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?

  • OH YEAH!
  • No, but I would consider another exotic (small) cat.
  • No, but I would consider another exotic (big) cat.
  • No, but I would consider a primate as a pet.
  • No, but I would consider a (large) reptile as a pet.
  • No, but I would consider a (small) reptile or amphibian as a pet.
  • No, but I would consider a small exotic mammal as a pet.
  • No, but I would consider a wolf or wolf dog as a pet.
  • NO WAY!
See results without voting

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.

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.


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?

Declawing may be cruel.
Declawing may be cruel.

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?

  • Absolutely Yes!
  • Absolutely No!
  • I would never declaw a domestic cat, but if I had an exotic cat I would definitely declaw.
  • I would declaw based on the circumstances. There's no right answer to this question.
  • I have no stake in the matter, but voting is fun!
See results without voting

My Story

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.

Leave your Pawprint! 36 comments

anonymous 5 years ago

A pretty cool idea. Best wishes for you.

VladimirCat profile image

VladimirCat 5 years ago from Australia

Cougars are wild animals, not pets for people

LeoRizzuti 5 years ago

"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." That was actually pretty funny (although my idea of "pretty funny" has been questioned at times). Would have been funnier if you had said "Get something that doesn't have feet. Maybe a nice fish. Or perhaps something pet-rock-ish." Just an idea brought on by sleep deprivation.

moonlitta 5 years ago

Joy Adamson, Elsa and Pipa were my favorite as a child! Angel blessed.

anonymous 5 years ago

Those are quite the videos and definitely show affection and respect in relationship, something that just be argued. It sounds to me like, if anyone your have a big cat, it would be you and your husband. I would say that it is a commitment that your aren't taking lightly in any manner and I wish you well in fulfilling your hearts desires. There are some among us that just have a love beyond understanding for other species.

Everyday-Miracles profile image

Everyday-Miracles 5 years ago Author

@anonymous: Thank you Susie! We're in no rush to make this happen, and depending on circumstances, it still might not. If I had the opportunity to help an ocelot, I think that would come first. Their plight in the wild is quite dire, and it's unlikely that we could do much with Florida Panthers (which I believe are the only endangered subspecies of Panther in the US).

Captive breeding does a lot to help ensure the survival of endangered species, and a lot of opponents don't consider the consequences of ceasing the captive breeding programs.

I really want to do my experience somewhere that has lions. :)

Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 5 years ago from Canada

Growing up in the deep country backwoods I of course wish that all animals could be free to roam and run as they should. Unfortunately in today's world and with the endangerment of species that is of course not always possible. Very interesting read as are all your articles.

TolovajWordsmith profile image

TolovajWordsmith 5 years ago from Ljubljana

I understand we (humans) still have a need to relate with nature and having a pet is surely one option. I really don't think an exotic pet (especially this size) is good idea, but every story has at least two sides. So... I am waiting for sequels! How your pet adapted to your home? How your neighbours adapted to your pet? Anything funny happened? I bet it has! Thanks for sharing!

JoshK47 5 years ago

Quite an interesting lens - good work.

anonymous 5 years ago

so which petsmart or petcetera can i pick one up at?

FanfrelucheHubs profile image

FanfrelucheHubs 5 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

Blessed by a squid angel. i don't think all wild animals belong to the wild and feel sad for those who have been domesticated. A wild animal remains a wild animal, not a pet.

gogolf162 5 years ago

Interesting lens. I did not know so much about cougars before.

anonymous 4 years ago

Thanks a lot for the great resources and personal views, I've been looking for information everywhere!

You'll be a great cougar owner. :)

anonymous 4 years ago

Have you decided on getting one or not getting one yet? It would be cool if you could tell us some updates ;)

I myself am planning on keeping a cougar (Europe) by the end of this year, maybe we can exchange expreiences/progress. Wish you all the best!

anonymous 4 years ago

As a cat lover, I have always been fascinated by the idea of owning a large cat. I have had some domestic cats that could play a bit rough and imagining that on a larger scale usually put an end to any flirtation with owing a big cat. That said, I would love to visit with someone else's big cat just to have the experience of seeing such a majestic creature up close.

Coreena Jolene profile image

Coreena Jolene 4 years ago

Did you see the link of saveoursavannahs on my Bengal Cat and Savannah Cat lens you visited? They are trying to pass a really strict law in Ohio to ban all exotics and hybrids. I don't know where you live, but I hope you can live somewhere to fulfill your dream.

Everyday-Miracles profile image

Everyday-Miracles 4 years ago Author

@Coreena Jolene: I just commented on your profile page about this. I've got an upcoming lens that will say a lot on this issue.

anonymous 4 years ago

I have to say I am one of those people who thinks that this type of animal should not be kept as a pet. They need to be free and roam in the wild as nature intended. I guess I might be persuaded if your backyard was as big as the natural roaming range of a cougar :)

anonymous 4 years ago

@anonymous: I can´t say that keeping a cougar as a pet would contribute to maintaining their species (unless it's a Puma concolor coryi or Puma concolor cougar) as it is very well the case with many other exotic pets like tigers. But you can´t compare a captive cougar to a wild cougar either, or any animal for that matter - it´s a fact that if you didn´t have this cat as a pet, it wouldn´t be a wild animal, but rather never have been born.

And as long as the cat is healthy and entertained aka happy with it´s environement, i don´t see a problem with exotics for my part. Of course it is a matter of discussion where "happy" begins.

anonymous 4 years ago

I love your lens. I have raised cougars for over 20 years. These are cougars that came from breaders who could no longer continue raising them. Cougars are like people they have different personalities and moods. They can be loving and some in the next moment revert to their wild instincts. You need to read them indepentently react accordingly. Cougher are and have always been the love of my life.

anonymous 4 years ago

Lovely videos. Lovely site! After learning that cougars are similar to "small" cats and not to lions or the true panthers I have been browsing the net on info about them. Carry on people and cats :)

vineliner57 profile image

vineliner57 3 years ago from Bloomington, IN

We have a lot of cougars here in Southern Indiana. As a matter of fact, the mascots of the 2 local High Schools are the Panthers and the Cougars!

Everyday-Miracles profile image

Everyday-Miracles 3 years ago Author

@vineliner57: I don't think that they're legal here in Indiana, though I haven't looked into the local laws. They *were* in Ohio, but I believe that a law was recently passed outlawing the private ownership of cougars. These laws are encroaching, and it's sad, since private owners do quite a bit in terms of conservation efforts.

I haven't heard of any cougars here in Central Indiana, but of course I'm right in the heart of Indianapolis!

Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 3 years ago from Canada

I think exotic pets are best left in the wild but then of course one also has to consider that with their territory being increasingly taken up some animals may be better off in an appropriate home setting.

Everyday-Miracles profile image

Everyday-Miracles 3 years ago Author

@Lady Lorelei: Some species are disappearing in the wild that would otherwise be bred in captivity, thereby decreasing their chances of becoming extinct in the wild. This is something that has happened with small wildcat species in the past, and the results are generally tragic.

Territories are being eaten alive by various factors, and conservation requires that we allow room for private efforts to maintain these species.

Carpenter76 profile image

Carpenter76 3 years ago

I really think wild animals should be in the wild. But when they are taken from people that can't handle them and they can't be put in the wild it's okay. It depends on the situation. In the videos I see a cougar that really adores his owner. Lovely!

anonymous 3 years ago

FYI Cougars may be similar weight to a human but they have many X the strength. Its an animal that can leap to a ledge 18ft in the air and can leap forward up to 38 ft.Imagine how strong you would have to be to do it? They kill man size animals with a bite to the back of the neck separating the neck vertebra and penetrating the spinal column.Wild felines can fiercely poss. of inanimate objects. Accidentally stepping on a big cats tail or foot can earn retaliation vs domestic animals wimper or run away. People are making a mistake declawing any big cat as it results in lifelong pain, more aggression and more use of the jaws.It gives the owner a more irritable cat. If you like aggressive big cats declaw them. Just bc. its not the same as a leopard or tiger does not mean it can't kill you.They can kill animals bigger and tougher than any man. Go on u tube and enter mountain "lion kills" you can watch vids. of cougar killing 160 class mule deer (approx 300lb) and a part grown moose. A person needs a continual supply of meat and vitamin supplements to keep a cougar healthy. Wild felines need but rarely get the special care they need from private owners. They live long lives 16 to in some cases 30 years in captivity under proper care. Cougars bred in captivity cannot go back to the wild. If the honeymoon is over and it does not work out usually something tragic happens to the animal.They do spray, can't be litter trained and cannot be in a home unsupervised as they will knock over your stuff. You won't likely find any breeders advert. that are not fake western union scams as nobody wants the liability of being a breeder of these for private owners. People who have big cats have to probe the cats mood before entering their enclosure. It does no good to ask "Can I come in." Kevin Richardson learned the hard way when he was almost killed upon entering an enclosure. He now calls his Lions over to him and feels their mood if they are having a good day. I know I've had house cats that would have put me in the ER or a pine box if they were bigger just bc I was petting them on a day they didn't want to be messed with.

Dan 2 years ago

I was very confused when you keep saying that the first digit is removed during de-clawing , that would be equivalent to removal of the thumb. I believe the words you are looking for is distal phalanx of each digit.

That said I fully support ownership of big cats by those who have the means to provide an appropriate environment. Good luck

RaeAnn (Oregon) 2 years ago

My passion is find a cougar cub and raise it, I understand the risks, costs and responsibilities of owning a large cat..I'm continuing to read and research the family and friends think I'm crazy ...

tracey 19 months ago

I had a cougar for fifteen years it was raised with my four children i have had all kinds of exotic pets snakes aligators bobcats skunks my cougar was by far the best pet i ever had it would sleep with my kids every night they would fight over who's turn it was to sleep with him he had his claws and free range of the house the kids would take him out in the yard and play with him i trusted him with are lives and he never maid me regret it he was raised with three bulldogs i think he thought he was a bull dog we loved and miss him

ShannonPerry1986 profile image

ShannonPerry1986 19 months ago from Asheville, North Carolina

Very nicely done! I'm researching exotic pet ownership as well (for me, it's either a bobcat or lynx) and that's how I came here. A lot of people have a hard time with exotic pet ownership because they say that "wild animals should be wild" but the fact is that that's not working out that well for some of them (tigers and poaching, for instance).

If I might make a suggestion: If moving is a possibility for you, I'd suggest Florida. For the time being at least (animal rights activists are getting into politics, so I can't speak for the future), their laws are great about permitting ownership and ensuring that owners know enough about their breed and can care for them. I know some states out west are exotic friendly too (Wyoming I believe, and Nevada to name a few), though I'm not as familiar with their laws as I am with Florida.

As far as declawing goes....I used to be stoutly against it. Period. And, I still am with domestics because I just don't think it can be justified. A friend of mine who keeps exotics raised an important point that made me reconsider it for bigger cats, though.

I still don't like it, but we both know what happens if some moron fails to obey your warnings and comes in like they are the cat whisperer...ultimately it won't end well for the cat because their life would be put in jeopardy for defending themselves against said moron. If they are declawed...maybe it won't end up that way. It still turns my stomach a bit, but I understand.

Anyway! Very well written and good luck! I hope eventually you have a four-legged, furry, forty pound feline family member!

oliver 6 months ago

I believe most people "own" an exotic animal for the wrong reasons.

If you are prepared to respect it and really accept it as a part of your family then you would never consider de clawing (or amputating). They are dangerous anyway with a jaw like that.

I love the head rub gesture from cats. You probably know that is their way of accepting YOU as family and they would never have you amputated.

Also (not meaning to be so picky) but I would consider changing the word "Own". You never really "own" any creature just as no other creature "owns" you. You are your own person right? so are they. They are emotionally intelligent and extremely sensitive (almost magically) in ways that we do not even know exist. 

AFutureCougarOwner 5 months ago

81% of people said they would consider adopting a Cougar.

0.5% actually will. That 0.5% is me...

parakeetlover 4 months ago

I agree with you, mostly. I do think that big cats are cool and can be kept as pets, but if I were to get a big cat I would have it declawed if not for the simple fact that there would be less of a chance of it hunting me. But I do see your point.

Datrebor 6 weeks ago

What do you feed your Cougar?

It's a beautiful cat but I am not one that would take one in. I don't think I have what is needed to care for one properly. Although I did have a 5" boa constrictor and a pair of rats. Not at the same time.

YouCrazy 4 weeks ago

You're a lunatic.

A dead cat in the wild is better than it rotting in your living room its entire life. Where it can maul you.

What insane hole do you have in your soul that you feel the need to fill with a wild animal, that has no place in your home?

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