Playful, clever, and utterly adorable, you may have wondered whether you can have a pet otter. After all, they seem to behave like dogs sometimes. However, you may want to think twice before getting an otter as a pet. They are wild, exotic animals not suitable for living with humans. So keeping an otter can be cruel to both the otter and your own sanity!
Here are more reasons not to own an otter:
It may be illegal to own a pet otter.
Otters may be illegal to own in your area. Laws regarding exotic animals will vary by state, but you can get a general idea of how they work here. If you ever need to confirm anything, however, do call your local fish and wildlife department. For a list of unique pets, you may be able to own, we’ve compiled a list of exotic pets you can own.
It’s hard to know where they came from.
Because it’s often illegal or borders on being illegal, the exotic pet market is a shady one. Pet brokers are there to make lucrative cash, so animal well-being is likely not their first priority. It will be hard to gauge exactly where your animal came from, the conditions it was raised in, and who your money is going to. Not only is this ethically problematic, but your animal may later show signs of illness from an abusive or neglectful past.
It also goes without saying that buying an exotic animal will by no means be cheap and easy!
Finding veterinary care for a pet otter will be a challenge.
You’re unlikely to find healthcare for your pet otter at your local veterinary clinic. Having a pet otter means finding a specialist who knows a lot about otters, such as veterinarians that work in zoos or aquariums. So it may be unfeasible to bring your otter to the zoo for regular check-ups or to find emergency help.
Moreover, many veterinarians will likely be opposed to the idea of owning exotic pets and may be reluctant to help. They may even contact the authorities if owning a pet otter is illegal in your area.
Young animals may seem tame, but they will soon grow up to be wild adults.
A young, baby otter may seem tame and easy to care for, not to mention adorable. But remember, animals — including wild ones — grow up. This means, eventually, you’ll have to deal with adult animal behavior. This may mean heightened aggression, more complex dietary needs, and mating instincts and behaviors you’d rather not deal with.
Otters aren’t cats and dogs, domesticated pets that have lived and thrived alongside humans for tens of thousands of years and are adapted to do so. Otters are high-maintenance wild animals. They require a specialized diet, are loud and noisy, and can get aggressive. Some people have also called them smelly.
At the very least, you’ll need water — and a lot of it! — for the otter to swim in. So if you live in an apartment where the largest body of water in your bathtub, having an otter is definitely out of the question.
In the wild, otters live in families of up to fifteen animals. This is their natural state of affairs, so keeping an otter as a pet will deny it of their natural social needs.
Some otter species commonly kept as pets are endangered.
In Southeast Asia, where the pet otter trade is thriving, the species most often kept as pets — the Eurasian Otter, Hairy-nosed Otter, Small-clawed Otter, and Smooth-coated Otter — are in various stages of decline, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Social media doesn’t tell the whole story.
You may have been tempted to get an otter because you’ve seen others raise otters successfully on social media. If they can do it, so you can you…right? But remember, social media only shows a sliver of the otter’s life. It may be well-behaved and happy in a specific video, but it may be destructive and problematic most of the day.
Get an otter-like animal instead!
Fortunately, there are domesticated, pet animals out there that can be very similar to an otter! The difference is, these animals have been living alongside humans for generations, so unlike a wild animal, they are more likely to enjoy our company! (And us, theirs.) Here are a few animals that are somewhat similar to otters:
Ferrets are in the same family as otters, and they can look very much alike! However, unlike otters, ferrets have a long history of domestication and can form strong, social bonds with humans. They’re also fun, curious, affectionate, and clean.
Ferrets do require some specialized knowledge, so do your homework and research the animal’s needs before getting one. Fortunately, you’ll have a much easier time finding a vet for your ferret than for an otter!
Finally, be aware that not all states allow you to keep ferrets legally, and some buildings may have no-pet clauses that include ferrets.
Rodents, such as hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, gerbils, and guinea pigs can be delightful, even low-maintenance pets! Because they’re smaller, rodents are relatively easy to care for, but make sure they have a generously-sized cage, a stimulating environment, and nutritious food. Here are a few facts about rodents:
- Gerbils, which are similar in size to hamsters, can be more social and active than hamsters. However, they may be illegal in some states.
- Mice can be very cute, but they tend to be skittish. Rats, on the other hand, are social, rarely bite, and can bond very strongly with their human companions. They are highly intelligent and can even be trained to do tricks, but they do require slightly more attention than other rodents.
- Guinea pigs are bigger and very tame. They are also social and non-aggressive but can be a little noisier than other rodents.
A happy, healthy pet means a happier, healthier you!
It’s true that having an animal companion will bring loads of love, happiness, and even good health to a human’s life! But do make sure you can also provide the animal with ample love, happiness, and care. Having an exotic pet can be stressful on both the animal and you, so before you head out to buy one, consider a conventional, domesticated animal instead.