10 Exotic Pets + Where They Are Legal to Own

Posted by Amy Renken

WATCH NOW: 10 Exotic Pets and Where They Are Legal to Own

Exotic pets more your speed? What do you get as a pet owner if a regular cat or dog just doesn't cut it? 

Exotic pets have become more popular thanks to television and movies. Many celebrities, from Michael Jackson to Elvis, also owned their fair share of exotic pets. Check out these 10 exotic pets and find out where in the country you can own them. If you're looking for something a little "out of the ordinary" for a pet, you've come to the right place! These ten exotic pets are legal to own in many places in America. Some of them just require a license for private ownership.

These odd animals can truly make a great pet, but make sure to do lots of your own research.

Exotic Pets and Where They Can Be Owned

1. Capybara Pets


The capybara is one of the largest rodents in the world and can weigh up to 140 pounds, but they sure are cute! They're semi-aquatic animals, so if you're looking to adopt a capybara, they'll definitely need access to water to swim around.

Although mostly adorable and sweet, capybaras can be a challenging pet. They do better in groups as they are extremely social animals, so pet owners should avoid getting a single capybara.

This semi-aquatic rodent is legal to own in Texas and Pennsylvania. In some states, they are legal but require licenses. If you're unsure, check your local registration before deciding to bring home a capybara as a pet.

2. Bearded Dragon

bearded dragons

Originating from Australia, the bearded dragon is a common house pet in the United States. They make good pets for kids because they have a calm nature and are relatively easy to care for.

They can grow to be up to two feet long, so you'll need ample space for them to live in your home. Although they do love to be held and handled, you'll still want to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Bearded dragons are legal to own in the United States and sold in most pet stores. These reptiles are similar to geckos and iguanas.

3. The Exotic Serval

Playful serval cat Leptailurus serval plays with a toy on the grass in spring.

Although not always an ideal pet for everyone, the serval is a gorgeous exotic cat from Africa. Owning a serval requires a different mindset than owning a domestic cat.

Servals aren't typically aggressive, but they can be difficult to own as they are still considered "wild." These beautiful animals can be very affectionate, but they have survival instincts that you may not be able to train. Regardless, they can make great companions!

The states in which owning a serval is legal makeup about half of the United States. It's legal to own these wild cats in Nevada, Idaho, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia without a license required. You can obtain a license to own a serval in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Maine.

It is illegal to own one of these big cats in all other states.

4. Fennec Fox

fennec fox

Fennec foxes also come from the African continent and are the smallest breed of fox in the world, only reaching about 4 pounds when fully grown. Their behavior closely resembles that of both a dog and a cat.

Usually playful and energetic like dogs, the fennec fox is also independent like a cat, although they don't usually favor dog or cat toys. They typically live to be 10-15 years old, so buying a fennec fox is a commitment, like most pets.

It is legal to own a fennec fox everywhere in the United States except Missouri, Minnesota, Nevada, and Washington.

5. Wallaby


Closely resembling the kangaroo, wallabies are often referred to as "mini kangaroos." They are extremely common in the wild in Australia but can be seen around the United States as pets.

Wallabies are truly an exotic species, as they are not like any pet you've owned before. If you're considering getting a wallaby as a companion, you'll want to do lots of research before bringing one home.

Lots of outdoor space is required to own a wallaby, so they are illegal to own inside many city limits. Check with your state before deciding to look for a wallaby as a pet, as you may need to obtain a license first.

6. Chimpanzee


Although there is no doubt they're absolutely adorable, chimpanzees can be challenging pets.

A chimpanzee's lifespan can be upwards of 50 years, meaning you're signing up for a lifelong commitment to raising this wild animal.

A male chimp can grow to be around 150 pounds and is at least twice as strong as humans. Designing an enclosure for your new pet may be difficult as it'll need to be highly durable. Chimps really do belong in the wild, but if you're adequately trained and have experience around primates, you may be in luck.

Owning a chimpanzee is illegal in most states throughout the country. Still, you may be able to obtain a license to own one in a few states like Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, or North Dakota. Although some states don't necessarily have "regulations" against owning a chimpanzee, you'll still need to check with your state first.Similarly, the capuchin monkey is a popular exotic pet, but you have to check with your state to see if you can have one of these cheeky monkeys.

7. Hedgehog: Exotic and Small


They sure are adorable - but is a hedgehog the right pet for you?

Caring for a hedgehog can be similar to the care you would give to rodents like hamsters or guinea pigs. They'll need a cage, food, water, a hiding place, and a place to do their "business."

It's legal to own a hedgehog in most states around the United States. However, there are a few places where it's still illegal--Pennsylvania, Hawaii, California, Georgia, and Maine--but you may be able to own one with a permit in these states.

Editor's Note: This post was updated on January 9, 2020, to note that hedgehogs are now legal in Arizona. 

8. Hyacinth Macaw Pet

hyacinth macaw

Able to grow up to 40 inches tall with a 60-inch wingspan, hyacinth macaws are powerful animals.

If you decide to own this large macaw, you'll definitely want to begin training as young as possible to ensure they never hurt anyone with their powerful beak. They're brilliant birds that love to play and climb.

Even though you can own this beautiful bird as a pet, they're still considered endangered, with only 2,500-5,000 left in the wild. They're costly (think upwards of $10,000) and require a lot of special care.

Hyacinth macaws are legal in most states as long as they are obtained legally (not stolen or imported) and the proper documentation is completed.If you like birds but are looking at a more affordable and slightly less exotic version, consider parakeets.

9.  Chinchilla: A Cute Exotic Pet


The chinchilla is a member of the rodent family but is (unfortunately) one of the more destructive ones.

Owning a chinchilla takes a special kind of expertise and patience. They don't like to be cuddled, but they love to run around and play. They can get bored relatively easily, so they'll need lots of "fun" things to entertain them.

As long as the chinchilla is obtained legally (not captured from the wild), it is legal to own one in most states. No license is required.

10. Ball Python

ball python

In the same snake family as boas, ball pythons are constrictor snakes, meaning they kill their prey by constricting and suffocating them. Although smaller than boas, pythons can reach up to 3-4 feet long and live for an average of 20-30 years.

Like other snakes (and many other pets), you'll need the proper enclosure, food, and environment for them.

Maybe not surprisingly, ball pythons are illegal to own in Florida (unless you have a permit before 2010), New York, Hawaii, and some cities in California. They're legal in most other places and don't require a license to own.

Some honorable mentions for the furry exotic pet trade include prairie dogs, skunks, pot-bellied pigs, red foxes, sugar gliders, slow loris, gerbils, ferrets, and large cats like lions, tigers. Wolves can also be owned with special exotic animal permits. If you are more interested in the arachnid variety of exotic pets, you can even check out tarantulas or even Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Whereas if exotic amphibians are more your style, take a look at the axolotls. Many of these exotic pets are considered invasive species by the Department of Agriculture, hence why they are only legal to own with permits or in certain states. Others, of course, have limits due to their dangerous nature.

Think you need a pet that no one else has? Start with one of these exotic animals and be the talk of the neighborhood! But make sure you do your research in your particular state; exotic pet ownership is nothing to take lightly!

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READ MORE: Separation Anxiety in Dogs: 6 Breeds That Hate Being Alone

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10 Exotic Pets + Where They Are Legal to Own