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Unusual Pets - The Hissing Cockroach

By: Alex Lieber

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Selecting a cockroach as a pet may seem a stretch, but hey, this series is all about unusual pets. And the Madagascar hissing cockroach is no ordinary roach. For one thing, it can grow to up to 3 inches long and over an inch wide – not something you would swat with a rolled-up magazine!

For another, this particular type of cockroach is clean, odorless, sanitary, docile and harmless. They are hardy creatures that do not bite, and in fact make great pets for children. The hissing cockroach resembles a beetle, and some in the pet trade call it that to avoid the stigma of being labeled a cockroach.

Besides size and personal hygiene, the hissing cockroach is unique for the sound it makes. The hissing noise can be heard during mating rituals, aggression between males or when an adult male, adult female or nymph are handled or disturbed in some way. Sometimes a colony will hiss for no apparent reason.

Studies have indicated that males can tell each other apart by hissing, which also tells them something of the size of their potential opponents. Likewise, females are attracted to the tone and strength of a male's hiss. Unlike most other insects, the hissing is created by forcing air through a pair of breathing pores located in the abdomen. Most other insects make sound by rubbing body parts together, like crickets.

Hissing cockroaches also enjoy a rather large range of diet. They thrive on dog food, rat chow, as well as fruits and vegetables. They are also long-lived creatures, from an insect's point of view. They can live up to 5 years.

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