- Just why? Why would you want these things as pets?
Some people like their pets on the more exotic side. You can find birds, reptiles, even spiders and insects in most big pet stores.
For the most part, these are fairly harmless creatures. But then there are the people who keep leeches as pets.
And if that’s not weird enough for you, it gets better. Or worse, actually. Some of them feed their little pet abominations with their own blood.
You read that right. There are people that grow leeches and let them suck on their blood when it’s meal time.
It’s not like we’re in a place to criticize how anyone wants to live their lives, but… Couldn’t you just have gotten some fish or something?
Monsters with Personality
One anonymous leech keeper told ScienceAlert about their little pets. According to the publication, the person wanted to stay nameless to avoid online harassment.
Yeah, that seems like a smart move. Again, no judgement, but this person is way too enthusiastic about bloodsucking parasites.
“They’re amazing, curious creatures that grow like crazy and make wonderful pets,” this Leech Lord/Lady gushed.
If anything, this is a great example of how wildly different people’s ideas on “wonderful pets” can be.
The leech keeper said they own four leeches. Each of them is a buffalo leech, also known as the Asian leech.
And these things get big. How big you ask? Well, let’s just say that an online store specializing in selling them (for $300 a pop, no less) describes them as “monster-sized.”
The can grow up to five and half inches in length. Basically, it’s almost the size of your palm.
According to their owner, each of the leeches even has its own personality. They said that some are more adventurous, while one of them is what they called “shy.”
“Some like to try and sneak a feed more often than others! But once they’re full, they’re content to sit and rest for a bit out of water if handled gently,” the owner said.
The leeches like to be handled. Oh joy.
I Vill Suck Your Blood! Bleh!
Speaking of sneaking a feed, though, everybody knows that leeches like fresh blood. Not all, some are happy swallowing worms whole, but most are more disgusting versions of a vampire.
When it comes time to feed your wriggling, slimy pet, there really aren’t that many options available. They want their blood warm and fresh, so you pretty much just have to slap one on your arm and let it go to town.
The leech keeper said that the initial bite hurts a bit, but the pain soon goes away. All thanks to the leech’s anesthetic-laden saliva.
“Once they get feeding you don’t even feel it, even with the large buffalo leeches,” they said.
The leech bites usually heal “without a scar,” but they can keep bleeding for days. Again, thanks to the leech saliva, which also acts as an anticoagulant.
Some people have had success with feeding their leeches with raw liver or heated up blood from a butcher. As long as the blood is warm and fresh-ish, it should work, but the easiest option is just to sacrifice your own blood.
Our leech keeper isn’t the only person enthusiastic about pet leeches. Parasitologist Mackenzie Kwak from National University of Singapore thinks they’re a great learning experience.
“Pet leeches are a marvelous way to learn about parasites, and on a broader level, to appreciate how intricate and bizarre the natural world can be,” Kwak said.
That might be, but there’s some things that are probably best appreciated from a safe distance.
Gross but Useful
But, in all fairness, growing leeches is nothing new. In fact, people have been doing it for thousands of years.
“Why, though?” you may ask. Well, picture a medieval doctor – what is he probably going to prescribe for your headache?
That’s right, leeches. These blood-slurping little fiends have been a popular cure throughout the ages for everything from headaches to nymphomania until as recently as the 19th century.
No, they didn’t usually work. But at least the doctor could say that he tried.
Even today, leeches are sometimes employed in medicine. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved their use as “medical devices.”
“Leeches are used post-operatively in patients who have had digit reattachment or muscle or flap surgery. The leeches are applied to the site and suck away the congested blood to allow for blood flow to the peripheries to keep the surgical site viable,” explained nurse Julie Smolders from South Western Sydney Local Health District.
Fine, we have to admit, leeches have their uses. And those who keep them as pets genuinely love the little things, so we suppose that has to count for something.
“Could you imagine the outrage if someone talked about dogs and cats the way you see them talk about leeches?” the anonymous leech keeper pondered.
Yeah, sorry but not sorry. We’ll stand by what we said.