10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal in Texas

Updated on December 22, 2017
Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

Everything is bigger in Texas, so they say. While the massive state may have garnered a reputation for doing things their own way and for having a large population of ranchers, larger exotic pets such as big cats and bears are not legal for the general public there. One can acquire a license to keep these animals privately, but this license is not distributed to keep the animal "as a pet." This means that you would need to be a breeder, exhibitor, or be running an educational facility. There are still plenty of unique and exotic pets that you can own without a license in Texas. Many of these species should remain legal because they pose little or no threat to public safety.


1. Lemur

Primates are illegal in most states, but in Texas, you can own any species of lemur. The most common is the ring-tailed lemur, made famous from the film Madagascar. There are other species too, such as the ruffed and brown lemur. These animals actually do rather well in captivity. In zoos, they are said to be one of the easiest mammals to keep happy and they perform little or no stereotyping behavior (pacing and other repetitious sequences that are supposed to indicate boredom or stress).

They can be relatively good-natured for primates, and this is certainly important with an animal that possesses biting capabilities. Still, all primates are considered advanced and are not pets for people who aren’t willing to center their lives around its needs. All lemurs are endangered and due to this, they cannot be sold over or across state lines.


2. Sloth

Texas is a sloth-friendly state. These popular animals are in a unique family that includes the tamanduas, and they tend to not be illegal as often as other exotics because they are simply left out of bans that only list primates, bears, big cats, wolves, and other species people are more familiar with. Sloths are known to be extremely sensitive to stress and require stringent dedication to their environment, but should they be illegal? Of course not. They are unfortunately viewed as "cute and cuddly," but they are one of the last species you will want to handle frequently. Luckily, they are not readily available and the pricing for babies starts at around $6000, so they are unlikely to be an impulse buy for most people.


3. Kinkajou

This animal resembles a monkey, but it is actually related to raccoons. These unusual animals have a prehensile tail and a taste for sweets that they obtain with the use of their long tongue. The kinkajou is a nocturnal animal and it, unfortunately, can have aggressive tendencies that are unpredictable. Therefore, a large space is needed for them to burn off any such energy. Otherwise, they are said to be quite sweet to their owners, and unlike monkeys, they also have a sweet smell. Kinkajous are legal in Texas and a few other states, such as New York and North Carolina.


4. Capybara

The capybara is a giant rodent with webbed feet and is as legal as its close relative the Guinea pig in the state of Texas. These dog-sized animals love to swim and require a deep water source to satisfy this need. Capybaras love their owners, and well-socialized individuals can even walk on a leash like a dog, exploring pet stores and public parks.


5. Asian Leopard Cat

This is a non-domesticated species of cat that, unlike "big" cats, are legal in Texas. These cats are exotic but do not exceed the size of a "regular" housecat. That being said, these are still challenging animals to own and can be leery of human interaction. There are medium-sized cats such as servals that have a higher tolerance for human interaction (mainly their owners, unless they are very well-socialized).

Asian leopard cats are the species used to create the popular Bengal cat breed. This cat breed has extremely watered down levels of so-called wild blood and is not comparable to owning an "ALC."


6. Kangaroo

Kangaroos, wallabies, and smaller, rarer, kangaroo-like marsupials called bettongs (the latter cannot cross state lines due to the Endangered Species Act), are legal to own in Texas. Wallabies present an insignificant potential to harm while their taller relatives could be considered dangerous only toward people who interact with them directly. All should be legal pretty much everywhere. These species are relatively simple to care for in captivity, provided they have an adequate and secure outdoor space to roam. Only the bettong can be kept exclusively indoors.


7. Marmoset

Some monkey species are allowed as pets in Texas, and one example is the small New World monkey called the callitrichid. These are marmosets and tamarins. Even cotton-topped tamarins, which are critically endangered, are legal and produced by a number of breeders, however, they cannot be sold outside of the state. Due to their small size, these animals are among the most popular primate species to keep. Keep in mind that all primates are relatively challenging. Unfortunately, these small rodent-sized monkeys are messy and have a strong odor that will make them a poor choice as indoor pets for most people.


8. Spotted Genet

This small, exotic pet resembles a feline but it is not one, which sometimes makes it legal in states where exotic cats aren’t. They have the shape of a mongoose, the spotted patterns of a leopard, and the ringed tail of a lemur. They are similar in appearance to the illegal (in Texas) and native Southwestern ring-tailed cats, which also aren’t cats despite the name. Genets come in different sizes and seem to be mixed with different subspecies in captivity. They love to climb trees but also come down to search the ground for small animals. Spotted genets have a limited number of owners that can successfully care for them for the duration of their 20+ year lifespan, as they aren’t pets that like to cuddle and can be extremely skittish.


9. Coatimundi

These unusual species is native to Central and South America. There are different species of coatis in the pet trade: the mountain coati, white-nosed, and South American red coati. These are medium-sized animals (about the size of a large house cat) with large enclosure requirements, but they have the benefit of being an interactive and entertaining pet.

10. Bushbaby

Bushbabies, also known as galagos, are actually nocturnal primates. They are not monkeys, however, and are more closely related to lemurs. These animals are relatively small as the name implies, however, the much smaller lesser galagos do not seem to be available in the pet trade in the United States. The greater galago is commonly seen for sale. They possess the unfortunate habit of rubbing themselves with their own urine, which unsurprisingly produces a musky odor. Like monkeys, they will need a lot of room in their enclosure.

Questions & Answers


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    • profile image


      10 months ago

      *Four-eyed opossum. I wrote this from my tablet and it was autocorrected without me noticing.

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      The biggest surprises In what Texas allows without a license are probably venomous snakes and bats. Both of those are banned or restricted even more often than primates but are completely unrestricted in Texas.

      We also license rather than ban most "dangerous" animals (though we really only worry about dangerous mammals): the only animals banned here are furbearers (due to a misinterpretation of the law by the TDPW this also includes fennecs) and armadillos, both due to disease concerns from issues unrelated to pets (fur farms and food respectively).

      Since I want a three-banded armadillo, ringtail, and four-year opossum what we *do* ban miffs me a bit, but Texas is still definitely one of the better states for exotics.

    • profile image


      10 months ago

      Thankfully bushbabies aren't a victim of the ESA


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