When Abigail picked up a bug at the beach and petted it for two hours, I finally felt sufficient guilt to explore some sort of pet for her. Since anything that poops or has hair is out (because we don't want to deal with them and because we leave for five weeks at a time in summer), and fish are very difficult to pet, and snakes are just not overly appealing, and turtles carry salmonella . . . there wasn't a lot to go on. But I finally hit on the idea of hermit crabs. And we are all in.
We meant to pick up three on the beach but couldn't stop ourselves, so we have five.
We tried the wire cage but had multiple escapes and a few got stuck, so we're using an aquarium.
I wasn't sure if Abigail would be brave enough to hold them, but she carries them all over the house a lot of the day. She was shocked at the actual work of cleaning water bowls and changing food and whatnot (I spent a whopping six to eight hours getting everything set up in the last few days and making water drinkable and buying special salt and getting a lid made to fit the cage and cleaning and prepping TWO cages--this is a time-consuming pet so far). But it makes no noise and doesn't shed and doesn't go outside to use the bathroom, so we're doing pretty well all things considered. Her brothers like them, too.
She named them Buttercup, Johnny, Mountain-Climber, Big Guy, and Hermie. Interestingly, they've almost all changed their shells already--one did twice the first day. It makes it hard to tell them apart. Because the shells change daily for some!
I must say, in defense of the hermit crab as a pet, that they eat whatever we eat (specifically what we-my-healthy-food-family eat--the web page I saw said they eat like your mom and doctor would want you to eat); they can be held as much as you want; they are very portable (I can move their whole house and temporarily put them in a tupperware if I need to); they are free (if you live near tropical beaches); they are low maintenance (as long as you live in hot, humid climates) unless they are molting (when I think they could possibly attack each other? more on that later); and they are not big poopers. Maybe not so cute and cuddly as some pets, but we are very satisfied customers!