Neshaminy senior shares love for pet alligator


Matherin Toth

Many people own exotic pets, like this one, safely after conducting research into their care and consulting their veterinarian.

Brianna Herder, Staff Writer

Pets, though common in homes around the world, can be considered taboo depending on the species of the animal people choose to love and cherish. Most think dog or cat when the companions are brought to mind. For people, like Matherin Toth, it extends much further than that. Toth has cared for a diverse list of animals in her lifetime. She currently owns a bunny and turtles and, in the past, looked after piranhas, frogs, tadpoles, a great dane, who almost won a record for being so tall, and most shockingly, alligators.
Growing up, Toth’s father would bring back the odd animals for her from rather ordinary places: friends, reptile shows or pet shops that carry certain aquatic animals. Regardless of the reputation surrounding alligators, the possible dangers of owning them never truly shocked Toth. Factors such as her love for animals, the excitement of getting a new one, and constant exposure to a vast array of different types contributed to her unbothered disposition towards the animal. Toth stated, “I grew up always having crazy pets so it never fazed me.”
After overcoming the fear factor towards the gators, most would question the amount of dedication needed to administer care to them. Toth says it is not as bad or as difficult as some assume it to be.
Toth stated, “I know a lot of people think it must be hard to take care of an alligator but we really only need to feed [the alligator] once a week since they have a slow metabolism.” The hardest part was the effects the alligators had on Toth’s social life as a child. Friends of Toth’s were often kept from visiting her home due to parent’s concern in regards to the massive reptiles. Two of the six gators Toth owned were six feet in length. According to The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, on average an adult female American alligator can grow to be 8.2 feet and a male 11.2 feet.
Though large, Toth described her family’s pets as tame. So much so, her step mother would dress up their last gator, Sheldon, and bring him to the mall to visit the Easter Bunny and Santa. She would carry him in her arms and walk him around like a dog, which assisted in alleviating any fear towards Sheldon. The way people see alligators often turns them off from claiming them as companions, but for the Toth family, it is not about what kind of animal they owned or the stigma surrounding it, it was more so about the love that was given and received from both ends.
Toth stated, “Not once did I, or anyone else, feel unsafe around our animals, and I feel like it is from all the love we gave them.”
Owning distinctive animals did not only provide Toth with stories to tell and newfound knowledge of new ways to care for them, the animals also taught her important life lessons. “It’s a constant reminder to never judge a book by its cover, and how kindness and love goes a long way.” On the other hand, Toth urges those with any desire to get any kind of wild pet to do plenty of research prior. Animals start off small and cute, but grow to be completely different than what owners expect, thus leaving them stuck. Being financially stable and responsible are of the utmost importance to giving the animal the life it deserves in Toth’s eyes.