Hermit crabs aren’t the cuddly type. You shouldn’t expect to caress, pet, or even handle your hermit crab every day. If you pick up a new hermit crab immediately after bringing it home, this will be highly stressful. Letting friends or family handle a new hermit crab will also cause it to retreat into its shell and feel scared. However, this doesn’t mean you should never touch your hermit crab.
Hermit crabs do not like to be handled often. In the wild, they are only picked up by predators that intend to eat them. If they’re handled or moved around, it’s likely by a threat such as heavy wind, ocean currents, or other attacking hermit crabs. Because of that, owners should introduce their hermies to being handled at a slow pace. Only pick up your hermit crab every 3-4 days, and limit the sessions to once a day.
Over time, your hermies will learn to trust and bond with you through this practice. They will understand that you are not trying to harm them. If you reward the hermie with food, it will start to associate handling with good things. However, it takes patience, a slow integration period, and caution. Mishandling your hermit crab may harm it or result in a pinch from its claws.
Can Hermit Crabs Be Held?
Hermit crabs can be held, but they do not like constant handling. If you pick up your hermit crab every day, or multiple times a day, it will grow stressed. That’s because hermies are very insecure animals.
In the wild, hermit crabs spend their days climbing, exploring, looking for shells, and foraging. They do not play with each other. If they are picked up, it’s because a bird or other coast-dwelling predator has snatched them up in its talons. In less dire circumstances, hermit crabs associate being jostled around with being tossed by strong winds or heavy currents from the ocean. They may even get jumped by other hermit crabs for their shell.
Because of this, even if you have good intentions, you should not immediately snatch up a hermit crab to snuggle. It will retreat into its shell and feel scared. If you move it around suddenly, poke at it, or refuse to put it down, it will grow even more stressed. After a prolonged amount of time, the hermit crab will eventually grow sick or even die.
This is particularly common if your hermit crab is still new and trying to adjust to its home. Owners are encouraged to leave their hermit crabs alone for the initial 1-2 weeks. Once your hermies feel more secure, you can begin handling sessions. These should be limited to 1-2 times a week at first.
Should You Hold Hermit Crabs?
If you do not feel comfortable picking up your hermits, then it’s not necessary. Hermit crabs will still lead full, enriched lives if they don’t interact with their owners. As long as their enclosure has enough obstacle courses, scavenger hunts, and branches to climb, they will make their own entertainment. Being hand-fed or held is just a way for hermits to bond with their owners.
If you want to feel a more personal connection with your pet, you should acclimate it to being handled. This should be done slowly and patiently. Over time, the hermit crabs will learn that being gently picked up is not dangerous. Instead, they are rewarded with food and new smells. The hermies will even learn to trust you as a strange but pleasant addition to their environment.
Can You Hold Hermit Crabs In Your Hand?
The best way to hold a hermit crab is to set it in your palm. Don’t dangle it mid-air by its shell with your fingers or roll it onto its back or balance it in between your fingers. Never hold onto the pet by its claws or legs.
New owners may feel that the shell keeps their hermie secure enough. Surely, it can be held in any way you please. However, you must remember that hermit crabs are used to resting on stable ground. You should limit how much jostling and movement they’re exposed to.
Likewise, their legs and pinchers are delicate in comparison to human strength. If you hold or pick up a hermit crab badly, it may lose a limb. To handle a hermit crab:
- Use both your hands to pick up the hermit.
- Gently lift the pet up by its shell with one hand.
- Immediately place your other hand beneath it.
- Rest the hermit in your palm.
- With the hermit crab secure, you can now lift it out of the tank.
If you pick up a hermit crab improperly, it may retreat into its shell and refuse to come out. That’s the best-case scenario. It may also flail and pinch wildly as it tries to cling onto a stable surface. That could put you on the receiving end of a painful pinch. The faster you secure the hermit in your palm, the more relaxed it will be.
Do Hermit Crabs Like To Be Held?
A hermit crab will never explicitly like being handled. Touching, petting, and getting picked up are not natural events for these crustaceans. Because of that, the best you can do is teach your hermit crab to accept being handled. As long as the pet isn’t stressed or upset, it will tolerate the experience.
If you haven’t trained your hermit crab to accept touching, petting, or handling, it will hate the process. Too much handling can even be dangerous to its health.
However, owners can acclimate their hermit crabs to handling. This will teach the pets to look forward to getting picked up. The best approach is to offer treats or hand-feed them in your palm. They will learn that seeing you, getting handled, and sitting in your palm equals getting tasty new food. This is what the hermit crabs actually enjoy.
You just need to ensure that your hermit crab is ready for one-on-one moments with you. A hermit crab that is ready to interact will become active and lively when you least expect it.
Should Hermit Crabs Be Handled Every Day?
Even still, hermits do not like being held often. If you touch, pick up, or pet your hermie every day, trust or no trust, it will become distressed. Hermit crabs like their personal space, and good food can only compensate for so much. No matter how closely bonded you are with the hermie, avoid picking it up every day.
Even with limited contact, handling is a great bonding process. By helping your hermit crab overcome its natural instincts to fear being picked up, you’re teaching it to trust you. As long as this transition is done carefully, gently, and patiently, the hermit crab will not be distressed. It will learn that you are a strange new thing in its environment, but come to associate you only with good things.
For pet owners that want a low-maintenance companion, that’s a fantastic thing. Your hermit knows you’re non-threatening, loving, and reward them every time you see them.
Do Pet Hermit Crabs Recognize Their Owner When Handled?
According to the University of Florida, hermit crabs may not be the smartest creatures, but they are somewhat intelligent. After all, they use different tools to survive. Hermit crabs obtain used shells from other marine creatures and make them their own.
Interestingly, hermit crabs can recognize you as their owner when handled. Some owners suggest that they even recognize the sound of your voice, but it’s likely that they’re just detecting sound vibrations. This explains why new hermit crabs find it hard to adjust to a new environment.
Are Hermit Crabs Aggressive When Handled?
According to the Journal of Animal Psychology, hermit crabs tend to be aggressive towards other hermit crabs, but not people. They live in colonies, so in-fighting helps to establish which hermits get which mating rights or shells. Hermies tend to be shy toward humans. They will open up and become friendly only once they get to know you.
Indeed, a hermit crab can pinch you, but this is often out of fear rather than aggression. How you hold your hermit crab will determine whether or not your pet is going to inflict pain. Besides, their pincher claws are rather harmless. They do not contain venom and rarely cause infection. In small breeds, you may hardly notice the pinch.
Do Hermit Crabs Show Affection When Handled Gently?
Hermit crabs, like most other marine creatures, do not have “humanly” feelings. They do not express love and affection, and it is very hard to discern what they feel about you.
As such, hermit crabs are not openly affectionate. However, their playful nature suggests that they can develop fondness (in their own way) for their owners. While they do not have an attachment, hermit crabs can develop associations with their owners.
For example, they may not see you as their best friend, but as the creature that always brings them good food. Likewise, if they spot you, their habitat may ‘suddenly’ contain more branches to explore or hiding spots with treats. What’s not to love?
As you continue to care and feed your hermit crab, the pet will grow fond of your presence, albeit gradually. You just need to hold your pet gently and make it feel comfortable if you expect it to respond kindly.
Do Hermit Crabs Pinch When Held?
Hermit crabs tend to pinch when held inappropriately. How you hold your pet hermit crab will determine the likelihood of getting pinched. Dangling your pet will only increase the risk.
Ideally, you should place your pet on your flat, stretched-out palm to reduce the chances of getting pinched. The less excess skin, the better. Curling up your hand will bunch up the skin and give hermit crabs an easy grip.
If your hermit crab is in its shell, you should pick it from the back rather than the front to avoid any contact with its claws. Always stay calm to avoid scaring the hermit crab. Sudden jerks, sounds, or movements will encourage the hermie to cling on for dear life. Your palm may suffer for it.
Hermit Crab Handling Tips
By handling your hermit crab properly, you will create a better bond. Keep these tips in mind:
Always Wash Your Hand Before Handling Your Hermit Crab
It is a good idea to wash your hands before and after handling your pet. Hermit crabs are not real crabs, since they do not have a uniform exoskeleton. Likewise, they cannot grow their own shells. However, their lack of a protective exoskeleton means they can easily ingest chemicals from lotions and hand oils. Your hermie might get poisoned by accident, so wash your hands in advance.
Choose To Handle Your Hermit Crab When They Are Most Active
Your hermit crab is likely to be active and in the mood for interaction during the day. This is the right time to pick it up and engage with your hermie. If it’s tucked into its shell, or burrowed into the sand, leave it alone.
Move Slowly When Picking Your Hermit Crab
Hermit crabs have compound eyes, meaning they can notice any rapid movements in the room. These movements might scare them and make it hard for you to touch your crustaceans. Be sure to keep your hands steady, slow, and precise.
Always Place Your Hermit Crab On A Stretched Out Palm
Stretching your hand will make the skin on your palm tight. As such, it’s impossible for the hermit crab to pinch.
You should also keep your fingers close together to provide a stable platform for your hermit crab. If it moves around, falling off your palm and in between your fingers will be dangerous. It might even cause it to pinch you while it clings for safety.