Most households throughout the US include a pet, whether a dog, a cat, or even a goldfish. But would you believe that there are actually legal exotic pets you can own? That’s right; some states allow pets like alligators, capybaras, fennec foxes, and even cougars, which to me, is just crazy to even think about.
The laws in all US states regarding legal exotic pet ownership differ, as the pets you can own in California, for example, will be very different from the pets you can own in Texas. But regardless of whether these pets are legal in your state, it doesn’t mean you should own one.
Exotic animals require much more expertise, care, and precautions than your labrador or your ragdoll, so it’s best to leave these animals in their natural habitats to prevent harm from coming to them or yourself.
After all, some of these pets are incredibly dangerous, and you might just end up being their next meal.
Legal Exotic Pets
Some of these exotic legal pets will shock you, as there are even animals considered endangered species.
Mike Tyson is well-known for owning tigers as pets, but these giant predators are exactly that, predators who are unpredictable, extremely dangerous, and much stronger than you and I. Even stronger than Mike Tyson, and that’s saying something.
In the wild, tigers are endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. Although the average person knows how dangerous it would be to keep a tiger as a pet, people in North Carolina, Alabama, Delaware, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin can own a pet tiger once they’ve obtained the right permit.
Do you remember the Netflix show The Tiger King, which followed Joe Exotic and his collection of tigers? Well, he lived in Oklahoma, and if that show didn’t clarify why tigers aren’t great pets, then I don’t know what will.
Giant anteaters have always fascinated me; they have the longest tongue in the animal kingdom and can flick it in and out of their mouths 150 times a minute.
But sadly, these bug-eating animals native to Central and South America can be kept as pets. However, when you think about how many bugs anteaters need to eat a day (the answer is 30,000), you’ll soon realize that keeping an anteater as a pet would be a difficult and extremely expensive task.
You don’t want to get on the wrong side of a porcupine unless you want its quills digging their way into your skin. However, regardless of its spikey quills, some people keep porcupines as pets, and in some US states, it is legal to do so.
I’m not a fan of spiders, and I have never been, especially big hairy tarantulas that are often larger than your hand. However, many people will disagree, as tarantulas are one of the most common exotic legal pets on this list.
Tarantulas are native to areas in southwestern America, along with other continents throughout the world, and although a tarantula bite won’t kill you, it will cause pain and discomfort. Luckily I’ve never been bitten by a spider, and I can’t even imagine the pain of a spider bite, can you?
One of the craziest exotic legal pets is an alligator, and with its sharp teeth, mighty strong jaws, and powerful tail that could knock you off your feet, these animals are killing machines that won’t think twice about chomping down on their owner.
Oddly enough, despite their fearsome reputation, Alabama, Nevada, South Carolina, and Wisconsin allow owners to keep alligators as pets. The wildest part is that you don’t even need a license or a permit. Crazy, right?
One of the more friendly exotic legal pets is a llama; they are fairly easy to care for. You won’t need to do much for a pet llama aside from giving them adequate outdoor space, access to food and shelter, and the company of other llamas.
Compared to tigers and alligators, llamas make excellent pets. Just know that llamas do spit, and you might be on the receiving end.
Keeping a snake as a pet requires some level of expertise regarding their handling and care, but when it comes to keeping a boa constrictor, one of the largest snakes on the planet, only highly trained individuals should even think about keeping one as a pet.
Boa constrictors can reach up to 13 feet long and weigh up to 100 pounds, so these animals are guaranteed to be twice the size of you and me. That’s one big snake, isn’t it?
And although boa attacks on humans aren’t common, there is still the possibility of your pet boa literally squeezing the life out of you. So it’s better to be safe than sorry and not own one as a pet.
Two-toed sloths are an endangered species, and even with them sleeping up to 18 hours in the day, some states have made it legal to own one, meaning two-toed sloths can be kept as pets.
Sloths may seem innocent, given their slow-moving nature and their love for sleep. But did you know that these animals have extremely sharp teeth and claws that can do some serious damage if they feel threatened or irritated?
Bears are some of the biggest land predators alive today, and even if you keep a bear from a young age, there is always the chance of it lashing out and causing serious harm, if not death, to its owner.
With a special permit in Nevada, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina, you can own a pet bear. Still, I think it’s best to use your common sense and leave bears in the wild, where they belong. Don’t you think?
Exotic Animals You Can Own
The list of legal exotic animals doesn’t stop there, as you can own these next nine exotic animals as pets, depending on your state.
Turtles are a common exotic pet, and I myself have friends who own pet turtles and tortoises, but something that you need to remember is that even smaller turtles can live up to 25 years, which is a massive commitment for any pet owner.
Another thing you’d need to keep in mind is the size of the turtle’s tank, as these animals need more space than you’d first think. Before getting a pet turtle, do your research to ensure you can give it the best life possible, as turtle dumping is becoming a more and more common issue.
People hear the word dwarf pigs and instantly assume that their new pet pig will stay the size of a piglet. However, dwarf pigs can reach up to 50 cm tall and weigh up to 150 pounds once they reach adulthood. Not really a dwarf, right?
That said, pigs make great pets if you have the outdoor space and the means to take care of them.
Hyacinth macaws are the largest macaw and the largest flying parrot species, but what makes these birds stand out is their feathers which come in a beautiful shade of blue.
Like other macaw species, hyacinth macaws can pick up words and phrases, but with their intelligent minds comes the need for attention, meaning they aren’t the best pet for people who don’t have the time or patience to deal with their needy personalities.
Many primates are illegal in the US, as they should be, but one monkey you can own in some states is the squirrel monkey, native to the tropical rainforests of South America.
I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people have dreamt about keeping a monkey as a pet; I know I have, but despite how cute and innocent squirrel monkeys look, like all other primate species, they can be unpredictable, and their teeth can cause serious damage if they decide to take a bite out of you.
Wallabies are marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea, and throughout some US states, you can keep a wallaby as a pet. Like their larger cousins, the kangaroos, however, wallabies require a lot of space, so you might want to think twice about getting a pet wallaby.
Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents, and even though they’re legal in some states, with people claiming they make good pets, capybaras are sociable animals. So, if you want to commit to one capybara, you’d have to commit to a handful.
Similar to the boa constrictor I mentioned earlier, the world’s second-largest snake, the Burmese python, can legally be someone’s pet, which is scary to think about, isn’t it?
These huge snakes are capable of killing humans and other pets, which is why only experienced snake handlers should even think about owning one.
One of the biggest problems with keeping snakes like Burmese pythons as pets is the fact that people dump them once they truly realize how big these snakes can get.
In 1979 in Florida, a Burmese python escaped, or its owner released it into the Everglades national park. After years and years of breeding, Burmese pythons now pose a serious threat to endangered wildlife that call the park home.
A Bengal cat is the offspring of a domestic cat and an Asian leopard cat. In most states throughout America, Bengal cats who are F5 and higher are considered domesticated cats, but Bengal cats F1 to F4 are regulated from state to state.
An F1 Bengal refers to the direct offspring of an Asian leopard cat and a domesticated cat, whereas F2 Bengals would be the offspring of an F1 Bengal and a domestic cat, and so on and so forth.
Serval cats are wild cats native to Africa, and even though some states let you keep one as a pet, these animals have a very poor quality of life in captivity as they’re used to vast open spaces where they roam and hunt for prey.
Could you imagine going from all the space you could imagine to a tiny cramped cage? Exactly, that’s the reason why serval cats, and many other animals on this list, for that matter, belong in the wild.
You may not have heard of any of these next legal pets, and that’s probably even more of a sign that you shouldn’t own one, even if your state says you can.
Have you ever heard of a wallaroo? If the answer is no, then a wallaroo is similar to a kangaroo and a wallaby, sitting in the middle of the two in terms of size.
In some states, like Colorado, you can keep a wallaroo as a pet. However, your decision to do so shouldn’t be taken lightly, as these animals need a lot of space to roam around in.
Have you ever seen an axolotl? The axolotls are alien-looking creatures who always seem to have a smile on their face, which is probably why so many people want to keep one as a pet.
For the most part, axolotls are illegal to own in the US because they’re an endangered species, but some states, like New Mexico and Hawaii, allow people to keep pet axolotls as long as they obtain a license or permit.
My mom has engrained a deep fear of frogs in me since a young age (thanks, Mom), so it’s crazy that people want to keep them as pets. One of the weirdest-looking frogs I’ve ever seen is the Pacman frog, which is round in shape with an oddly large mouth.
Most states consider Pacman frogs as an invasive species, but there are a few states that allow keeping them as pets. I can’t say they’d ever be on my pet bucket list, but they may hop and croak their way onto yours.
Genets are African carnivores that look somewhat similar to cats. However, they aren’t cuddly, friendly, or a human’s biggest fan. So, they probably aren’t the best pet out there, are they? Out of all the 50 states, only a few allow genets as pets.
There is no denying that sugar gliders are adorable, with their big eyes, large ears, and ability to glide through the air, thanks to their excess skin running down their sides.
In some states, you can keep one of these adorable gliding possums as a pet, but you will need to dedicate a lot of time and attention to your glider to keep them happy and content.
I think every child has dreamt about owning a pet dragon; I’m sure you did at some stage. But although real dragons don’t exist, there is the bearded dragon, which is the next best thing.
Bearded dragons are reptiles, and throughout many states in America, you can keep one as a pet as long as you have the proper license or permit. Native to Australia, bearded dragons are available in many pet stores across the US, and as they are easy to care for, they make great pets, especially for children.
A deer probably didn’t spring to mind when you were thinking about exotic pets, did it? Well, even if it didn’t, you can own a muntjac deer native to South and Southeast Asia in a few states, with some people even keeping the deer inside their homes like you would a dog or a cat.
Legal Cheap Exotic Pets
You may be surprised to know that not all exotic pets will break the bank, and there are a few that are both legal and cheap throughout the United States. Any guesses which ones?
Short-tailed opossums are relatively small animals that eat frogs, reptiles, and fruit. Many people consider these tiny animals great pets as they are clean, friendly, and easy to care for.
Flying squirrels look extremely similar to sugar gliders; however, the two are unrelated, despite their almost identical looks. For the most part, flying squirrels can make good pets, but they are extremely sociable, so you’ll either need to commit your own time toward them or the company of another flying squirrel.
Degus are intelligent, sociable, and outgoing rodents, making them great pets as long as you can provide them with the special care they need.
Five states in the US, including California, Utah, Georgia, Connecticut, and Alaska, have made owning a Degu illegal, as they’re a potentially invasive species that can harm native wildlife if they happen to escape.
Have you ever heard of a spiny mouse? I hadn’t. Spiny mice have bare, scaled tails and coats that feature stiff guard hairs similar to the spines you’d find on a hedgehog.
All types of mice species are popular pets all over the world as they’re relatively easy to care for, but in regards to a spiny mouse, you may have to take the time to handle and tame them, as it isn’t an overnight process.
Fennec foxes are the smallest of all fox species, and with their uniquely large ears and their adorable little faces, it’s no surprise that people want to keep them as pets.
In the United States, there are even specific Fennec fox breeders that hand-raise fox pups to tame them and make them familiar with human contact.
Honestly, a skunk wouldn’t even cross my mind when thinking of a pet. Did it cross yours?
Skunks are very well known for their ability to spray a strong-smelling liquid all over a potential threat, so unless you don’t mind soaking in a baking soda bath to get the stink out of your skin, I’d skip getting a skunk as a pet, regardless of how adorable they look as babies.
Exotic Mammal Pets
Hamsters and chinchillas are common pets in many different countries, but a few other exotic legal mammals on this list have no business being in anyone’s home.
I’ve always loved chinchillas, and I would regularly stare at them in the pet shop when I was younger. There is just something about their furry little bodies, their overly large ears, and their tiny little arms that just screams adorable. Do you agree?
For adults and older children, chinchillas make great pets as they’re shy, clean, and quiet. However, these chubby rodents can live up to 20 years, so it’s a long commitment if you’re thinking about adding one to the family.
Hedgehogs are spiny little mammals that use their spines to fend off predators. Clever, right? But although hedgehogs may seem like great pets, they have very special needs, which means they’re better off in their natural habitat and not confined to a cage.
In some states in America, like Texas, Kansas, Idaho, and Alabama, you can own a pet chimpanzee as long as you have the correct permit. However, just because Chimpanzees are our closest relatives, that doesn’t mean they should be living at home with us, does it?
Chimps are highly unpredictable and can cause serious harm, even death, making them extremely poor pet choices.
I’m from England, where it’s common to have guinea pigs as pets. In fact, I had two growing up, and I used to love watching them run around on the grass.
Guinea Pigs are easy to care for, cuddly at times, and have individual personalities, which all add to the charm of owning a pet guinea pig.
Similar to guinea pigs, hamsters are another popular exotic pet that many children have cared for throughout their lifetimes as they are roughly the size of your hand. As long as their needs are being met, they are easy to care for and can live relatively happy lives.
Kinkajous are friendly and sociable animals who are closely related to raccoons. But they are high maintenance meaning they aren’t the best pet for everyone.
Lemurs are primates that originally came from Madagascar. Although in some states you can own a pet lemur, in captivity, they can have a lifespan of up to 30 years, which is a long time to care for their specific needs.
Pygmy goats are pleasant pets as they are docile, small, and sociable. They do require ample amounts of room to graze and be active, but if you have the means, then a pygmy goat is one of the more suitable exotic legal pets.
One of the most mind-blowing exotic pets that you can own is a cougar. With the right license and permit in some states, people can own a cougar as a pet, regardless of how instinctively dangerous they are. Would you ever consider owning a pet cougar? I wouldn’t dare.
Unique Pets to Own
Below are some of the unique exotic pets you can own.
Compared to the boa constrictor and the Burmese python I mentioned earlier, the ball python, which grows to a maximum of 182 centimeters, is a unique and suitable pet, given that you know how to handle and care for one.
African millipedes are quite possibly the most unique pet out there as these invertebrates can reach up to 33 centimeters long with up to 400 legs. Pretty cool or creepy?
Giant Land Crabs
The word giant is an understatement for these crabs, as the biggest land crab, the coconut crab, can grow up to 1 meter in width and weigh over 4 kilograms. I’m not entirely sure what you’d do with a giant pet land crab, but the possibility is there, I guess.
It’s not every day you meet someone with a pet scorpion, and that’s probably because some scorpion species have venomous stings that can be fatal. If you take precautions and get a scorpion without a venomous sting, it could become an interesting pet.
Potbellied pigs aren’t the prettiest pets, but they make loyal companions thanks to their intelligent and charming natures. Despite their endangered status, potbellied pigs are legal to own throughout states in America. However, you may need certain permits and types of enclosures.
Exotic Pets that are Difficult to Care For
Many exotic pets are difficult to care for, as they all have their unique diets and environmental needs to keep them happy and healthy.
Of all the exotic pets, tigers, bears, and cougars are likely the most difficult, as you’d have problems handling them, feeding them, and getting them veterinary help if need be. Could you imagine trying to keep up with the amount of meat a tiger requires?
Can You Have a Porcupine as a Pet?
In some states throughout the US, you can have a porcupine as a pet.
Can You Own a Platypus?
No, you can’t own a platypus as a pet, and the only two platypi in the United States live in the San Diego Zoo.
Can You Have a Kangaroo as a Pet?
You can own a kangaroo as a pet, and in some states like Wisconsin, West Virginia, and South Carolina, you don’t even need a permit to do so.
Can You Own a Monkey in Maryland?
In Maryland, you can only own a pet monkey if you’re disabled, possess a special license or permit, and use the monkey as a service monkey.
Can You Own a Monkey in Georgia?
No, you cannot own a monkey in the state of Georgia.
Can You Own a Fox in Colorado?
No, you cannot own a fox in Colorado.
What Are the Most ‘Weird Pets To Own’?
You could consider many pets weird, including cockroaches, fennec foxes, axolotls, Pacman frogs, and wallabies, amongst others.
Name ‘Beautiful Exotic Animals’?
There are so many beautiful exotic animals, but some that stand out from the crowd include the hyacinth macaw, the Bengal cat, and the fennec fox.
Name an Exotic Animal You Would Like To Eat?
Many people say that the exotic animal they’d most like to eat is a snake. But I can’t say a snake would be anywhere near tasty. What do you think?
Although the exotic animals I’ve mentioned today are legal in some states, it doesn’t mean you should go out and get one.
Some animals make fantastic pets, like hamsters, guinea pigs, and chinchillas, providing you give them the space and care they need. However, other exotic pets, like tigers, bears, and cougars, should be left in the wild, where they can roam their natural habitats and breed to raise their populations.
If you’ve ever had a pet, you’ll know it isn’t an easy task, and you’ll need to dedicate time, care, and money to ensure your pet lives its happiest, healthiest life.
Ask yourself questions like “Can I afford a pet?”, “Do I have the time for a pet?” and “Can I handle a pet’s needs?” before considering getting one.