Terrance the Octopus 

Cal Clifford

For six months, nine-year-old Cal Clifford’s bedroom was gently lit by the tank of his eight-legged friend, Terrance. The California two-spot octopus passed on Earth Day in April, but left the light on – plus fifty bimac babies – to keep Cal company. 

The Cliffords first welcomed the octopus into their home in October. As their first family pet, Terrance might have been unconventional. But he was not unplanned. Before his purchase, the Cliffords researched the best way to make Cal’s lifelong dream of owning an octopus a reality. 

“This was not a flavor of the month type of thing,” Cal’s father, Cameron Clifford, explained. “We weren’t placating a child’s whims, it was a lifelong love he’s had for them.” 

From the start, Cameron began documenting the process on TikTok to capture the memories he was sure to share with Cal. His account exploded. Now, @doctoktopus—a punny play on Cameron’s occupation—has garnered 3.8 million likes on the app and national news coverage. His videos share the whirlwind of events with humor, personality, and no shortage of heartwarming moments. 

Cameron says his family rode a rollercoaster of emotions in a short period of time, much of which was unexpected. Their initial theory that Terrance was a boy was debunked a month in when Terrance began laying eggs. 

Though this was an exciting development, the Clifflords knew it was the beginning of the end for their beloved bimac. In what might be the ultimate display of maternal love, bimac mothers become so focused on caring for their offspring that they ultimately starve and die after giving birth. 

“Whether or not a female mates, she will lay approximately 40 to 70 eggs,” one TikTok explained. “In the wild, only 1% of the eggs survive to adulthood.” 

Of the 50 eggs Terrance laid, the Cliffords were caring for 18 at the time of this interview. Maintaining their care is not a simple process. Cameron is in constant contact with experts, but still, research is limited and it’s a day-to-day process. 

The family has found trusted placements for the babies and will eventually send them to locations where they can receive optimum care and contribute to research that will further serve the species. 

“I don’t want to overly romanticize the experience,” Cameron said. “It has taken an immense amount of time and work. But, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t shed tears over Terrance.” 

Cameron says Terrance was incredibly interactive. “She was boisterous, always observing what was happening. She was very bold, but also independent. She would push away food from my hand, for example, and only eat it when I was gone.” 

He explained how intelligent the species is, recognizing people and even distinguishing male from female by chemically tasting them with her tentacles. 

Perhaps the hardest part of the process was how deeply Cal felt her loss. “You want to expose your children to life, but not hardship,” Cameron said. “Watching my son encounter a new level of grief and understanding of life was hard.” 

All in all, the Cliffords agree it was a worthwhile process. But they aren’t entertaining plans of more exotic pets any time soon. Watch the full saga on TikTok @doctoktopus 

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