Have you ever seen a video of a meerkat online and wondered whether or not they would make suitable pets? Many other people have done the same. Unfortunately, people keep buying meerkats even though they don’t actually make very good houseguests.
Generally speaking, we do not recommend keeping meerkats as pets. In this article, we will discuss the specifics of meerkats, the legality of owning one, and why they aren’t as suitable for life in captivity as a domesticated cat or a dog.
What Are Meerkats?
Meerkats are small mammals that are natives of the grasslands and deserts of southern Africa. Physically, meerkats are usually beige or tan in color with gray, yellow, or brown features. They are known for standing on their hind legs while looking out for predators. Meerkats are very social animals and tend to rely on one another for survival; they live in underground burrows in groups of up to 40.
Why Are Meerkats Popular?
Meerkats have had a surge of popularity thanks in part to their appearance in popular culture—most notably the Lion King and Meerkat Manor. Thanks to the internet, it is also very easy to find videos and photos of meerkats, including meerkats being kept as pets. For example, Jack and Mila are two pet meerkats who live in the United Kingdom. They have a YouTube channel where followers around the world can watch them and their interactions with their humans. While their owners advise against buying a meerkat on their website, their content still provides inspiration for any prospective meerkat owners who are tuning in.
After all, meerkats are very cute animals. What’s not to love about having a meerkat at home?
Legalities of Keeping a Pet Meerkat
For one thing, keeping a meerkat as a pet is illegal in the United States. The only way you can adopt one of these animals if you are an American is if you own a zoo or a sanctuary and have a permit to do so. However, this isn’t true all over the world; it is legal to keep meerkats in the United Kingdom and parts of Japan.
It should be noted that just because owning a meerkat may be legal in your part of the world, it doesn’t mean that you should buy one. For one thing, meerkats are wild animals; as such, they will always be better off in the wild. We do not endorse keeping exotic animals such as meerkats as pets.
Beyond the legal barriers to keeping a meerkat as a pet, there are some very good reasons why meerkats just don’t make suitable pets. In the next section, we will outline these reasons.
Why Meerkats Don’t Make Good Pets
The first thing you should know about meerkats is that they are very social animals. As mentioned, they tend to live in groups of around 40 in the wild. As you might imagine, they are deprived of their social group when they are sold as individuals or pairs to live in a home. Yes, humans can provide some social interaction for a meerkat, but realistically, humans cannot give their pet meerkats the constant companionship they crave. And let’s face it—most homes cannot accommodate several meerkats. Meerkats who feel socially isolated can become stressed and may begin to develop self-destructive behaviors.
Another issue is the fact that meerkats are not domesticated. As stated before, they are wild animals and will behave as such. That means that they are very difficult, if not impossible, to housetrain. Since wild meerkats tend to dig in order to find food and create burrows, it is likely that your pet meerkat would destroy your floors and other parts of your home. Additionally, as social animals, the meerkat is very wary of anyone and anything that is not part of their pack. Even if they eventually get used to you, they can become aggressive with strangers and may attack visitors.
Finally, your home is inherently limiting for a meerkat. In the wild, meerkats can cover several miles a day. Even if you give your meerkat free reign of the house, it will never be able to explore or have access to a landscape that is even remotely like its natural habitat.
Meerkats are cute, but they just don’t make very good pets. Even if you have the best intentions, a meerkat kept in captivity simply cannot live a full and enriching life in the way that it could in the wild. Luckily, you can still learn about and enjoy meerkats in zoos, where they are provided with an appropriate habitat.
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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay