Owning a Pet Cougar
Big Cats as Pets? A Cat Lover's Dream Come True!
Yes! Cougars can be kept as pets in the United States, but there are certain legalities that must first be considered.
I have always been fascinated by cougars. As I got older and discovered that they can be legally kept as pets, I became increasingly attracted to the proposition.
Since my husband doesn't hate the idea, we are in the preparation stages for making this happen. It will very likely be some time ten or fifteen years from now, and it begins with a process of research, research, research, which I share with you here.
So... What do You Think about Pet Cougars?
Would you ever consider owning a cougar for a pet?
A Cougar Is a Wild Animal! Can It Be Domesticated?
No, not exactly. For those who have exotic pets, the purpose of having the animal is not to try to domesticate it, the breed, or the species. It isn't even necessarily to tame the animal (and not all exotics can be tamed). For those who love exotic pets, it is about a strong desire to make contact with the wild that causes the desire to own animals that others don't consider as pets.
Cougars are wild animals, just as the snakes that people keep as pets are wild animals and my sugar gliders are wild animals. Many pets that people keep originated in the wild. After generations, perhaps they could be tamed or even domesticated. It is commonly believed that the further the animal is from a wild parent, the more "domestic" it is. However, one thing that anyone considering such a dramatic purchase needs to consider is that a wild animal will always be wild. They are dangerous. Precautions must be taken, and the owner must ensure that they are able to care for a wild animal for the duration of a very long lifetime.
Legal Issues Pertaining to Big Cat Ownership
Yes, it is legal to own big cats in many states. Big cats include cougars as well as African lions, various tigers, and other smaller wild cats. If you are interested in owning an exotic pet of any kind, I strongly advise researching the legality of ownership in your city and state as a first step. It would be heartbreaking to go through all of the work in deciding how to care for your pet cougar and building the enclosure to find out that you cannot own the cat in the area in which you live.
- Exotic Pet Laws
Find out which exotic pets are allowed in your state. Every state is listed briefly.
Research Is Imperative!
If you are going to own a cougar (or any type of large cat or exotic animal, for that matter), a lot of research is required. You cannot slack off on your research! There is a lot of information that you will need to have before you decide to purchase your cougar.
- Is it legal where you live?
- What kind of licensing will you need to have?
- If the laws change, will you be grandfathered in?
- Do you have enough room for a full outdoor enclosure?
- What are the cat's dietary needs?
- Do you have enough information on raw nutrition?
- Is there a good exotic animal vet in your vicinity?
Read, read, read. Go online and contact government agencies to ask questions.
Note: You'll need to contact the nearest exotic animal vet and ask them if they work with cougars. I'm lucky that there is one in town. My first exotic cat will likely be an African serval and I have been able to confirm that they take them.
Start Your Cougar Ownership Research Here
- Rexano: Responsible Exotic Animal Ownership
This site can be a bit difficult to navigate, but it is definitely one of the most comprehensive resources for exotic animal ownership that I have found. You'll want to spend some time on this site if you are interested in owning a big cat.
- Exotic Cats and Hybrids
This is the best place to learn all about wild cats and hybrids of all kinds.
- Feline Conservation Federation (FCF)
A non-profit, non-governmental organization that consists of wild feline managers, educators, conservationists, researchers, and all those who support the mission of feline conservation in captivity and in the wild.
Isn't it Dangerous to Own a Cougar?
Well... yes! Big cat ownership is dangerous. There is no question that a person takes a risk when they decide to allow an exotic animal into their home. When I owned snakes, I was often asked, "Don't they bite?" And my answer was always, "If it has a mouth, it can, and probably will, bite."
The key to taking on a large exotic animal is to know what the risks are and to take precautions. For example, it would be foolish to enter a lion or tiger enclosure alone. Another person is your guard against attack and you need someone else to help defend if an attack does occur.
When someone chooses to take on an exotic animal, such as a pet cougar, they are accepting that there are risks. How much you understand your animal will certainly help avoid running into problems down the road. Species and breeder research are absolutely imperative in successful ownership of an exotic animal.
Do Cougars Purr?
You bet they do! It was once believed that cougars (also known as mountain lions or just lions, pumas, panthers, painters, and catamounts) were the largest cat to purr, but I've heard some talk recently that scientists are discovering that other big cats also purr, but at a different pitch or volume. Cougars certainly have a very loud purr!
One of the things that I love most about cats is that rumbling sound that they make in their chest. I find it soothing and comforting. As someone who has suffered from depression, cats have been a real lifeline for me, and a cougar purrs like it has a V6 engine in its belly. Just listen!
A Cougar Is Just a Really Big Cat
Most wild cats behave very much like our domestic cats. They play and they interact with one another, with their humans, and with other pets. They hunt, they sleep, and even purr.
I do understand the concerns from my friends and family who believe that it is cruel to separate these wild animals from their own social networks. I agree with many of their objections. But I also believe that it is perfectly human to want to connect with these wonderful animals, and that they can be kept humanely.
After watching the video above, please keep in mind that this level of trust is unusual. Most owners won't get to this point with their cat and that needs to be understood and accepted. While every owner would love to reach this point with their pet, it takes a lot of dedication and very good breeding of the animal, and even then, there are no guarantees. This is still a cougar!
What About Declawing a Cougar?
There are a lot of thoughts on whether or not it is acceptable to declaw cats. The procedure involves the surgical removal of the first digit of the individual toe on the cat's paw. Declawing is not the removal of the nail, the way that human fingernails might be clipped. It is the removal of the entire phalanges. It would be the same as removing the first digit of every single one of your fingers and toes. It is is an amputation, and it is a very big deal that is often made light of. Equating it to the removal of the fingernails isn't enough. Think of it as the removal of your fingers or moreover, your toes. It affects a cat's balance, their overall health and their well being.
The issue is compounded when we're talking about big cats. Cougars, African lions, Bengal tigers, and others are dangerous to begin with, but a cat with claws may not be aware of themselves or their strength, and this can be a huge issue.
I do not support the procedure for regular cats. If you do not want your cat to have claws, you do not want a cat. Get something that doesn't have feet. Maybe a nice snake. I have not made up my mind whether or not we will declaw our cougar. Not everyone does, and it will depend on laws and what my research says. This is an ongoing process for me, and I will eventually have to make a decision. If it comes down to it, I might make the decision not to get the cat if it means that I must declaw it.
What do you think?
Do you think that declawing is cruel?
I am a dog person but a cat lover. I've always been fascinated by cats, from the time that I was almost too small to remember. When I was five, I got my first cat. My parents took me to the shelter to pick him out and he was... wonderful. We named him Buffy because he was a long-haired buff-colored cat. He was never particularly affectionate, but I loved him like crazy, and it still breaks my heart to think that he's gone.
Most people consider me a cat person, probably because I've had an ongoing love affair with cats in general. My favorite wild animals (after giraffes) are all cats. Bengal tigers, African lions, and panthers all fascinate me. I've written "furry" fiction and some of my favorite characters are cats. I remember watching Born Free over and over again when I was a child, wondering what it must be like to have a pet lioness that lived in the house with the humans, just like a house cat.
I've never been average when it comes to pets. I'm obsessed with the exotics. I've owned several snakes (varying from very small to very large Burmese pythons), rats, mice, and sugar gliders as well as various lizards. I've owned cockatiels and budgies as well, though I'm not sure you could classify those as exotic birds. I would love to have an African grey parrot though!
Whether you agree or disagree with the ownership of exotic animals, please be civil in your responses here. I've received a lot of criticism for my standpoint on the ownership and captive breeding of wild animals, and in particular, cats. Criticism has been both public and private and is often hurtful. You are free to express your opinion, but please do it politely, and if you cannot be polite, at least be civil.
I am interested in your opinions, but more than anything I'd like to know that you were here. If you have any additional resources that I might want to look at or feature, please let me know. I'm always looking for more information and the resources that I've included on this page are my favorites.