can you own an otter in california

Otter Ownership in California: What You Need to Know

The animal kingdom is filled with exotic beings that can blow your mind with their interesting personality and characteristics. Whether wild or domestic, animals have unique charisma that draws us to learn more about them. We are here to learn about this adorable member of the weasel family: Otter.

Their snouty little face with a lean and short body makes them look super adorable. You probably have heard a lot about Otters and their mischievous personality.

Have you ever visited a home with an Otter as a pet? Yes, Otters are widely popular as pets, but many controversies surround them being domesticated, especially in California.

If you plan to bring Otter to your California home, this little guide is all you need.

A Brief Overview of Otters

Otters belong to the Weasel family and are the only ones to be good at swimming. What makes otters unique in the weasel family is their adaptive nature. There are marine, aquatic, and semi-aquatic species in Otters. Contrary to popular belief, not all Otters have their habitats in the marine.

Interestingly, Otters are extremely social beings, making them a great option for petting. Most of them prefer staying in groups, while male Otters tend to spend their life in solitary. On average, Otters have a life expectancy of 9-11 years.

1. Appearance

Since most Otters are aquatic, they have a long streamlined body with short limbs and webbed feet- To help them swim easily.

If you look closely, Otters have rounded noses with whiskers that help them navigate through water. Often unknown to many, Otters have dual fur coats. The inner layer has dense fur to trap air, while the outer coat has waterproof characteristics.

There are several species of Otters, each having a different size and weight. Studies show that the biggest Otter is around 5 to 6 feet, while others are around 2.9 feet long.

2. Geography

Otters, being carnivorous mammals, are found on all continents, with Australia and Antarctica as exceptions. In most of these continents, Otters belong to the Eurasian group. Interestingly, there are aquatic and semi-aquatic Otters found in all these continents.

3. Breeding

Female Otters are highly fertile beings who can deliver young Otters. On average, they give birth to two to five Otters. The gestation period varies according to the size of baby Otters.

Studies suggest that mother Otters take two months to deliver smaller Otters, and the bigger ones need five months. Otter babies are born with open eyes and a layer of fur that keeps them from drowning in the water.

Like all mammals, Otter mothers also carry their babies on their stomachs until they are big enough to swim independently.

4. Diet

Otters are extremely fond of fish meat, which is obvious given their natural habitat. Different species of Otters have varying diets and needs. For instance, River Otters have a big appetite and feed on fish and crabs. Otters in the sea have a small appetite and consume urchins, clams, and fish. Domesticated Otters are also found eating vegetables and eggs.

Planning to Get an Otter: Everything that You Need to Know

Planning to Get an Otter- Everything that You Need to Know

If you have ever seen an Otter floating across the sea, you would have been convinced to get them as a pet. They are undoubtedly the cutest members of the weasel family, who hold hands while sleeping and walk in groups.

While all these characteristics make them adorable and appear friendly, owning them as a pet comes with responsibilities you probably don’t know. Being an Otter owner usually means that you have to pay a huge price- financially and emotionally.

However, if you have decided, here’s all you should know as an Otter owner.

As said, Owning Otters as pets has many responsibilities that start right from buying them. Otters are wild animals that are not easily available for sale. Many countries have banned the sale of Otters, including the UK, Japan, and the US.

However, there are varying rules for private owners. Being a responsible pet owner, you can look for Otters through NGOs or reputed institutions that sell Otters legally and are not involved in their brutal breeding.

Tips for Otter Owners

If you are lucky to have managed an Otter as a pet, the responsibility to take good care of them falls on your shoulders. Treating them with proper diet, love, and care is a lifetime commitment you must not back from. We have listed all the fundamental aspects of petting an Otter you would want to know. Let’s start.

1. Caging

  • Otters are wild animals, so they are used to staying in large spaces. While caging an Otter might not sound ideal, they must be put in a cage as a pet.
  • You will need a large cage that allows your pet Otter to move, play, and jump around easily. Caging them in a small space can harm their health, which you would not want.
  • There isn’t a set rule for the size of an Otter cage, so all you need to do is find a cage that provides ample space for free movement.
  • Additionally, Otter cages need a specific design featuring a pool and a separate dry area.

Additional Info- Make sure to get a cage that is strong enough to hold your pet Otter as they are strong (don’t assume aggressive).

2. Diet

  • Otters and their diet are probably the easiest requirements you have to look after. They are carnivorous mammals who can survive on different types of food, including vegetables, insects, fish, cats, and eggs.
  • However, you must remember that Otters love naturally complete cat food, which is also healthy for their body.

Note– Diet for Otters fluctuates depending on their age and size. On average, Otters need to eat 20% of their body weight daily to live a long and healthy life.

3. Living Environment

  • Bringing an animal as exotic as Otters means that you would have to work hard to create a natural living condition for them. Almost all species of Otters are used to staying in a tropical climate. They need a heated area in the cage where the temperature never falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It would be best to have cage heaters that promise 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit for an ideal temperature.
  • Secondly, Otters have a habit of climbing and digging, so you should get a cage with a top and bottom to allow them climbing and digging.
  • Now that you know that most Otter species are semi-aquatic, you would want a cage with 30% water, a pool area, and a dry area.
  • Lastly, add a few decorations to create a natural space. You can go for rocks or aquatic plants in their cage.

4. Entertainment

  • Like other mammals, otters are super active and intelligent beings who love playing and interacting.
  • You can get toys and decorations for the cage that keeps them active and engaged.
  • If you have a pool big enough, you can also play fetching games, and you would be amazed to see how good your Otter pet is at fetching.

Unclear Laws and Regulations Regarding Otters as Pets

You might have wondered- is it legal to own an otter?

Owning pets, especially exotic ones, has always been controversial. When it comes to Otters, the story is no different. There are varying laws across continents regarding Otters as pets.

In many states, they are considered legal pets, while many have strict laws against indulging in any sale or purchase of Otters. For instance- the US does not allow keeping Otters as pets, so if you try to put an Otter in California, you might face disappointment.

If you want to get an Otter as a pet, you must first check local laws to see whether your state allows petting Otters or not.

Rules against petting exotic or wild animals are often made to protect humans from being harmed and animals from being extorted of their rights.

Due to extreme Otter trafficking in many areas for using their fur, most parts of the world have made it illegal to keep them as pets. This might leave you wondering- where is it legal to own an otter?

Here’s a list of states that possibly allow Otters as pets.

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

Note- Remember that the list is not exhaustive.

List of Exotic Pets that You Can Legally Own in California

If you found out that keeping Otters as a pet in California is not legally possible, you do not have to get disheartened. Several other exotic pets are waiting for you to take them home. Here are 11 exotic pet options for your California home that will add an amazing experience to your life.

1. Zebras


A pet that defines the word “exotic” perfectly is a Zebra. These extremely beautiful beings are waiting for you to take home. Contrary to popular belief, they are not wild and can be cared for like other livestock animals. Easily trained and maintained, you can never go wrong with a Zebra in your yard.

2. Hybrid Cats

Hybrid Cats

Is it even possible to go wrong with cats as a pet? For your unique choice in pets, California allows petting hybrid cats. Hybrid cats are those that carry wild personalities and genetics. You would want to go for hybrid cats whose wildness is easily tamed and not high enough to prey on humans.

3. Monitor Lizards

Monitor Lizards

Yes, you heard it right. You can bring Monitor Lizards as a pet and be completely amazed by their unique personality. Since they do not have venom in their body, monitor lizards are safe.

4. Bison


American Bison is widely popular in the US, and you might have seen them on farms as they are of great value for meat and fur production. These strong and large Bison are perfect if you want an exotic pet.

5. Second Generation Wolfdogs

Second Generation Wolfdogs

Second-generation wolfdogs refer to those wolves whose parents were domesticated all their lives in a way that they were on the fence about becoming domestic dogs. So bringing home a wolfdog sounds exciting, and caring for them is similar to that of dogs. You can go for F3 and less labeled wolf dogs for your California home as they are not dangerous and have the gorgeous features of wolves.

6. Snakes


Before you jump to conclusions, we are talking about large constrictor snakes. California allows keeping exotic snakes as pets, including those capable of killing humans. While they are legal, you would want to be careful with them.

7. Toucans


Birds bring a unique charm and lively vibe to your home. Bring a Tuscan home to add a colorful splash. Chirpy and social, Tuscans are sure to leave your guests in awe.

8. Camels


This might not surprise you, but Camels are an amazing option for an exotic pet in California. As beautiful as they are, Camels can be tamed and maintained in the same ways livestock animals are kept.

9. Ostrich


If you want a pet that is exotic and beautiful at the same time, then what better than Ostrich? California allows them to be used as pets, and are often found in many homes and farms for entertainment and meat production. Ostriches feature a beautiful color-blended body that you will not get enough of.

10. Tarantulas


Finding an exotic pet is not as difficult as you thought, and the answer lies in Tarantulas pets. They belong to the spider family and are large-bodied beings. It is legal to keep them as pets in almost all parts of the world.

11. Alpacas and Llamas

Alpacas and Llamas

Yes, we saved the best for the last. If you have stayed long enough in California, you must have seen Alpacas and Llamas around many houses. This is because they are simply adorable, legal pets and domestic animals.

They are social and love to interact with humans. You will never be able to get enough of untrimmed Alpacas and Llamas. You would want to be careful with their upbringing as the ones that owners feed since childhood often tend to find their owners as themselves- means a lot of kicking, spitting, and neck wrestling games for you.

Final Thoughts

Cats and dogs remain pet parents’ favorites, but several other babies in the animal kingdom offer an equally enriching and wholesome experience, if not more. We understand that pets do not mean little fur babies; you can have a knack for exotic pets.

Sadly, if you are fond of Otters, you might not be able to keep them as pets, especially in California. It’s hard to provide them with a natural living condition, and you do not want that added pressure. Instead, you can find other exotic pets for your California home that are legal and easily maintained.

Remember that bringing a pet home is like bringing a baby home, so you would want to be 100% sure about the decision. Here’s to hoping you find your favorite exotic pet in your state.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Otters Dangerous Animals?

Otters are wild mammals, which often give them the reputation of being dangerous. However, they are quiet, calm, and social beings with adorable habits of playing and sleeping while holding hands with their mates. It is only when they are poked unnecessarily that otters show aggression.

Why Are Otters Not Allowed to Be Kept as Pets?

Otters are wild animals habituated to staying in a natural tropical environment. Taking them away from their natural habitat is cruel. Additionally, many states prohibit their sale to protect them from exploitative meat and fur production.

What Exotic Pets Does California Allow?

California allows several exotic pets with some names that might blow your mind. You can keep Zebras, Camels, Snakes, Hybrid Cats, and Wolfdogs as pets in your California home.

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