Exotic pet ownership has flourished in many parts of the world, especially since the widespread use of the internet has enabled people to locate and purchase almost anything. One of the most popular searches on Google is about pet sloths, and the most common questions I’ve come across are...
Where can I buy a sloth?
Can I legally own a sloth?
What special care does a sloth require?
Below, you'll find answers.
Can I legally keep a sloth as a pet?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, the most important of which is locality. Each country, state, and city have their own laws that govern which animals can and cannot be legally possessed as pets.
BornFreeUSA is a great website that I found which can tell you what exotic animals are legal and prohibited in each state. Follow the link to find your state and check your local laws.
When I checked my state laws, I saw that the sloth was not explicitly listed as prohibited or legal, so I had to dig deeper. Since I live in Missouri, I went to my state’s official website, searched for “pet laws,” and came up with a page that detailed the proper importation and permits needed to purchase and keep exotic animals. Again, sloths were not listed as prohibited. This doesn’t necessarily mean that pet sloths are legal in Missouri, so a last step would be to call the number listed on the webpage to find out if sloths are legal to import and own in your city and state.
How do I care for a sloth?
Like any other animal, sloths need particular food and shelter in order to survive.
First, you’ll need to find a cage, preferably a spacious aviary type, with branches put inside that are strong enough to support the sloth's weight to provide the animal with a place to hang upside down.
Next, you’ll need to stock up on sloth food. In the wild they eat mostly leaves and buds with the occasional insect or rodent. The San Diego Zoo lists Dipteryx panamensis, Sapium caudatum, and Terminalia amazonica among the sloths’ favorite trees. But the animal will eat different food in captivity than it would in the wild, and the diet it needs depends on the species of sloth. The San Diego zoo feeds their sloths "leaf eater biscuits, yams, dandelion greens, Romaine lettuce, apples, carrots, and some eugenia browse." Special treats at the zoo include grapes while the women from Too Cute! Baby Sloths Discovery channel show say that hibiscus flowers serve as a special treat for the animal, likening it to “sloth chocolate.” More research must be done consistently to ensure you're providing the sloth with the proper diet.
Another thing you might want to give your pet sloth is a stuffed animal. The pros at the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary recommend one for baby sloths to cuddle with and cling to since in the wild they will stick close to their mothers for up to a year after birth.
Familiarize yourself with sloth habits. For instance, certain sloth species climb down from their trees to defecate once a week, in the same spot, and then climb back up. I was told by a friend who had owned three sloths that hers only went to the bathroom when it rained, so she had to take them out to her backyard once a week, put them on her laundry lines, and sprinkle the hose above them to help them relieve themselves. Remember: Ignorance breeds misery, so make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
Finally, you need to find a vet who can properly care for your exotic critter. Check this site that can show you where there are vets for exotic animals in your area. Just call the numbers you find and ask about the care they can provide you with.
Where can I buy a sloth?
There are many websites dedicated to filling that hole in humans’ hearts that can only be filled with the purchase of an exotic pet. Exotic Animals for Sale is one of the most comprehensive I encountered on my quest for information. They provide a place for individuals to list animals they have for sale and post wanted ads for animals they’d like to buy. I saw everything from zebras and fruit bats to sugar gliders and marmosets listed for sale. They have a lot of animals you cannot find for sale anywhere else.
Remember, just because an animal is cute doesn’t mean it will make a good pet. Caring for any pet is a big responsibility, but looking after an exotic animal that requires a huge commitment of time and money. Before you jump into a purchase you may regret (and make a living creature completely miserable), please take a moment to consider the quality of life you are going to be able to give this animal. If you cannot take care of a sloth adequately, don’t get one. If you aren’t well informed (though you’re researching the subject first which is great), you stand a very good chance of causing the premature death of an animal. On the other hand, if after all your extensive research you find that you’re up for this 40 year commitment, I wish you and your new sloth friend luck!