Do Sea Otters Make Good Pets? (Is It Even Legal?)

Sea otters don’t make good pets because they are wild animals that naturally belong to the wild. They easily get aggressive when they feel threatened and they get agitated when they don’t get what they want

Sea otters are very active and social animals so they are hard to housetrain. They mark their territory with urine and feces so this can become a major problem for your home and your health.

They need a large area where they can roam, hunt, and mate to keep them occupied. Your house and your backyard are not enough. Even if you have a large saltwater pool, it will not be enough to replicate their wild habitat. Do you have a seawater pool? If you don’t have one, forget about it!

Most States ban possession of sea otters. Even if you find a state that allows them to be kept as pets, it will take so much work to keep them.

Sea Otters Don’t Make Good Pets

Sea otters are very active and social animals that live in family groups of about 15 members on average in the wild. Unless you are ready to own a family of sea otters as pets, you better get a dog instead.

When you keep a sea otter as a pet, you are forcing them to live in captivity as a solitary animal. This goes against their nature and you are keeping them from living a full life.

Living in solitary makes them sad and leads to aggressive and destructive behaviors, and is just simply not a very good life for them, don’t you think? 

Still not convinced? Let me tell you more about why they don’t make good pets.

Sea Otters Constantly Make Loud Noises

Sea otters are constantly making noise, they make loud whistling and screeching noises. They make even louder noises when they don’t get what they want.

Can you imagine how your neighbors will react to that? They can be more trouble than you think!

Sea Otters Smell Bad

Sea otters, like most wild animals, have an unpleasant smell that can permeate throughout the house if you let them live indoors. You should not, by the way.

The smell becomes worse when they start marking their territory by spraying urine and smearing feces all over. In this case, their territory means your home! 

Sea Otters Become Very Aggressive When Stressed and Threatened

Sea otters get stressed when they are kept in captivity and have to live alone. When they can’t live out their natural wild instincts, they become very aggressive.

They can also interpret affection from humans and other pets as a threat. They are not used to being touched and petted so they attack and bite.

Sea otters have a very sharp and piercing bite which can lead to bacterial infection. They can cause severe physical damage to you, your family, your home, and your pets.

Sea Otters Are Messy and Destructive Housemates

Sea otters are messy and destructive. They are hard to train because your home is not their natural habitat and living in an ordinary home goes against their instincts. 

If they are left untrained, they poop and urinate everywhere. They are wild animals that will never be happy when they are restrained. The call of the wild is too strong.

Add to that, that sea otters are extremely destructive. In aquariums and wildlife centers where sea otters are kept, staff must constantly perform maintenance to replace and repair parts of their enclosure that they have damaged or destroyed.

And we’re talking about concrete and thick, hardened glass, so imagine what they’d do to your property!

Having A Sea Otter As A Pet Is Not Safe

Like most wild animals, sea otters carry toxic bacteria like Salmonella and Streptococcus Phocae which are harmful to humans. They can transmit these bacteria to you, your family, and other pets.

Possession of a sea otter poses many health concerns that are not worth the risk. I say, get a cat instead!

The sea otter also easily becomes aggressive, despite training, and can seriously hurt people with their strong bite.

Having A Pet Sea Otter Is Illegal In Most States

Almost all states ban the possession of native wild animals like sea otters. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act protects native marine species including the otter from being held captive as pets.

Currently, there is a strong conservation effort in saving the sea otter population. Poaching and destruction of habitat have been causing a decline of their species over the last century, but with the efforts being made, sea otters are slowly returning.

Sea Otters Demand Extreme Levels Of Care And Attention

Unlike cats and dogs, caring for wild animals like sea otters requires extreme levels of care and attention. You need to be committed to it so think twice before you take that step.

Sea Otters Require A Special Enclosure and Saltwater Pool

Sea otters will always seek their freedom to answer the call of the wild. After all, they belong on the coasts not in your home.

Sea otters need a lot of space and sea water because they are constantly active.

For your pet sea otters (if you can get one legally), their enclosure should be large enough for them to roam, forage, explore, play and even hunt. A seawater pool or pond is also a vital part of their cage. Imagine a sea otter without the sea. That’s just cruel!

  • The cage or enclosure should be outdoors.
  • The pool should be cleaned and have its seawater changed at least once per week.
  • The enclosure should have a top and the fencing needs to be deep in-ground because sea otters are good climbers and diggers.
  • The pool or pond should make up most of the enclosure.
  • The pool would need to be big and deep enough for the sea otter to swim and dive.
  • There should be stones, boulders, and other cage furniture that give variety and make the enclosure interesting for the sea otter.

If you can’t provide the proper habitat for them, a sea otter is not the pet for you.

Sea Otters Require A Special Diet

Sea otters are carnivorous animals that have a very high metabolic rate due to their active lifestyle. They consume 20% of their body weight daily. 

Sea otters eat large amounts of fresh seafood daily. The majority of their diet must be seafood, mostly fish and invertebrates like crabs, clams, sea urchins, snails, abalones, mussels, and other seafood.

When it comes to their daily food, it should be given in a “scattered method” and there should be variety. Do not establish a feeding routine because, in the wild, they don’t have a schedule. They eat when they have a successful hunt.

Seafood is expensive. Make sure you can afford their food and care before you finally decide to get one. (Which you, again, shouldn’t!)

Sea Otters Require Regular Care And Medical Attention 

Because you are taking them out of the wild and exposing them to domestic life, sea otters need regular care and medical attention from a wildlife expert or an exotic animal vet.

Pet sea otters are constantly stressed due to being captive, not eating their natural diet, and not being able to hunt and do everything they should in the wild. 

Stress can cause havoc to their health so they need regular checkups and medical attention. An exotic vet can also help you provide the best care for your pet sea otter.

You Have To Train Your Sea Otter Daily

Sea otters are not domesticated animals and they probably won’t be for thousands of years. You need to put in a lot of effort to train them daily and provide interaction because they are social animals 

Do not expect your training to take effect right away though. In fact, sea otters are difficult to train because they are wild animals that are prone to aggression.

Training wild animals is a challenge, not to mention a full-time job, and very expensive.

Sea Otters Need Company

In the wild, sea otters live in groups of 15 or more. They love to socialize and groom each other.

When you hold an otter captive, they will feel lonely and sad. These can lead to extremely aggressive and destructive behavior.

Otters become depressed which can lead to other health problems and can even be life-threatening. Sea otters are social animals that need other sea otters’ company. Your dogs and cats are not good company for them.

Is It Legal To Own a Sea Otter?

The majority of the states in the US ban individuals from keeping sea otters as pets which makes sense because it is a big responsibility to care for one.

Even if it is legal in your area to own a sea otter, it is inhumane. Why keep them in your homes where they don’t belong when they can thrive in their natural habitats and contribute to a healthy ecosystem?

If you are not a wild animal expert or a sea otter expert, stick to dogs and hamsters. They make better pets.

US States Where Sea Otters Are Legal

The Marine Mammal Protection Act bans keeping sea otters and other native wild animals as pets but there are a few states that may allow it with strict provisions.

The problem is, that you will only be allowed to keep one sea otter as a pet. This means you will be keeping a social animal in what corresponds to solitary confinement.

These are the list of States that allow ‘otters’ as pets. Sea otters are quite different from ordinary river otters, however, so you will have to call your state department or animal control if sea otters are on the list just to confirm.

  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada

Other states that possibly allow otters in general, as pets:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Minnesota
  • Tennessee
  • South Dakota
  • Mississippi
  • Oklahoma
  • Indiana

US States Where You Cannot Own Sea Otters

California, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the 50 States not listed in the “legal states” above, prohibit keeping sea otters and other wild animals as pets.

Here is a complete list of States that do not allow ownership of per sea otters:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC
  • West Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Even the “legal states” might only allow other otter species as pets and not the sea otter. Call your local animal control or animal welfare department.

Do your due diligence before deciding to keep a wild animal in your home.

Can You Legally Own A Sea Otter In Canada?

Canada does not allow individuals to own sea otters. In fact, their law prohibits owning native otters – river otters and sea otters, as pets.

Canada is very strict when it comes to its wildlife. Hopefully, the US will follow their lead.

The sea otter population in Canada, though still endangered, is slowly rising in numbers due to their conservation efforts. There are strict repercussions when caught possessing a sea otter.

Can You Legally Own A Sea Otter In Europe?

You can’t own a sea otter legally in Europe. Sea otters are not allowed as pets and you need special licenses to keep one in captivity. 

There is a big difference between keeping sea otters as pets and keeping them in captivity. 

European countries like Germany, France, and the UK only allow sea otters to be kept in captivity if it is for research for education, scientific, and conservation purposes. Even the capture and transport of trapped sea otters require a license. Keeping a sea otter as a pet can land you in jail in Europe.

Are Sea Otters Legal Pets In Australia

No, definitely not! Having sea otters as pets is illegal in Australia. There are no native sea otters in Australia and they have strict rules against the importation of non-native animals into their country. 

Australia already has plenty of wild animals. The last thing they want is another non-native invasion.

When caught with a sea otter and other non-native animals in Australia, you will get a large fine and even jail time.

Can You Own A Sea Otter In Asia?

Owning sea otters as pets is illegal in Asia but it has not kept some wildlife enthusiasts from keeping them as pets. 

Sea otters are endangered in Asia, especially in Japan and China. But if you scour the internet, you will find the occasional post of sea otters or other kinds of otters on sale, especially in Japan and Thailand.

Alternatives To A Pet Sea Otter

The sea otters’ population is dwindling fast, keeping them away from their habitats and potential mates will just worsen their chances of survival. I highly recommend finding alternative pet choices instead.

River Otters Is Not A Good Alternative to Sea Otters

While river otters are not endangered, I do not recommend them as pets either. Just like sea otters, they are hard to train, aggressive, smelly, and destructive. They are also costly to care for and maintain.

Leave wildlife animals in the wild.

Ferrets Is A Good Alternative To Pet Otters

Ferrets belong to the same Mustelidae family as the sea otters. They are not endangered and are known to be very smart and highly trainable.

People have been using ferrets as pets and are popular with magicians, actors, and entertainment people.

They make more exciting pets than sea otters. Why not get one?

How About A Fox Or A Hedgehog? 

Hedgehogs are cute little furballs that are popular pets for individuals who have a more exotic taste in pets. 

They are easy to acquire and do not require special licenses to keep. Just visit your local pet shop, and you’ll find one waiting for you to bring home.

There are specific fox species that can be kept as pets with special permits. Foxes, like dogs, are smart and are easily house-trained.

Why Not A Dog Or A Cat? 

Cats and dogs make the best pets and family members. Why would you prefer a wild animal that you can’t cuddle with and pet over them? They make better companions and are more loyal,  which means that they are more rewarding to care for. 

Cats and dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, they don’t pose any danger to you, your family, and your home. They are called domesticated animals for a reason.

By getting domesticated animals as pets, you are helping conserve the sea otter population without even trying. If you can’t help the sea otter conservation efforts, don’t add to the problem. Be a conscientious pet owner!

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