Should You Keep a Big Cat as a Pet?

by catfood

Information about traits, living conditions, nutrition, and other topics

Out of the 30 cat species found worldwide, the term “big cat” refers to seven different species, including the tiger, lion, jaguar, leopard, snow leopard, cheetah, and cougar. What type of pets can tigers, lions, and other large cats make, and is it even legal to keep these animals in captivity, is the real question.


Species Overview

  • Names that are frequently used include cougar, leopard, cheetah, snow leopard, tiger, lion, and jaguar.
  • Panthera tigris, Panthera leo, Panthera onca, Panthera pardus, Panthera uncia, and ADULT SIZES: 5 to 10 feet long, weighing between 49 and 660 pounds. Acinonyx jubatus, Puma concolor, and Panthera tigris.
  • 20 years or more LIFESPAN

Can you keep a big cat as a pet?


The Captive Wildlife Safety Act was introduced and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004 as a result of the problem of wild cats being marketed as pets. This law prohibits the interstate and international trade in exotic cats, including as lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, and cougars, for the pet market.

Zoos, wildlife rehabilitation institutions, circuses, and a few other legally sanctioned establishments are exempt from the Captive Animal Safety Act. This regulation was introduced with the sole purpose of removing big cats from the private citizen pet trade, even though it does not clearly forbid possession.

The number of tigers maintained as pets in private facilities in the U.S. may exceed the number still present in the wild, according to experts. According to data from the Feline Conservation Federation, fewer Americans now own huge cats. In the years 2011 through 2016, the thought of having one of these intimidatingly enormous and muscular cats as a pet frequently lured people.



In the United States and Canada, there have been several fatalities and maulings of pet tigers in recent years, which almost always result in the extinction of the animals as well. Tragically, pet tigers and other huge cats are abandoned, mistreated, or given up to sanctuaries when their owners are unable to care for them. By choosing dogs over wild creatures like tigers, it is easy to stop these unpleasant incidents.

While some big cat owners go out of their way to give enough shelter and nutrition, and don’t experience any problems, there are now many others who have inflated expectations of themselves and their ability to provide the required care.

Things to Consider

Owning a huge cat requires a sizable commitment and should be carefully considered before making the purchase. Even if there is a legal provision that allows ownership, large cats can be extremely destructive to people as well as other pets and can cause major property damage if housed improperly. These creatures require a lot of space, safety, and cat-climbing equipment in their habitats. Since big cats can live in captivity for up to 20 years, appropriate ownership of one is a major commitment that carries with it heavy financial and legal responsibilities.

Big Cat Behavior and Temperament

Although servals, lynx, and bobcats are smaller wild cats, they are not at all similar to house cats. Although some species of these cats might exhibit negative traits like aggression or urine marking, different species have different temperaments.

The enormous cats are a much worse problem. Even if someone is not typically aggressive, their inherent traits should still be taken into account. Wild cats exhibit instinctive predatory behaviors such pouncing, grappling, biting, and scratching even while having fun. Due to their tremendous size and strength, they are a constant menace.

All wild cats have piercing claws and jaws, making them quite dangerous. Even seasoned zookeepers who work with these animals every day run the risk of getting attacked if they startle or frighten them in any way.


Maintaining huge cats

Big cats need a lot of outside space to survive. When kept in captivity, they need vast enclosures with high walls or caged ceilings. Effective care takes a major time and energy commitment, even for the smaller wild cats. Cat enclosures must be extremely safe since a large cat could escape and hurt people or other animals.

Big cats require a lot of possibilities for both intellectual and physical enrichment, similar to what they would experience in the wild. Being repeatedly understimulated can cause these bright, inquisitive creatures to grow bored, which can lead to melancholy and other health problems.

Misting Stink

Big cats frequently spray their urine, which naturally smells musky. The smallest large cat is the critically endangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia), which may reach lengths of five to nine feet and weights of between 49 and 121 pounds. The smell of cat poop and excrement will quickly devalue your home and your property, not to mention that keeping a large cat indoors is dangerous and cruel to the animal.

Expected Costs

According to estimates from Big Cat Rescue, the initial cost of owning a small to medium-sized wildcat will be $25,000, and the subsequent annual cost will be $7,500. Budget over $100,000 for the first year and over $10,000 every year after that for large cats.

What Do Big Cats Eat and Drink?

Big cats need a lot of raw meat because they are carnivores. Some creatures can eat up to 15 pounds of flesh every day. They also need vitamins and supplements that mimic the diet they ingest in the wild in order to preserve their health. In their natural habitats, big cats pursue a range of small mammals, fish, gazelles, birds, reptiles, deer, and other things. They eat their prey’s meat as well as its bones, skin, and organs, which are rich in different nutrients.

Given that big cats have an average lifespan of approximately twenty years, the cost of feeding them every day is extremely high.

Common Health Problems

Similar to domestic cats, big cats can contract feline diseases including rabies and distemper. The majority of zoos administer these vaccinations to their feline residents, including lions, tigers, and other cats. However, it could be challenging for a private owner to locate a veterinarian who can or will give a wild animal the appropriate immunizations.

Numerous other problems can harm big cats. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is the name of the feline equivalent of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). If FIV is left untreated, it might deteriorate the cat’s immune system and increase its susceptibility to other infectious diseases.

The feline leukemia virus is another potentially fatal illness that can affect both house cats and big cats (FeLV). If caught early enough, it is treatable, although in cats, it commonly leads to anemia, recurring infections, and tumors. If FeLV develops into a complete malignancy, death is almost often the outcome.


All types of big cats require a lot of physical exercise. They can cover distances of hundreds of kilometers in the wild, and to catch prey, they leap, climb, and pounce. It could be difficult to control these tendencies in captivity. The ideal huge cat enclosure would feature plenty of open area as well as climbable structures to keep your cat mentally and physically stimulated and in top form.


Big cats naturally adequately groom themselves, thus they don’t require human assistance with bathing or brushing. They use their rough tongues to “comb” their fur, cleaning and removing dirt. Some large cats, such as tigers, enjoy swimming in freshwater ponds, however this behavior is more for body temperature control than for cleanliness.

Size Specifications

Worldwide, there are seven cat species that are classified as huge cats, however the word “big” has many distinct meanings. These animals cannot be trained to stop spraying because it is an innate “marking” behavior. The largest big cat is the Siberian or Amur tiger (Panthera tigris), which may reach a length of ten feet from head to tail and weigh up to 660 pounds.

Acquiring a Big Cat

Before dealing with a professional breeder if owning a large cat is still appealing to you, there are a few things you should consider.

Where you live, keeping wild cats like tigers, lions, bobcats, and cougars may be prohibited (either under local laws or by wider regulations).
It is difficult to find a veterinarian who would treat your animal due to legal reasons.
Many huge cats who are kept in cages actually lead lives of abuse and neglect until their owners are unable to handle them any longer. The decision to retain a huge cat entails a tremendous level of responsibility for these animals, which the majority of people find to be too much after a while.

Animals that are similar to big cats

The majority of people find it illegal, dangerous, and expensive to maintain a large cat as a pet. However, other felines, like the ones listed below, could be more interesting to care for as pets:

  • Georgian cat Ocicat is a Russian cat.


  • How many people in the United States have been hurt by large, captive cats?

According to the Humane Society of the United States, since 1990, huge cats kept in cages have killed 25 victims (20 adults and 5 children) and dismembered an additional 274 people. 151 big cats lost their lives during this time due to these occurrences.

  • How much does a huge cat cost?

Purchasing, caring for, and feeding for a large cat runs about $100,000 in the first year of ownership.

  • How old on average are big cats?

All big cat species may live in captivity for around 20 years with the proper care.

READ NEXT: Serval Cat: Cat Breed Profile




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