Do Otters Make Good Pets?

Posted by Christy Caplan

They are super cute! Yet, owning an otter as a pet is a terrible idea.

The small-clawed otter, an Asian species that in the wild hunts for fish, has grown in popularity. People will pay thousands of dollars for this exotic pet and online trade encourages pet ownership. 

To protect the animals, most Southeast Asian countries have enacted laws banning their capture, sale, possession and transport. 

The bottom line? People keep otters as pets because they're adorable.

While they're mostly illegal in the U.S. you can own and care for an otter in these states:

  • Nevada, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, New York, Minnesota and Oklahoma

You will need permits for otters in each of these states so check and do your research!

About the Asian small-clawed otter 

Pet Helpful confirms that these pets are fairly high-maintenance. These pets are wild animals!

  • They are the smallest otter species in the world.
  • They live in freshwater wetlands and mangrove swamps in Southern Asia.
  • They are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • In the wild, they feed on mostly invertebrates and occasionally frogs.

Why otters are bad pets

The first reason is otters are wild animals! The second reason is it's very difficult to keep them safe and secure. The demand for otters drives the illegal animal trade is another reason and perhaps the most important one.

They need a lot of space and environmental enrichment. The recommended space for two otters is the size of a small apartment, and you need two, as these are extremely social animals.

You'll also want to mimic their natural ecosystem and they need to live outdoors. Good luck!

Where you can buy one 

Pet Helpful also explains that the biggest obstacle is where to find one.

"They are extremely uncommon, and you would likely need to contact a broker who can track down a breeder or import one. The latter option may be ethically questionable given the species' vulnerable status in the wild, and brokers are unlikely to tell you where the animals are obtained (which is standard in the industry)."

This video is very important to see if you plan to live with a pet otter.

One additional fact about these beautiful sentient creatures that everyone should know is habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution continue to threaten their conservation. Do you think otters are good pets? 

This endangered species is showing up on social media and "animal cafes" and otter cafes in Japan are one reason why they're so popular. The pet trade is exposing them along with other exotic animals.

The Asian otters are wild otters! Other otters (sea otter, river otter) aren't as popular. Remember those captive otters you see in the otter cafes are stressed.

These popular pets aren't in family groups like they are in the wild, and the cages aren't mimicking their natural habitats. These otters do have sharp teeth and if you're keeping otters you should be aware these wild animals can become aggressive if stressed.

Do you or anyone you know, live with a pet otter? Please comment below! 

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Do Otters Make Good Pets?