Can You Have an Otter as a Pet?

Otters are adorable furry water babies found either in riverways or in the ocean. Many people are surprised to learn that there are 13 species of otter across the world. Unlike other pet species, otters have not been domesticated.

can you own an otter as a pet

Any animal can be tamed but many species have not been bred specifically for work. For example, dogs were domesticated to help protect village livestock or pull sleds. Cats were domesticated for ratting purposes. Otters have never been domesticated and there are still wild populations in many countries.

Can I have an otter as a pet?

As a general rule, there is only one species of otter that could be possible as a pet in America. The Asian short-clawed otter has wild populations along the riverways of North America so they do not fall under the Marine Mammal protection act as most other otter species do. Although they are not a banned marine animal, most states still ban the ownership of otters. Even in a state where it is possible, owning an otter is incredibly difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

What states is it legal to own an otter?

States where owning river otters is legal with a permit or license are:

  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota

The state of Nevada has the loosest animal restrictions regarding ownership. Otters, both river and marine species, are not listed as requiring a permit or license to import or export, so you could own an otter there without a permit.

In states where permits are required, they will outline certain guidelines that must be followed. These include things like having a home inspection, providing a shelter and den that meets or exceeds the minimum specifications and proving that you have the appropriate knowledge to care for an otter. In most other states, it is illegal to own an otter as a pet and you cannot apply for a permit. Only rehabilitation centers or private animal parks may apply for special permission.

In the UK, you must apply for a permit to own, capture or sell otters. This is because there are otter species native to Britain and they have been brought back from the brink of extinction. Otters are a protected species and as such, permits are only approved under certain conditions.

Do otters like humans?

People all over the globe have an emotional bond with otters. Being playful animals, they show great interest in human divers and can even grab attention in aquariums. Otters are wild animals and don’t like human contact.

Otters who live in a zoo or a safari can be more sociable with people since they get to see different faces on a regular basis. That’s not the case with wild otters. They prey on birds and tiny fish, so they don’t get to meet many people except for fishermen.

How long do otters live?

The North American River Otter lives between seven and nine years in the wild. Their lifespan can be extended to eighteen years in captivity. They are easily domesticated but must be kept with at least two otters for company, or else they will not be happy.

Where can I find a pet otter?

You cannot go down to your local pet store to buy or adopt an otter. They are wild animals and very rarely kept as pets. The only place you can get one is from a broker or exotic pet breeder. This is a tricky situation to navigate as many brokers will not tell you where they source their animals. Many wild otter species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Pricing varies between brokers and also by country. Since owning otters as pets is not very common, there is no guideline to follow when it comes to price. To draw appeal, some brokers or breeders will advertise babies or young otters because they are so cute. This causes serious problems as the otter is often not old enough to leave its mother.

Does an otter make a good pet?

If you do manage to find someone who has a healthy otter to sell and you have the required permit, you need to consider how you will care for your new pet. Otters are not like a regular cat or dog. They are not suited to living indoors because they smear their droppings and create a very pungent odor.

The best enclosure will provide a pool for swimming, a heated den area for sleep, and a large outdoor space for exercise and foraging. There are two things you must be mindful of; digging and climbing. Otters are great at both, so the fencing must be sunken well into the ground and the enclosure must have a roof.

Diet is also very important. Otters require a variety of insects, fish and crustaceans to get all the necessary nutrients to keep them fit and healthy. Combining their feeding routine with enrichment will prevent boredom. This includes hiding their food so they have to search for it or putting it inside something so they have to work out how to release their food.

Otters are extremely vocal animals with high-pitched squeaks and chirps. You will certainly not win any popularity contests with your neighbors! Otters are also known to nip. Mostly this is play behavior but they have sharp teeth and even a playful bite can draw blood.

It is not advisable to own an otter unless you understand their behavior. They require constant enrichment to prevent them from becoming stressed. This is simply not possible to provide if you work a 9-5 job where you are away from home 8 hours or more of the day.

Conclusion of owning an otter as a pet legally

Otters are animals that should be in the wild, and not in someone’s home. If you want an otter as a pet because they’re cute and fuzzy, then you probably shouldn’t have them as a pet.

Otters need a lot of enrichment, attention, and training. They need a lot of care and effort to make sure they are living comfortably. Owning an otter is not something that should be taken lightly!

If you still think that owning an otter is something you want to do, then you should look into your local laws and regulations on exotic pet ownership. Make sure that owning one is legal where you live!

If you do decide to get a pet otter, be prepared for all of the work that goes into having one! You will need to make sure they get the proper care and attention. Your otter will also need a lot of exercises so they don’t get bored or depressed in their enclosure.

As you can see, owning an otter is not as simple as buying a dog or cat. Not only do you need to be a resident of a state where owning an otter is legal, but you also need to have the money to afford the initial purchase, proper housing and care of the animal.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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