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Can Wild Animals Be Pets? Here Are The Facts

You might have wondered at some point if wild animals can become pets or not. It’s a very common question.

Most wild animals cannot be kept as pets due to the difficulty in being able to provide the complex care and attention that the animal would need. In addition, some wild animals can be dangerous to humans if close encounters occurred.

Having said that, what if you found a hedgehog while mowing your lawn or a baby fox looking hungry? Is it safe to keep them as pets?

In this article we’ll discuss:

  1. What a wild animal needs to live a full and healthy life
  2. Whether you could tame a wild animal and keep it as a pet
  3. Why keeping a wild animal couldn’t work
  4. When can you keep a wild animal as a pet

Historically, the majority of pets have been caught and tamed from the wild. So, it would make logical sense to some degree that a wild animal could potentially be tamed and kept as a pet.

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But it’s just not that simple. Firstly, let’s take a look at the needs of a wild animal and the likelihood of the average person being able to provide those needs.

The Environmental Needs of a Wild Animal

Most wild animals often need plenty of living space to freely run, play and exercise. In fact, they most likely need vastly more space than the average person could possibly provide to an animal.

Territory is something that boosts an animals status, and helps when it comes to exploration, food sources and exercise. Territorial animals such as tigers, need a large space to claim as their own territory in order to hunt and run. This plays a big part in basic welfare, and is crucial to a quality of life.

Without being able to provide this, the animal would be unfit and have an unnatural lifestyle.

What If I Do Have Enough Space for a Wild Animal?

Even if you had space and the correct environment, there is still the issue of natural food sources and their social life. If you have access to this kind of space however, you cannot be calling this a domestic pet, but rather a zoo enclosure.

Access to natural live food is practically impossible, as that would require live animals, and the cost would simply be too high.

Some wild animals however, don’t naturally live in a large amount of space, such as frogs or fish that live in small pond spaces. These types of animals can potentially be kept as pets if their other needs can be met (which we’ll get to in a bit).

Dietary Needs of a Wild Animal

Wild animals fulfill their dietary needs by hunting and scavenging for food found in their natural environment. (That really large living space we were talking about). Animals in the wild are sure to find exactly what they need nutritionally, and exactly how they need it.

The food required for an animals survival is found in their natural environment where they hunt or graze. It is where they get their share of nutrition and water in order to stay healthy and strong. Without this living environment, the animal would become malnourished and weak.

What If I Have Suitable Food for a Wild Animal?

If you were able to provide suitable food to the wild animal (even if it was provided as a dead animal rather than a live one), this would be sufficient for the animal to survive.

However, a wild animal would need wild food, nothing processed or unnaturally contained. For example, feeding these wild animals with food from a local pet store which isn’t what it could have gotten in the wild, would mean the animal would lack proper nutrition and dietary needs for its survival.

Nutritional needs vary between animals. But even if you could get a hold of suitable food, that alone is not enough to own a wild animal as a ‘pet.’ Wild animals naturally have other needs that just can’t be provided alongside a human lifestyle. Let’s think about their social needs…

The Social Needs of a Wild Animal

Some wild animals (such as deer), travel and live in herds. These animals rely on each other for protection and survival, as well as social interaction, natural education & experience. 

Being with their own species in numbers, helps the animal both mentally and physically, and is a crucial and natural part of development in their life.

By being with their own species, they learn to:

  • communicate
  • hunt
  • behave like the animal they are.

They receive the care and treatment that is optimized and adapted to their needs, which they can only gain through interaction and education from their own species.

Deer live in herds and develop through learning from their herd

Without their family or herd, animals new to the world are entirely vulnerable and defenseless. They would become easy targets for predators to pick off, (or in the case of pets, natural causes may take them early on).

Without the knowledge of personal care and hygiene, or the right foods to eat, animals will struggle to be healthy. Their education comes from their mothers or herd in the wild, and not learning essential parts of their lifestyle is unhealthy.

They can learn this only through living with their own kind, and if they don’t learn it, they could suffer from hygiene issues and malnutrition without knowing how to groom, and knowing what to eat and/or not eat.

Another potential problem is loneliness for the animal. Without anyone to socialize with that is of their own species, it’s difficult for the animal to socialize, as they cannot understand humans, and humans can’t understand them.

Just like with humans, becoming lonely will take its toll on the animal’s mind and feelings, and it will start to feel depressed and upset.

The other social aspect that will be affected is of course mating. Without access to mating and reproduction, animal species become endangered and the animals needs will not be fulfilled.

Risk to the Owner When Keeping a Wild Animal

Keeping a wild animal as a pet poses various risks for the owner too. Many wild animals behave rash and often scratch, bite and attack. This can be a danger to yourself as well as others, and any damages caused by the animal would be the responsibility of the owner of the animal.

The animal is especially likely to do this if its needs are not being met and it’s being kept in a new and unnatural environment.

NOTE: Check out my article, “Are Wild Animals Afraid of Humans?”

They will scratch at furniture and will most likely not be potty trained either. Any damage caused by your ‘pet’ is your responsibility, and puts you in a very tough position legally as well as morally.

Keeping Wild Animals can be Illegal

Speaking of law, it may even be illegal to keep wild animals as pets. In certain States and countries, it is strictly against the law, and when it is legal, it often involves hassle-packed paperwork and extensive fees.

Wild Animals can Carry Diseases

Wild animals can also carry various diseases that are harmful and sometimes fatal to humans. If a wild animal is brought into human care, there is no way of immediately knowing if it carries a virus or not.

These viruses can be very damaging to humans, spread quickly and can even be fatal. Taking in a wild animal can put others, as well as yourself at risk of infection.

Generally speaking, wild animals aren’t suited for human household living. The animal itself, also won’t benefit from a human environment.

Having said that, are there exceptions? Let’s discuss when it is possible to keep a wild animal as a pet, and if some wild animals can be tamed or not…

Can Wild Animals Be Tamed?

Now this is a question you’ve probably been asking yourself while reading this. Can you in fact ‘tame’ a wild animal and then keep it as a pet? Well firstly, it would depend on which animal it is.

NOTE: If you’d like to learn the process of how wild animals become domesticated over time, check out my article here.

A wild rhino is not the same as a stray cat. In fact, which animal we are talking about will be the most important determining factor when it comes to whether you can tame a wild animal or not.

Which Wild Animals can be Tamed?

A lot of small animals, like a frog in a pond, or a stray cat, can be safe to keep as pets. These small wild animals can be tamed, and are either solitary, (like a hamster), or socialize with humans, (like a stray cat).

As long as you check that these animals are disease free, and that it is legal in your country or state, it’s perfectly fine to keep these animals as pets assuming you are able to meet their other needs, such as the right kinds of foods and environment, etc.

These animals may include:

  • Stray cats
  • stray dogs
  • spiders
  • fish
  • frogs
  • hedgehogs

What about bigger animals like tigers and monkeys? You may be aware of certain celebrities that have a ‘pet’ tiger or komodo dragon.

Well, the simple answer is that these celebrities have a lot of money! With such a huge amount of money, you can afford a large natural environment and fresh healthy food.

However this does not make the animal tame. If your pet lion were to see a stranger, someone they never met, let alone grew up with, they will most likely not listen to them or let them pet you.

And there is nothing stopping a lion from eating its owner, as it’s natural! That is why these larger wilder animals cannot be ‘tamed’ as they don’t behave in a similar manner to hedgehogs or cats for example.

So although there may be situations where they can be kept by humans, it doesn’t mean that they can be tamed the way that you can with some of the smaller animals mentioned above.

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