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Do Otters Make Good Pets? What You Need To Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

Otters are incredible animals. Members of the weasel family, this semi-aquatic species has gained in popularity as a pet, despite being a wild animal and having very specific habitat and dietary requirements. Even if it is considered legal to own this kind of marine mammal as a pet, there are plenty of reasons to avoid doing so. From the otter’s point of view, it is very difficult if not impossible to replicate the animal’s natural habitat and to keep them happy. From the owner’s point of view, they require a lot of water that must be kept bacteria-free, they can be aggressive, and they do tend to smell.


Below are eight factors concerning keeping otters as pets.

1. Small-Clawed Otters Are Becoming Popular Pets

group of otters in the water
Image Credit: Lilian Dibbern, Unsplash

Otters are cute creatures, and they have become very popular as pets in Japan, where they can cost the equivalent of several thousand dollars. Videos of the adorable animals swimming in their owners’ baths and squeaking at their enjoyment for their fish supper have caused them to become increasingly common as domestic pets around the world.

2. Chattering May Be A Sign Of Distress

group of otters
Image Credit: Emily Nelson, Unsplash

A lot of pet otter videos include footage of the mammal chattering. Although this might be perceived as being affectionate and cute, the noise is likely a distress call being made because the otter is trapped in unknown surroundings. Otters can make this noise if they are kept in isolation, become bored, or if they do not have enough room or the right type of habitat.

3. Otters May Not Be Legal Pets

Image Credit: extremis,Pixabay

Many countries in Asia have passed laws to prevent the capture and keeping of otters as pets, and many states of the US have similar rules. Otters are classed as exotic animals, which means that they require a special permit to keep them. Despite this, the sale of these animals is still considered widespread on social media platforms.

Remember that you can spend up to 5 years in jail and be fined large sums of money for keeping unlicensed exotic animals.

4. They Need A Lot Of Space

Image Credit: RichardJohn, Pixabay

Otters do better when kept in pairs and a single pair of otters require at least 60 square meters in which to live. Every additional otter requires an extra 5 square meters. Otters live near water, too, so an indoor cage is nowhere near good enough.

5. They Are Semi-Aquatic

otter in the water
Image Credit: Karl Anderson, Unsplash

Otters are considered semi-aquatic animals. They have fur that is water retardant, so they won’t get waterlogged. They have webbed feet that help them push through the water and achieve greater speeds over increased distances. They hunt much of their food in the rivers or seas that they live in, and they spend around a third of their life in the water.

This water needs to be at a certain temperature and it must be kept clear of bacteria to ensure that the otters can survive, let alone thrive.

6. Keeping An Otter Can Be Very Expensive

two otters kissing
Image Credit: Ryan Hyde, Unsplash

The initial cost of an otter can be several thousands of dollars, especially if you are buying on the black market. You will have to pay for transport costs, as well as the cost of the otter itself. Then you will need to pay for an enclosure and to have an otter pool installed. Otters are also highly skilled at climbing and escaping, so you would likely have to pay to increase the security around the enclosure.

7. They Can Be Very Aggressive

aggressive otter
Image Credit: Jason Hafso, Unsplash

One of the reasons that otters are so good at escaping is because they have sharp claws that they can use to climb and dig. If they feel threatened, they will also use these claws to defend themselves. Otters do not naturally live with animals like cats and dogs, and they would not normally live alongside humans, so they can become aggressive when kept in a house or apartment, and this is especially true if they are kept in an enclosure that is too small or in conditions that are not suitable.

8. Otters Can Smell Bad

otter bad smell_Bernd Hildebrandt_Pixabay
Image Credit: Bernd Hildebrandt, Pixabay

Otters have other means of defending themselves, too. One such defense is similar to that of the skunk, and they emit a powerful and pungent aroma. They also use this smell to mark their territory, and you can expect them to do this if they feel threatened or if they believe that you or another animal or person are a threat to their home.

Even their excrement smells bad. As adorable as otters look, they are not as well-trained as cats and dogs and other domesticated animals, so they are likely to leave poo and smells around the house.

Otters As Pets

Otters are not meant to be kept as pets. These wild animals can suffer stress and anxiety, as well as a range of health conditions, as a result of being kept in a confined enclosure. Their popularity on social media and video sharing websites means that the marine mammal’s popularity has increased in recent years, but it may not even be legal to keep them as a pet where you live.

Find out about other potential exotic pets:

Featured Image credit: Piqsels

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.