Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! In the great United States of America, some states will let you keep exotic animals as pets. We tracked down the nineteen craziest animals you could find in someone’s home. The best part? A lot of these animals don’t require any kind of license, though we think it’s a good idea to have some knowledge before you go out and buy a shark tank. We’re not saying it’s a totally bad idea, but exotic animals are tough work, and that cute puppy you took care of while your neighbor was on vacation doesn’t mean you’re ready to house a giraffe by yourself.
Nevertheless, we think these mostly-legal to own pets are some of the more exotic animals you’ll find in the US.
So, here is the list of exotic animals you totally can keep as pets…but probably shouldn’t.
Instagram – @_pietroooooooooo_
If you’re willing to shell out the $2,500 it costs to buy a baby tiger cub, then you can raise it and care for it all by yourself with no permit, as long as you live in one of eight states with pretty lax animal rights laws (looking at you, Alabama). Also, if you’re interested, why not buy two tigers so yours isn’t lonely?
Instagram – @cataleah
These furry creatures are actually becoming more popular among exotic animal owners. Many pet owners liken them to whiney dogs. Depending on the species, some states will allow someone to own this exotic animal with no permit or license required. However, we would recommend going to a shelter to adopt one.
Instagram – @oliverthekangaroo
Here’s a weird fact: you don’t need a permit to own a kangaroo in Wisconsin. Not that we’ve seen many kangaroos there. They prefer hot climates similar to their native Australia. Which is why you’d be hard-pressed to find them in the US! But, if you really want to own one, move to Wisconsin.
Instagram – @theojk44
Laws are a bit less uptight for our stinky friend, the skunk. They’re pretty abundant in North America, and nothing is stopping you from caring for one in 17 states. No permit required. Just try not to scare them or upset them, or you’ll regret it. No worries, though, we hear the smell comes out with a tomato juice bath.
Instagram – @l_am_puma
Most exotic cats are in fact legal to own. Cougars are just one vicious animal you can keep in your backyard. The biggest problem you’ll face is space for them to roam, and their diet is pretty meat-intensive. If you have those areas covered, go get yourself a cougar (try the local bar).
Instagram – @proud_script
If you can match the fast-paced energy of a sloth, and afford the permit and paperwork it takes to buy one, some states will allow you to keep a sloth as a pet. There are tighter restrictions and regulations for sloths than cougars and other wild cats, but hey, baby sloths are pretty cute.
Instagram – @pet_hash
Ever need a guard dog, but bigger? Ever want an actual bear hug? Most species of bears are obtainable as pets in the US, besides polar bears and pandas, for obvious reasons. No one in the neighborhood will think twice about messing with you and your pet bear, Smokey.
Instagram – @rosiemayatkins
Again, it depends on the species of monkey, but many are available with some sort of exotic animal license! Some are pretty adept at learning sign language, we hear. Monkey see, monkey do. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to raise gorillas anytime soon.
Instagram – @daily.capys
The chillest exotic animal out there is available for purchase in just a few states in the US, including Pennsylvania. Capybaras are just large rodents, so maybe that rat you cared for in 6th grade will prepare you for the big leagues. Right?
Instagram – @mypostcardapp
This is probably one of the only exotic animals on our list that won’t completely bite your face off and kill you. Hedgehogs are actually pretty common pets in the US as far as exotic animals go. However, they aren’t allowed in some states because they can hurt the local ecology.
Instagram – @areena_riverside_resort
If you can find a roof tall enough, and enough leaves to satisfy a giraffe, you’re allowed to keep this exotic animal as a pet! Their appetite is pretty big, though. Some species eat as much as 75 lbs of food every day. We’ve never seen a rampaging hungry giraffe, and we don’t want to. Feed your exotic animals, people.
Instagram – @maxwellmodern
They’re the kings of the jungle, and apparently your backyard, too. Most big cats are fair game, and we’re not talking about your neighbor’s fat tabby at. Lions are no laughing matter; they can grow up to 800 lbs. If you’re not afraid of getting accidentally eaten, you too can own a lion (with a permit).
Another Africa-born animal you’re able to get your hands on in the US with the right permit. The real problem here is zebras grow up in herds, so you might want to buy more than one, or else you’ll see a really depressed zebra. Otherwise, zebras are pretty similar to horses. So that empty stable will really come in handy.
Instagram – @mrs_ykcyc
Peacocks are pretty similar to other types of large birds, except they’ve got a beautiful behind. Think pigeon if they were bigger and less ugly. Or geese if they were less angry all the time. Just kidding: peacocks are very aggressive when marking their territory, and they’ve been known to chase people who mess with their food.
Believe it or not, a lot of species of sharks are legal to own in the US. No, before you ask, you can’t go out and capture a great white shark. They’re a special species that’s protected. However, many sharks are fair game. You’ll need a very large tank to house them, though. The aquarium you kept your beta fish in won’t suffice.
Instagram – @raccoonpage
Ah, the trash bandits of America. If they don’t claw your face off, you’ll be able to keep them as pets. We wouldn’t recommend going outside and picking one out of its habitat. Many raccoons carry rabies and other nasty diseases. So if you do decide to get a raccoon, take it to the vet for some vaccines.
17. Prairie dogs
Instagram – @prairiedogpack
Like cute exotic animals that pop their heads out of holes to say hello? Prairie dogs are allowed in some states with a license to own exotic animals, just make sure you have the right habitat and diet to support these little burrowing guys. They’re also a very social animal, so maybe buy more than one while you’re at it?
We wouldn’t recommend trying to pet these exotic animals. Piranhas swim in schools, and shred any kind of meat they can get their fins on. Like sharks, you’ll need a sizable tank to house these aggressive guys, and some species are off limits entirely. Their diet is pretty easy, however. Just drop some fish or meat into the water, and watch the frenzy unfold.
Penguins are the strictest exotic animal to obtain. They have to come specifically from a zoo or enclosure that’s licensed to raise them. You can’t bring them back with you on your trip to the arctic. Plus, buying just one is a bad move. They love their friends, and you don’t want a sad penguin, do you?Next