By Melissa Wiley
Although Take Your Dog to Work Day takes place in June, not every office accommodates pets of the furry, four-footed variety. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your workplace has to remain petless—you just may have to get a little creative. Instead of Fluffy and Fido, think industrious ants, freewheeling fish, even enigmatic carnivorous plants. Your cubicle or conference room can be the ideal host for pets who play second fiddle to cats and dogs all too often.
The ant farm in many ways exemplifies the ideal office dynamic. Social insects as they are, ants are no slackers. Far from it. When they’re not sleeping, they’re working, diligently and cooperatively, contributing positively to the life of the colony as a whole. Plus they’re neat, quiet, and require absolutely no walking or trips to the vet.
Today’s ant farms are available in kits that more closely mirror the precision and ingenuity of ants themselves than the primitive ant farms of yesteryear. In fact, 21st-century kits, such as those available from AntWorks (AntWorksOnline.com), are fast bringing ants—and their caregivers—into the space age. These “farms” are more like insect space colonies, featuring a glow-in-the-dark AntWorks Gel that provides these feverishly busy little workmates with nutrients, not to mention a maze of microgravity-infused fun. You and your co-workers won’t be able to help feeding off these amazing insects’ productivity—and have some scintillating insect talk around the water cooler to boot.
Carnivorous plants may sound sinister, but these plants, which derive at least some of their nutrients from animals or insects, are actually a remarkable case of nature’s ingenuity. Whereas most plants absorb nitrogen from the soil through their roots, carnivorous plants grow in regions such as bogs that are poor in nutrients. These crafty plants gather nitrogen from their prey, which they catch through leaves shaped into trap formations of astonishing variety—Venus flytraps are only the beginning. And although these leafy meat eaters are relatively rare in the wild, you can order your ensnaring beauty, as well as wingless fruitflies to keep it happy, online at MyCarnivore.com.
At a loss with what to do with office mates who are a little on the crabby side? Get a hermit crab, of course! Actually their crotchety-sounding name fails to do justice to these crustaceans’ social nature. So every “crabitat,” whether in your office or at home, should accommodate at least two gregarious crabs.
A 10-gallon glass aquarium makes the ideal crabitat. Plastic critter carriers may suffice for a time, but your hermies need room to roam as well as to hold their food and water dishes, extra shells, and climbing toys. And like any adolescent undergoing a major hormonal shift, when your hermit crab begins to molt (shed his skin), he’ll need his own space, specifically an isolation tank, which requires 6 inches of sand and special “molting food” that’s high in calcium. The pivotal aspect of any crabitat is its substrate, which must be able to withstand crabs’ incessant tunneling. (Sand and coconut fiber make the best substrates.) Little hermies love to drag their substrate into their food and water dishes, so someone will have to clean them every day. If your office mates get crabby about messiness, however, hermit crabs may not be the best of pets. Crabs also pinch when they become alarmed or are just plain hungry. And, like people, they have their own individual personalities, so don’t judge a crab by his claws—give him time to come out of his shell, and maybe the shyest of your co-workers will come out of theirs.
Life in the office can easily feel like a fish-bowl existence, so why not get a real aquarium and call it a draw? “Fish bowl” is fast becoming an outdated term thanks to the sleek and innovative designs of modern aquariums, such the bioOrb Aquariums from Reef One (Reef-One.com). Aquarium design, both inside and out, is as varied as any other facet of interior design. But whatever your office décor, bringing the underwater world into the nine-to-five one adds an aquatic dimension to your office space that eludes description on an expense report.
Nothing says spring quite like insect transformation, and the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly is second to none. With the World Alive Butterfly Kit (Fascinations.com), you can witness the blossoming of painted lady butterflies from your desk. The kit comes complete with an accompanying net habitat, padded tip tweezers, magnifying glass, pipette, and activity and instruction books. Then with the click of a mouse, you can have your caterpillars shipped to your office door. The painted ladies emerge from their larval state into their full glory after approximately one month, just in time to release them at your company picnic.