The interview: ‘Creepy crawlies can be fun’

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Ruth Hounsell certainly has a party trick up her sleeve. Along with a selection of creepy crawlies and wriggle reptiles, she is bound to liven up your celebration with her interactive animal workshops.

The animal enthusiast offers a unique take on education and entertainment, showcasing a range of insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds around Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Creatures and Critters, which was set up in 2016, tours local schools and events, and is available to book for group sessions, children’s parties, weddings and many more.

She has around 18 different species, all of which can be handled, which range from popular pets to unusual and exotic pets.

Favourites include Twix and Toblerone the giant African millipedes, Elvis the anery corn snake, Buffy and Raisin the Russian blue rats and Zippy, Zoom, Caramel and Toffee – Madagascan hissing cockroaches.

The animals are housed in across a number of locations including a specially made animal room, a shed and a large garden at Ruth’s home in West Hallam.

In total, the mother of two has 50 animals from hermit crabs and sandfish to the popular pets such as hamsters and rabbits.

Ruth said: “We have all sorts of animals on offer, something to peak everyone’s interest. I think a good range of exotic animals is interesting and seems to attract attention, but the ‘fluffies’ as I can them – rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs – always get people cooing.

“The point of Creatures and Critters is to introduce youngsters to different animals and educate them not only on the animals themselves, but also how to handle them safely.

“I go out to schools and deliver workshops, one called ‘Name that critter’, where children guess the species – they have so much fun, but at the same time it is educational, they are learning new things.”

The business has just celebrated its one-year anniversary, something which Ruth didn’t expect.

The 48-year-old originally came up with the business idea after her daughters begged for more pets to add to their brood.

She said: “I have always loved animals – I grew up in the countryside surrounded by them, so I was happy for my girls Ellen and Eve to have pets.

“One turned into two, which turned into three and so on.

“It dawned on us, why not combine our passion for animals with a business – something which the girls even now, love getting involved in. It is a real family-run business, and we all pitch in where we can to help things run smoothly.

“With all the animals being based from our home, it is a bit like living in a zoo! But we have the space they need and have the outside shed and runs in the garden to facilitate them all.

“There is also a dark room for the nocturnal animals, so everyone is happy.”

Ruth said the most popular animals were surprisingly often the most feared.

“A lot of people shy away from the rats and snakes initially, but in the end they often become the most popular. I think it is the fear of them that hold people back, but once they have held them or stroked them, you can see the relief on their faces – it is like beating a phobia.”

The business has boomed since first starting last year, and Ruth hopes that the coming year will see more growth and expansion.

“I still have a part-time job alongside running Creatures and Critters, but would love to get to the point where this is the sole income and occupation.

“Things have been going well and I hope to be able to continue to share the animals with others, it is such a rewarding job.”

For more information visit: or search Creatures and Critters on Facebook.