Wild Cat Ownership

PetWatch discourages owning wild cats as pets

  • Wild cats (i.e. lions, tigers, panthers, leopards, cheetahs) are predators that make dangerous pets. Many cases of pet wild cats mauling or killing their owners have been reported. Children are the most frequent targets of wild cat attacks.
  • Wild cats require specific environmental and dietary needs that are difficult for the average pet owner to provide. For example, tigers can consume up to 30-50 kg of food a day.
  • Even when raised from birth, wild cats cannot be fully domesticated and will retain their natural instincts to attack.
  • Because accredited zoos cannot accept wild cats that were once pets, the animals are often sold to hunting grounds, sanctuaries, or for their pelts and meat.
  • Nearly half of the world’s 36 wild cat species are threatened with extinction. Owning a wild cat does not help wild cat conservation efforts and may even put wild populations at risk by increasing demand on the pet trade.
  • When bred in captivity, wild cats are often removed from their mothers while still nursing, depriving them of natural development. When cubs are caught in the wild, their mothers are often killed.
  • 12 states have a ban on owning exotic animals, 7 have a partial ban and 15 require a license or permit. Given the incidence of fatal or near fatal attacks, federal legislation is needed to regulate private ownership of wild cats.


Sources: Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition; Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries; Born Free USA; International Society for Endangered Cats Canada: United States Department of Agriculture miscellaneous Publication No. 1560: Large Wild and Exotic Cats Make Dangerous Pets: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/downloads/big_cat/position.pdf; Cohle SD, Harlan CW, Harlan G. Fatal big cat attacks. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 1990; 11:208–12.; Nyhus PJ, Tilson RL, Tomlinson JL. Dangerous Animals in Captivity: Ex Situ Tiger Conflict and Implications for Private Ownership of Exotic Animals


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