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20 Sloth Facts: Care, Food, Breeds, Size, Behavior

Our ancestors domesticated animals some few hundred years back, most of these were park animals like the dog, used to haul sleds in snow, the cow, donkey, horses, domestic cats, and others.

These animals are known to be timid and have lost their wild nature due to their long-time interaction with humans.

In recent years, humans have crossed the border and are now into exotic pets, these are wild animals that are taken from their actual habitats either tropical forests, savannah, desert or oceans and are provided with partially the same conditions in the zoos or cages by their owners.

Animals like tigers, crocodiles, elephants, bears and most recently sloths, have been living in human-controlled environments, which does not work quite well with them because, they are not bred into captivity, neither are they calm in temperament nor adapted to be provided with anything by anyone.

They are bred to live and feed in nature.

For this article let’s talk about sloths, an animal that has recently come into the limelight as a pet.

Therefore, not much has been told about its requirements and needs, because they require much more attention than the other animals.

They are not pets to be bred by every tom, dick and harry, just because you saw that video of a cuddly lovable sloth, relax and get some information on their breeds, food, legal issues, how to own one that is if you can handle it.

What do sloths look like?

Sloths are slow arboreal animals of the south and Central America. They live on trees feeding on twigs that are high above the canopy coming down periodically to defecate.

They earned the name due to their slow nature.

Due to their long nails, they are unable to walk on land thus they prefer to cling on tree branches in an upside-down position. They can sleep in that position and are quite clingy to things that they hold even while asleep.

 Sloths show prowess in swimming and can even hold their breath underwater for more than 30 minutes. They have human-like ears and a bear like cute face.

Sloths unlike other animals do not like to be pet, washed and cuddled; they like to be left alone.

Due to their natural way of wanting to remain in the background and not get noticed as they have no other defense mechanism from enemies except, using their toenails, making them vulnerable, while on the ground.

Types of sloths

Sloths are xenarthrans, a name obtained due to their extended forelimbs, their closest of relatives being the armadillos and the anteaters.

These animals are known to have extended forelimbs that enable them to dig for ants and other insects.

Earlier species of sloths were known to  grow into giants, bigger like an elephant, but they became extinct due to climate change and deforestation.

There are two types of sloths:

1. Three toed sloth

They are of the species tridactylus, these types of sloths have a small body shape they resemble a big cat or a small dog; they have three toes on each limb thus their name.

These types of sloths do not thrive well in a restrained environment.

They dwell on trees, high up where they feed on twigs and come down to the ground to defecate.

2. Two-toed sloth

They are of the species Choloepus, they have a largerbody shape as compared to the three-toed sloths, and they have two toes ontheir front limbs instead of three.

Apart from the toe differences, the two types of sloths are quite similar in characteristics, for example, their climate and habitats.

Despite their similarities, these animals have a verydistinct evolutionary boundary that is they developed their arborealcharacteristics differently based on reports, from archeological findings, and morphologicalstudies.

Where do sloths live?

Sloths can be found in central and south America. Theirhabitats being the tropical rainforest, and mangrove forests, where they forageon twigs from canopy tops. Sloths prefer a humid environment for them to thrivewell in their habitats.

How are sloths adapted to theirenvironment?

1.    They havelonger front limbs than their hind limbs to enable them to grasp tree branchesand tree trunks.

2.    They havelong nails on their limbs, to tighten their grip on trees, thus they spendtheir time hanging upside down on trees sleeping for most of the day time.Sloths are more active at night as they like to lay low during the day to avoidpredation.

3.    Sloths haveextra bones on their neck that allows for the head to turn to 270 degrees, anadaptation that helps them to monitor their surrounding for predators whileremaining intact, to avoid being noticed.

4.    Slothsinhabiting the forest have algae growing on their fur that serves gives themcamouflage and also some nutrients when grooming themselves; as they tend tolick their fur. Pet sloths do not have algae on their body thus the additionalnutrients need to be provided to them through food.

5.    Sloths aregood swimmers although the three-toed sloth shows more prowess as compared tothe two-toed counterparts. This adaptation helps them to survive during floodsin the rainforest and mangroves.

6.    Sloths havecomplex stomachs, made up of different compartments that can digest the fibersand herbs from twigs a process that takes quite a while. They come down to theground at intervals of about one week; an added advantage, as they tend to behelpless on the ground.

Are sloths an endangered specie?

Of the available six species of sloths, only one of themis criticallyendangered, the pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypuspygmaeus). Itshabitat is the mangrove forest of the Panama coast.

 Destruction oftheir habitats has resulted in a reduction in the numbers of these animals.Inbreeding is another problem that caused the reduction in genetic propertiesof the offspring thus the species may be heading towards extinction.

The other sloth species are prone to poaching for gamemeat and dislocated from their habitat by pet sellers.

Isit legal to pet a sloth?

Different countries and states have their regulation onthe keeping of exotic pets. They mostly do not charge you for owning an exoticanimal but you can be sued for owning one illegally.

 Although some petsare completely illegal to keep in some states or may require a permit. To own asloth it is a requirement to have a licensed veterinary officer nearby to treatyour animal.

 Sloths do not showsigns of sickness or discomfort during the early stages, if you are notobservant of your animal’s smallest behavior, urgent medical care isneeded. 

Wherecan I buy a pet sloth?

You can find websites like exoticanimals for salewhere they offer platforms where sellers andbuyers can meet, although you need to be cautious only to buy licensed animalstop to avoid the struggle with authorities.

Other places you can purchase a sloth are pet houses oranimal breeders in your state that are licensed to deal with exotic animals.

Whatdo sloths eat?

 Sloths are mostlyherbivores; they feed on plant twigs, leaves, fruits. Some species of slothsfeed on insects and rodents. Due to their complex stomachs that can harborenormous amounts of forage they do not require very high nutritive plantsalthough the cecropia tree is their favorite.

They enjoy a symbiotic relationship with moths and algaewhere they shelter them and they get nutrients and camouflage in return.

For pet sloth, additional nutrients need to be provided,as grocery and vegetables found in vendor stores do not contain the samerequirements, as they forage in the forest.

You can purchase already prepared food that iszoologically prepared for fiber eating animals, for example, Mazuri High FiberSticks. These can be offered to supplement vegetables and other edible fruitsfor the sloths.

Howmuch does a sloth weigh?

According to its species, an adult sloth can weight anaverage of 3.5- 7.5 kilograms, although, part of that weight is attributed bypoop, considering it takes a sloth a minimum of one week to defecate. Slothslose about 13 of their body mass after defecating it is not a cause for alarm,considering the large amounts of poop. About 20-30% of their body mass is madeup of muscles that help them to sleep in on clinging on trees, comfortablywithout any effort. They use their long nails which are about 5-6 cm long tograsp tree branches. They do not let go of things, even when they are asleep.

Howlong does it take for sloths to give birth?

The two types of sloths have different reproduction andgestation cycles although, in both the three-toed and two-toed sloths themother has to take full responsibility of their young ones, as the males tendto prefer living a solitary life.

1.Mating, thefemales usually make noises to attract the attention of males while it is onheat. In cases where there are more than two male sloths in an area, they fightand the strongest one gets the prize though it does not last for long the onlyfast thing they do. Sloths have a good birth control mechanism where they onlyallow a maximum of one dependent at a time.

2.    Pregnancy and birth, two-toed slothshave agestation period of about one yearreproducingat the start of the dry period, this is to take advantage of the plenty of foodas they need larger energy reserves to feed their young ones. Three-toed slothshave a gestation period of about half a year they give birth to one offspringat a time. They are born toed where the infant clings on the mother’s belly forsome weeks and later is carried on the back by the mother for the early stagesof its young life.

3.    How do sloths nurture their young?  Sloths are mammals, thus they breastfeed theiryoung ones on nutrient-rich milk. When the infant is several weeks old, itlicks food remains on the mums’ lips, that way it learns the type of food theyare supposed to eat. Young ones tend to remain with the mother for 1 12 years,after which they are left to fend for themselves. Sloths are not thatterritorial and the young spring can remain in its area of birth for the restof its life. Mother sloths do not show motherly instinct as they tend to ignoreyoung ones that have fallen from the treetop.

Whateats sloths?

 Sloths can fallprey for large birds, jaguars, snakes, and humans. They are mostly at riskwhile on the ground because they cannot move fast and the only defensemechanism are their nails making them susceptible.

They are however not an appetizing meal for prey because13 of their mass is made up of poop and have muscles covering only about 20-30% of their body mass. By doing the math it is not worth the struggle theyonly fall prey when caught unaware or when they make the trip to the ground todefecate.

The algae on their bodies help camouflage them againstthe trees and leaves, they also move very slowly barely recognizable.

Howmuch does a sloth cost?

Sloths need a complex and available budget to maintain,they are neither cheap to buy nor maintain. The price of a sloth ranges from$5500- $6000 depending on the seller. Most of the information on where to findsloths can be found online on websites like exoticanimals for sale.

This is due to their fragile nature, they might needveterinary attention every once in a while, adding to your monthly budget anaverage of $200-$1000. Consider planning for rearing a pet sloth, likebudgeting for a kid that stays in your house until they are 40, it is quite adecision to make based on your schedule and financial status.

Always consult your vet if any sign of discomfort isnoted in sloths. Due to their adaptation, their response mechanism to anydiscomfort is lying low and acting normal. Though they may later succumb, tothe effects of straining.

Aresloths aggressive, can sloths attack?

Sloths are not usually aggressive, they are cute, thickand cuddly animals, which is the impression you first get when you see one.

Sloths do not like to be petted and are sometimesaggressive when they feel that their boundaries have been overstepped. Bearingin mind that they cannot move fast, their basic mode of defense is using theirtoenails to scratch and warn away the intruder.

Most sloths sold on the market today are gotten from thewild by poachers, therefore, you need to determine the aggressiveness of yoursloth before petting it, or leave it alone for more peace. Sloths tend toresist constant handling they may not show you but it amounts to stress thatcan be problematic later in life.

Howoften do sloths poop?

For an animal that spends most of its time eating complexleaves and twigs, it is a surprise that they only empty their bowel once aweek. Due to their low metabolic rate, the food takes long to digest as itmoves down the compacted digestive system.

Sloths come down from their sanctuary (the trees) once aweek to poop. It is quite disturbing why they don’t prefer pooping from treeslike monkeys and other arboreal animals. it is not clearly defined why.

A sloth is more susceptible to predators when on theground, on average a half of all sloths predation occurs while on the ground.They slowly come to the ground, and make a dance kind of movement where theydig a hole in the process, poop into the hole, and then perform another danceto cover the hole up again, or as a sign of relief.

You can see them smile after the activity. They thenreturn to their sanctuary to eat and sleep some more. Females tend to visit the ground much moreoften,especially when on heat, to assist males in finding them.

Howmany hours do sloths sleep?

Sloths sleep for an average of 10 to 15 hours per day,owing to their slow life and to avoid detection they remain motionless underdeep coverings on top of trees. They use the remaining hours to forage forfood, as the two toes sloth chew on twigs, small insects and sometimes smallrodents. The three-toed sloth is mostly herbivores eating only plants.

They also hide duringthe night to avoid detection by predators, in their naturalenvironment. Their slow movement and metabolism assist them to conserve a lotof energy, they don’t move around so much compared to other animals.

They also spend a lot of time eating to increase thenourishment they get from the low-quality forages.

Howlong do sloths live

The life expectancy of sloths depends on their species.on average sloths live for about 15 — 25 years in the field and 30 to 40 yearswhile held captive. This depends on the amount of care you give to your sloths.

A young sloth develops all its reproducing parts afterabout 4-5 years irrespective of whether it is male or female. Sloths tend tooutlive other animals as they are protected from the externalities of naturelike fights, prey and their ability to swim when the rainforest flood.

The life expectancy of most pets is about ten years, soif you need a longtime companion to age gracefully like old wine cuddled with,go for a sloth.

Howdo I house my sloth?

Sloths are adapted, or (from the millions of years ofexistence on earth) have evolved to live entirely on tree canopies danglingupside down. They only come back to the ground to defecate. Sloths move throughthe tree canopies using spreading plants and intertwining branches.

Most pet sellers will not sell you the pet house togetherwith the sloth, thus it is an added bill to purchase or build one yourself.

The idea of a sloth house is a large caged house made ofmeshes where you can hang vegetables and imitate the forest atmosphere. Youshould tie ropes around the house to enable the animal to dangle freely.

If you cannot afford a sloths cage you can set a roomaside for your sloth, they need a lot of room to do their things slowly. Youdon’t want your animal stuffed into some room making it uncomfortable.

You can house one inside your house considering you don’thave to deal with poop quite often as they are not random poopers.

Sloths also tend to poop in one place, the idea of poopon your carpet is no longer a problem, you just have to produce a basin filledwith soil or sawdust or wood shavings and you are good to go.

Whathumidity and temperature are needed in a sloths house?

Sloths in their natural habitat are not affected bytemperature or humidity changes, as they can easily change their position ontreetops.

They can either, move to a place with sunlight or to ashaded canopy to escape the heat. The areas that sloths thrive in the wild havehigh humidity which is the requirements for sloths.

Caged sloths are affected by either weather changesextremes and more care should be taken when housing them.

Low temperature tends to stop their metabolic rate andmay lead to, digestion shutting off completely, as it depends on microbes thatferment and break down the food.

Other animals tend to eat more when it is cold to help itto counteract the energy that is lost through heat, but sloths tend to behavedifferently, their response mechanism is lying down and minimizing the amountof activity. This reduces their metabolic rate and thus the rate of energyloss.

It will increase your electrical bill to install apowered temperature and humidity controller, which is necessary, especially ifyou live in cold areas.

Howoften should I have my sloth checked by the vet?

Sloths need urgent medical assistance when they showsigns of illness; a distance of 45 minutes’ drive to the vet is a requirement forattaining a license to own a sloth in some states.

Due to their slow metabolism disease, symptoms may gounnoticed for several days, until when they have aggravated to fatal or nearlyfatal. Care should be taken while handling a sloth to avoid injuring it orcausing discomfort.


Owning an exotic pet, sloths, in particular, requiremassive consideration of time, space, attention and financial situation.

The financial situation being the first thing toconsider, sloths are more expensive as compared to other common pets like dogs,cats, rabbits, and birds.

They also have a lot ofupkeep fees as they need additional feeds to supplement the green leaves.

Deforestation and destruction of habitats is one thingthat is reducing the sloth population, by making them vulnerable.

Animal rescue centers take care of injured or displacedsloths; they allow people to visit the centers to view the animals.

If you’re not ready to keep up with a sloth as an exoticpet, then endeavor to let it enjoy its life in the wild as it was primarilydesigned, but if you can handle the responsibility — get out here and buyyourself the best good boy sloth.