New Mexico's Pet ResourceSPRING 2004

By Cheryl S. Smith

Sure, you’ve seen them in all the news stories on trendy pets and in that new Fox sitcom, and maybe you even know someone who has one. But before you rush out to buy a Triceratops of your very own, there are a few details you need to consider.

They’re cute and cuddly when they’re first hatched, but remember that they’re going to grow. In fact, the standard specifies up to 25 feet long. So though Triceratops are generally calm, with low exercise requirements, they’re probably not a good choice for apartment dwellers. They DO need room to turn around. Maybe a Compsognathus would be a better choice, growing to only the size of an average chicken.

If you have the room, do you have secure fencing? Some Tris become dedicated escape artists, especially if a vegetable garden lurks on the other side of the fence. Others have no intention of leaving their enclosure but rub their horns and frill so enthusiastically that they simply demolish ordinary fencing. For details on adequate fencing, read Triceratops Stockades by Justin Kidding.

So you have the room and are willing to invest in the fencing. Can you afford the food bills? They may not be much now, but by the time that tiny Tri has grown to his first ton you’ll need a bathtub full of green salad a day. And even the smallest Triceratops won’t stop growing until he’s topped five tons. Don’t depend on supermarket leftovers. That source dried up ages ago. You’ll have to contract with a produce broker to keep you supplied.

If you’re still saying that the Triceratops is for you, remember to add in some hefty animal vet bills. There are very few dinosaur specialists, and they command exorbitant prices for their visits. The yearly horn grinding alone will run you over a thousand dollars.

Also keep in mind that the Tri requires temperatures no lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Even in our warmest states, that means a heated house of some kind.

So money is no problem. Have you considered time? Since the Triceratops is a herd animal, he does become attached to his family, usually bonding strongly to one person. That family member will need to spend time with their Tri every day to prevent moping. A moping Tri is not a pretty sight, and can quickly become ill.

Someone will also have to take charge of the Tri’s exercise. If you have at least ten acres, this can be as simple as scattering each day’s food over the acreage. But if your landholdings are less extensive, finding a way to walk your Tri could be a real challenge. He can’t just jump in the car for a ride to the park, after all, and parks are acting quickly to ban Tris anyway. They disapprove of those immense footprints and the inevitable droppings.

And speaking of droppings, do you have plans for dealing with them? Really BIG plans? With all that roughage going in one end, a lot is certainly going to come out the other. It can be composted quite nicely, but you will need room for a building-size compost pile. If you don’t compost, expect your trash collector to be contacting you about raising your rates.

Finally, if you can deal with all of this, remember that you’ll be dealing with it for 25 to 30 years. That’s the average lifespan of a Triceratops in captivity. Your children will grow up, go to college, graduate, and get married and you will still have a Tri sharing your home. Remember, a pet is for life.

(Note: While it is highly unlikely that you will actually find a way to bring a Triceratops into your home, you can apply this same general series of thoughts to the prospect of buying an iguana, a tortoise, a kitten, or a puppy).

Cheryl S. Smith's latest book is "Dog-Friendly Gardens, Garden-Friendly Dogs." Her website is

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