Size ten, please…

Those are the size shoes I wear now.

I didn’t always wear size tens. For some years I wore eights. Long before that, I wore size two women’s shoes, and once upon a time my feet were so small and soft that I wore little tiny baby shoes.

Now, what if I’d never taken those little, tiny baby shoes off? What if I’d kept my feet in those smaller shoes, and yet continued to eat all through the growing phases of my life? Would my feet have stayed small enough to be happy in those smallest shoes?

Or suppose that when I was three, my parents had put me in a box three feet wide and three feet tall and three feet from front to back. If they kept on feeding me, do you think I would have stayed small enough to be comfortable in that box?

Or what if I’d lived in a house with high ceilings all my life? Would I now be six feet tall instead of five-foot-four?

I think I can hear most of you saying, “No, of course not, Lizard Lady. What kind of idiot do you take me for?”

And yet, over and over again I heard, “Well, if I just get it a ten-gallon tank, it’ll stay small, right?” I heard it about corn snakes and bearded dragons and fantail goldfish and nearly every other kind of fish, reptile or amphibian I ever sold.

Think about Chinese footbinding, and how the feet of those girls were bound tightly in bandages to keep them small. The end result was a foot that was deformed beyond remedy, and useless for walking.

You can’t keep an animal from hitting normal adult growth by putting it in an environment that’s too small for it. Fish, when they are desperately crowded, secrete a growth inhibitor into the water, but at that point they are already unhappily and unhealthily housed, and need more room.

Reptiles can’t use the growth-inhibitor trick, even when they’re desperately crowded, because it’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to transmit that kind of biological signal effectively through the air.

No, if you put a fish or reptile or amphibian in an environment that is too small and cramped for it to attain normal adult growth, what you’ll get is a cramped, possibly deformed and very cranky reptile, amphibian or fish. And, very likely, the animal will be unhealthy as well, and, shortly, dead.

If you can’t manage the space or money to get a habitat large enough for the animal, don’t get the animal. It’s common sense, and common kindness.


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