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Me and My Hermit Crab

Five small-pet-owning New Yorkers who spoil their rats and nap with their hedgehog.

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Lisa Reinke & her rabbits Spot and Thelma
Flatbush
“I moved into an apartment with two bedrooms—one just for the rabbits. It’s got cardboard boxes on the floor that they burrow in. When we’re not home we just close the door; otherwise, we open it and they can go wherever they want. Playing with rabbits can be a little tricky. You can hide their food around like a scavenger hunt. I play tug-of-war with them with a toilet-paper roll. And they’ll play fetch—well, it’s really the opposite. They’ll flick the ball up with their head and then make you bring it back to them.”


Christina Lee & her rats Waffle and Pancake
Sunnyside
“There’s always this awkward pause when I tell people I have rats. ‘Rats? On purpose?’ But they’re so smart, so social. The rats’ cage is probably cooler than my own apartment. They have hammocks, three litter boxes, and really expensive bedding. They only drink bottled water. I feed them organic fruits and vegetables. I’ll spend money on things for my rats that I would never spend on myself. The biggest downside is the life span—they live only three years, if you’re lucky. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when they pass.”


Laurie Malfa & her bearded dragon D’Brickashaw
Bushwick
“My sister was at Petsmart buying stuff for her cat and I was meeting her there. The bearded dragons were 50 percent off for Black Friday and I was like, Let’s just do this. He’s named after D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets player. It’s so hard to explain the joy that he brings—that just comes from him doing nothing. When you walk into the room, he gets up and looks at you. One time, my fiancé and I were having breakfast in my studio—we were sitting on the floor eating—and he ran over and stole a piece of spinach off my plate. He’s just so cute.”


Barbara Holtz & her 40 hermit crabs
Gramercy Park
“I’ve had hermit crabs for over 20 years. I went on vacation to Jamaica and fell in love with the little critters and I brought some back with me. When people don’t want to keep their crabs, that’s where I come in. I rescue them. That’s why I have 40. It’s a little overwhelming at this point, but I know them all. My favorite is a female whose name is BB King—the original owner thought it was a male. She’s sweet; she knows me. I bring her out on the couch and she climbs on me and walks around. One escaped once—and to this day I have never found that crab.”


Jenna Xu & her hedgehog Prince Andrei Nikolaevich Bolkonski
Jackson Heights
“Prince Andrei is actually very cuddly. We nap together for a few hours every night. He’s very fainthearted and not receptive to new people—he’s afraid of loud noises, bright lights, new smells—but once you get to know him he’s very affectionate. He has his own Instagram account and is way more popular than I am. Though it’s not legal to have one in the city—I got him on Long Island—I have never had a problem. I’ve flown with him out of La Guardia. The TSA always remember him and make a big fuss because he’s pretty cute.”


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