, is thought to include bill nuzzling, cuddling, rolling sideways together, diving, and different swimming movements where the female swims in a small, tight circle and is followed by the male, who holds onto her tail using his jaws.

Can you have a platypus as a pet?

In fact, according to some reported cases, those who have been on the receiving end of these spurs have had to manually yank the spurs out of the wound. They may then begin to experience immediate, excruciating pain; cold sweats; nausea; and muscle wasting, weakness, and hypersensitivity for up to a few months.

Traditional painkillers are not effective for the pain caused by the venom, nor has morphine been reported to ease the pain. A physician may need to inject local anesthesia to provide relief from the pain.

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Are Platypus Aggressive?

Platypus are not aggressive and tend to be shy, wary, solitary, nocturnal animals that have their “own space” or home range where they live and feed. They typically sleep in their burrows for most hours of the day, leaving their burrow only in the early mornings and evenings to feed.

But again, when mating season arrives or when male platypus feel threatened or territorial, they may become extremely aggressive and quite literally “draw their claws out.”

What Do Platypus Eat?

Platypuses are extremely difficult animals to keep in captivity. They are picky eaters, preferring to feed on live aquatic invertebrates, including insect larvae, crayfish, worms, and shrimp, and they require a tremendous amount of food.

It is thought that they require food that equals approximately one-fifth or more of their body mass daily. Their tanks must be large, providing them with sufficient room to mirror their natural home range (which may extend to half a mile or more).

They also require fresh, clean water through automatic filters. Further, they are highly sensitive to pollution and ecological changes. Platypus breeding in captivity has occurred only rarely and requires extremely rigid, intensive management.