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Wild Animals as Pets


Keeping wild animals as pets can be appealing, but it is important to remember that keeping a wild animal as a pet is associated with many potential problems, not to mention legal and ethical issues. Keeping wild animals as pets requires a great deal of research and preparation, as well as provision of ideal housing and diet as well as medical care (which may be very difficult to find). That said, in the world of exotic pets there are wild animals that can be a real handful (potentially destructive or dangerous) and those that are less of a challenge.

Wild Animals as Pets: Ethics and Potential Problems

Before considering a wild animal as a pet, carefully consider the ethical issues involved and the potential problems associated with owning a wild animal as a pet. Research is also needed to find out the laws pertaining to keeping wild animals as pets -- just because you can find a wild animal as a pet does not mean it is legal.

Reptiles - Captive Bred vs. Wild Caught

boa constrictor photo
Photo © Lianne McLeod
A diverse group of species make up this rather large category. Many of these species come from the wild for the pet trade, and this is problematic in terms of the stress on the animal as well as potentially serious effects on wild populations. There are important reasons to find captive bred reptiles whenever possible.

The Problem With Primates

Photo copyright Getty Images
Ryan McVay / Getty Images
Should primates (monkeys and apes) be kept as pets? There is something irresistible about an infant monkey or ape. However, those sweet babies grow up into difficult adults, and as a general rule adult primates do not make good companions. Their intelligence makes them special, but ultimately makes them a very challenging.

Big Cats - Tigers, Lions, and More

Tiger photo copyright Getty Images
John Foxx / Getty Images
People looking for an unusual pet are sometimes drawn to a variety of species of non domestic felines from bobcats to tigers. While these are beautiful animals and are surprisingly easy to purchase in some areas, they have needs that are not easy to meet. Are they suitable as pets or best left in the wild?


kinkajou photos
Photo © Drew Edwards
Kinkajous, affectionately known as honeybears, are members of the same family as raccoons. They primarily eat fruit and have a reputation for being quite docile and sweet, although they can inflict a nasty bite and can also be on the messy side.


Photo of skunk copyright Getty Images
Digital Zoo / Getty Images
Skunks are sometimes found as pets, and for obvious reasons are usually de-scented. However, the scent glands are not the only thing that makes skunks challenging to keep as pets. Young skunks bond well with human companions and skunks can be quite friendly, loving, entertaining and playful. However, they are also very active and curious, and will try to get into everything, and they can be stubborn and headstrong, too. Keep in mind that since skunks can carry rabies in the wild, and there is no approved rabies vaccine for skunks, a skunk involved in a bite incident may be confiscated and euthanized for testing even if their is little chance a pet skunk would become infected.


Pnoto of raccoon copyright Getty Images
Martin Harvey / Getty Images
Raccoons, if raised from a young age, can make friendly and playful household members. However, they are very curious and playful and will try to get into anything and everything. They require a lot of attention and supervision to keep them safe, sociable and out of trouble, and are quite difficult to keep as pets. Keep in mind that since raccoons can carry rabies in the wild, and there is no approved rabies vaccine for pet raccoons, a raccoon involved in a bite incident may be confiscated and euthanized for testing even if their is little chance a pet raccoon would become infected.

Fennec Foxes

Fennec Fox Photo (Trooper)
Photo © Rick Monticello
Fennec foxes are lovely tiny foxes that can be found a s pets. While they are bred in captivity, their behavior often reflects their wild heritage. While they can be managed quite well in the home with appropriate training and handling, they do have characteristics that make them more challenging as pets than domestic dogs.


photo of a wolfdog
Photo © Lianne McLeod
Wolfdogs are included on this list because depending on the percentage of wolf and the number of generations away from the pure wolf content, some wolf dog crosses retain a great deal of "wolfy" characteristics, which can make them destructive, good at escaping, and harder to train and socialize. This is not to say that wolfdogs cannot be good pets; with appropriate training, socialization, and management (e.g. good fencing) many wolfdogs have become treasured companions. Also, wolfdogs that are low percentage and / or several generations removed from pure wolf ancestry tend to a less challenging than high percentage wolfdogs, though good training and socialization are still mandatory for any wolfdog owner.
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