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at Ownership: So, you want an exotic cat as a pet!


Before making that decision, there are many things you should know and learn. I will attempt to outline some of the basic things you will need to think about first. Wildcats are definitely not for everyone. NO animal is disposable, If you are wanting a wildcat just because it would be cool, as a status symbol, or to show off to your friends, etc, you are way off base and should not even think about ownership of any wildcat. You can't just toss one in a cage and feed it and ignore it. Exotics require a lot of time, money, and responsibility. They are a lot of work and can live up to 20 years. Building an outdoor enclosure, raw meat, vitamins, toys and vet bills all cost, and cost a lot. If you tire of it, don't think it will be easy to find a home for it either, especially at a Zoo. Zoo's will NOT take in your animal. This misconception is what gets a lot of wildcats euthanized because they are very hard to place. (They can be very hard to place once adults) Zoos are full to capacity and also have regulations on the animals that they acquire and AZA (American Zoos and Aquariums Association) regulations.


There are sanctuaries, but there are not enough of them. Most are already full to capacity as it is. Read the rest of this website and please do your research fully. If you can, try and locate someplace to volunteer to get some experience first. If you think you are capable of the possible 20 year commitment, please read on. This website was not built to tell people they can't have an exotic pet, but to help learn captive husbandry and to help you think rationally about an exotic animal as a pet. I would rather spend the time helping you learn, rather that trying to talk you out of something your going to do anyways.


For the sake of the cat, think this through. Exotic cats tend to bond to one person or family only. Moving them once a bond is in place is not only stressful, but a little cruel in my eyes. Most likely, they will never be tame to another person. The very first and most important thing, especially with a big cat, is to have training. You can get killed if you do the wrong thing. Start out with a smaller cat and learn. I cannot even begin to cover the information on what you need to learn about training on this one page.


Diet should be raw meat only. Commercial dry and canned cat foods made for domestic cats are not healthy for a wild cat. They are full of chemicals, fillers, and processed meats. There are a few commercial raw food zoo foods that can be ordered. These are horsemeat or beef based. They contain vitamins already, but the calcium levels are not high enough and you will need to supplement that as well as extra taurine. Natural Balance, Dallas Crown, and Nebraska Feline and Breeders Choice are four that come to mind. These will have to be ordered via phone or internet and run about $1.50 a pound plus shipping cost. Shipping normally adds another dollar a pound more, as it will have to be shipped with dry ice. You can of course, can use poultry and "extra lean" beef from your local store. Be aware though that too much beef will cause bowel issues because of the fat content. You will then need to purchase vitamins and calcium also. Yes, via the phone or internet also. WildTrax, Oasis, or Mazuri vitamins are all excellent sources. This is by no means a thorough account of what the diets needs to consist of. Please do lots more research. Figure on $100.00 plus a month just for food for one small to medium cat. Bone will also be important for your cat to maintain teeth and gum health.


Enclosures need to be species specific. What's good for a Bobcat isn't going to be good for a Serval or a Geoffroy Cat. Always keep that in mind and do your research on your breed of choice first. Enclosures are not cheap to build. The big cats will need very large enclosures of at least 50 X 50 feet <9 gauge chain link only>, 25 X 25 for a medium size cat and at least a 12 X 12 for a small cat. These are minimum sizes that I recommend. The size of the cat will decide how strong the wire will need to be. You will need shelves, climbing apparatuses, lockouts for cleaning and repair work, den boxes, loafing platforms, feeding area, and the list goes on. Some cats will dig, so you will need to bury a non rusting wire around the inside perimeter of the enclosure also <3 feet in>. Pressure treated wood is very unhealthy for the cats. You will need to use raw wood and repaint the wood on the enclosures every 2 or 3 years with an oil to preserve the wood. Remember, these cats will live up to 20 years in these enclosures. Make them so your cat will be happy as possible. All enclosures should have double doors to help prevent escape.


You will need to check your state and county for the requirements on licensing. Make sure you check your counties zoning permits also. At least 19 states ban ownership and many other require permits. If you need to check on the requirements for your state, you may check the http://www.felineconservation.org legislative page. Many states will also require a USDA permit. USDA will do un-announced visits to make sure the cats are being taken care of. If you are trying to get an endangered species, you will also need a USDI permit.


You will need to find a veterinarian that will see exotics. Not all will, nor are all qualified. If you ask some domestic vets locally, they can refer you to one. An exotic vet is a must. Many have had cats that died because of inexperienced vets. They require different vaccination protocols, anesthesia, etc. If you need a USDA permit, you will need to have a qualified vet in place to get that permit.