Unusual Pets Legal to Own in the US

There are self-proclaimed dog and cat humans, with many swimming in both pools. Part of the attraction is with the bonds we form with our animal companions. Then, there are those who want something different and are looking for a unique pet to satisfy that desire.

Of course, dogs and cats are by far the most popular choice, with 63.4 million households with the former and 42.7 million with the latter. If you dig deeper into these numbers, you’ll find some surprises. What about the 5.4 million homes that have invited small animals into their lives? Or the 4.5 million households that include reptiles as pets?

You’d think it wouldn’t take long to come up with some of the more exotic options, like big cats or primates. Oddly enough, that’s not necessarily the case. Keep in mind that you must determine the legality of owning multiple pets at the federal, state, and local levels. For example, many rural and suburban areas allow chickens but draw the line on livestock, such as goats.

Let’s delve into this question and learn more about some of the strangest pets.

Our disclaimer: We do not recommend keeping wild animals as pets. This article is purely informative and should not be construed as an endorsement of the practice.

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1. bobcat


We know that cats may be closer to their wild roots than dogs. You can find out for yourself, depending on where you live. You can own a bobcat in Arkansas, but only up to six with a permit with the right living conditions. Michigan will let you bring one home, as long as bobcats are bred in captivity. Remember that they are called wild cat for a reason.

2. kangaroo


It’s hard not to fall in love with a kangaroo, especially when you see a little joey peeking out of its mother’s pouch. You can raise one in Arizona or Colorado. However, there is something you should know before buying it. You can’t destroy a kangaroo’s house. Oh, and don’t make him mad either. It can kick better than any American football player.

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3. Tiger

tiger_Gerhard G._Pixabay

If the bobcat is too small for you, then you might want to consider a tiger instead. Pennsylvania allows residents to own them but only with an Exotic Wildlife Ownership permit. The same goes for Tennessee and Texas. It should be noted that there are more tigers as pets than there are in the wild. How does it feel to have an animal that can kill you? Just ask Mike Tyson.

4. Crocodile


If you’re tired of your average chinchilla or lizard, you could make it big in Alaska—literally! Crocodiles are only allowed if you have a permit in Florida. Louisiana limits you to one caught in the wild per day. It should be noted that crocodiles in the wild can and do take Florida black bears and panthers. Just say.

5. Pangolin

pangolin pet_Piqsels

Often, we see celebrities with weird pets just because they can. Sometimes, that almost seems to suit certain people, like Salvador Dali and his pangolin. Don’t think about it in New Hampshire or Georgia, where they are banned as pets. On the other hand, you can get it in Oregon with a permit.

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6. Giraffe

giraffe_Chris Stenger_Pixabay

While Florida recognizes the security risks, you can still own a giraffe if you get an annual Class II pass. Adults can reach a height of over 18 feet. While it may knock your tree down, a giraffe doesn’t need as much food as a comparable sized animal. Their history as pets goes back to Roman times due to their exotic appearance and docile nature.

7. anaconda

green anaconda_Pixabay

Nothing quite makes a statement like owning an anaconda, the world’s largest snake by length and weight. You can do it legally if you get a permit for it in Vermont. Their native habitat is the tropical forests of South America. The biggest challenge you may have is finding food for it. In the wild, they sometimes eat tapirs, which can weigh up to 700 pounds!

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8. red fox


There are three species of fox native to the United States. The Red Fox is the most conspicuous of the group. If you live in Utah, Virginia, or Wyoming, you can have one as a pet. However, Virginia drew the line to breed or sell it. Their color should also be different from the wild ones. Many states ban foxes because of the risk of rabies.

9. Snow Leopard

snow leopard_Gerhard G._Pixabay

If you want something completely different, head to Missouri, where you can get the snow leopard you’ve always wanted. Interestingly, the state does not include this large carnivore on the list of “dangerous wild animals” that you must register with local law enforcement. However, you can store them in Montana without permission!

10. Elephant


If you are lucky enough to live in Nevada, please take your elephant for the kids. Who needs a pony? And permission is not required. You’ll be a hit in this neighborhood, unless it’s time to clean up the backyard.

11. zebra

Zebra_Alp Cem_Pixabay

Zebras are interesting animals. Although they are related to domesticated horses, they are very different. They are very social and will greet group members. However, you will not drive it. It might not even let you get close to it, despite its long history in captivity. You can get a permit for one in North Dakota or Oklahoma. But you will probably admire them from afar.

12. Ostrich


You should live in Oklahoma, Tennessee, or Utah if someone gives you an ostrich. Even though they can’t fly, they more than make up for it on the ground, reaching speeds of up to 40 mph. The number of wild birds has declined, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to list them as a vulnerable species.

13. Crazy Monster

crazy-monster_David Mark_Pixabay

Speaking of Montana, you can also get Crazy Monsters without permission! That one left us scratching our heads. After all, they are venomous, at least, the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center thinks so. Then again, you’re more likely to get killed by a Grizzly Bear, so Crazy Monsters might not be a problem.

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14. Gorilla

gorilla_Roman Grac_Pixabay

It takes a special person to want to raise a gorilla. If that’s on your bucket list, then Mississippi is the place for you! The state recognizes them as “inherently dangerous,” which is why you need to get permission to keep them. Many jurisdictions and animal rights groups have spoken out against keeping non-human primates as pets on the grounds that it is cruel.

See also:

  • 8 Monkey Races That Are Raised As Pets (With Pictures)
  • Do Monkeys Make Good Pets? (Ethics, Concerns, & What You Need to Know)
  • Do Chimpanzees Make Good Pets? What you need to know!

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Final Thoughts

While we can understand why one would want an exotic pet, the fact remains that most of the species allowed are wild animal. Even captivity has several generations of domestication. Compare that to dogs that have lived with humans for more than 10,000 years. Laws change. Just because it’s legal today doesn’t mean you can keep it as a pet a year from now.

Many animals have needs that are difficult, if not impossible, to meet. Food and housing are also likely to run into the thousands of dollars. With so many homeless dogs and cats, we recommend inviting a pet in need into your life. The rewards of owning a pet are priceless, as long as you understand the commitment you are making.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay