Before you can purchase a big cat of your own, you’ll need some background on these exotic animals. We’ll give you the low down on what you’ll need to know in order to get a wild cat into your backyard.
What does the federal government say?
From a federal standpoint in the United States, the USDA lays down the laws for exotic cats. Many states and individual counties require a USDA license (usually a Class C Exhibitor’s license) as a prerequisite for gaining a permit to possess wild felines.
So how do you get an Exhibitor’s license? Commercial activity is required for a USDA License; so you have to put the cat on display or breed and sell cubs in order to circumvent the laws against having the big cats as “pets.” Of course, who wouldn’t want to display their wild cat?
There are three classes of USDA licenses: A, B and C. Under Class A, you can breed and sell the offspring of your exotic cat. Under Class B, you can buy and sell wild felines, whether you’ve bred them or not. A Class C license is the same license a zoo holds.
Beyond federal regulations, exotic cat laws vary widely by state, which we’ll get into later in the article.
What equipment do you need?
The minimum USDA equipment requirements for possession and exhibit of wild felines are a joke:
- A cage big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around in.
- A barrier fence, which can be just a rope.
- A perimeter fence, of no particular substance or strength.
In other words, as long as you posses a cage, your exotic cat can roam in your backyard if you put up a rope and a tall fence. Some states have a minimum requirement of space for large cats, so check the info below to find your particular states requirements.
What’s the cost?
Exotic cats range in price from $400 for a bobcat to a $2,500 for a tiger cub. Most of the mid size cats, like Servals and Caracals cost $1,000 to $2,200, and Ocelots can run as high as $15,000. As you would expect: the rarer the cat, the higher the price. Fully-grown cats also command premiums.
The legal and administrative costs of owning exotic cats are minimal, so long your cats don’t get loose. Permits will run you $30 for 1-5 animals. The big costs come in taking care of your big cat and can run anywhere from $8,000-$22,000 a year.
What are your choices for exotic cats?
Depending on your budget and the size of your yard, you’ll want to pick the cat that suits you best. We’ve listed the major cats you’ll be able to find for sale in the US:
- Big cats: Lion, Tiger, Black or Golden Leopard, Snow Leopard, Cougar, Jaguar, Cheetah
- Medium size cats: Bobcat, Siberian Lynx, Canadian Lynx, Caracal, Serval, White Serval, Ocelot, Binturong
- Small cats: Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Leopard Cat, Geoffroy Cat, Bengal Cat, Sand Cat, Civet, Coatimundi
What does your state say?
As we mentioned state laws for exotic cat ownership vary widely. Rather than bombarding you with individual state laws, we suggest you check out your state’s laws by selecting your state on the map at the Big Cat Rescue website.
When you go ahead and buy the exotic cat you’ve always dreamed of owning, share pictures in your profile on BallerHub. We want to see!
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