Do Otters Make Good Pets?

Posted by Christy Caplan

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Some people love caring for exotic animals, but could you imagine keeping otters as pets?

Baby otters are arguably the most adorable creatures on the planet! The small-clawed species of otter hails from southeast Asia and hunts for fish in the wild. These semi-aquatic creatures hold hands and cuddle, making potential pet otters all the craze among aspiring pet owners. People will pay thousands of dollars for this exotic pet and some online trade encourages pet ownership.

However, owning an otter as a pet is not as easy as it might seem.

Is It Legal to Have a Pet Otter?

To protect the animals, many Asian countries have enacted laws banning the poaching, sale, possession and transport of these adorable critters.

While they're widely illegal in the U.S., you may be able to own and care for an otter in these states with the proper permitting:

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

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

Can I Own a Pet Otter?

It's important to remember that otters are wild animals! While they appear cute and cuddly, it's very difficult to keep them safe and secure. Otters need protected from illegal wildlife trade, but keeping them cooped up in close-quarters isn't healthy for this species.

Otters 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 it's recommended that they live outdoors.

Facts About Asian Small-Clawed Otters

Pet Helpful confirms that pet otters are rather high-maintenance:

  • 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.

How to Buy a Pet Otter

One of the biggest obstacles surrounding otter ownership is where to (legally) find one, as Pet Helpful explains:

"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.

This endangered species is showing up on social media in "animal cafes" and otter cafes around 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 weasels 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? Let us know on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

This article was originally published March 11, 2020.

READ MORE: Furry and Up to No Good: Do Ferrets Make Good Pets?

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Do Otters Make Good Pets?