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Can You Keep a Mountain Lion Pet? Why It’s a Bad Idea

Keeping a pet mountain lion is legal in some states of the US, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. Mountain lions are apex predators in the wild. They are large, powerful, and unpredictable, more than capable of badly injuring or killing humans. Imagine a housecat that’s four times as large and wild. That’s what owning a mountain lion would be like.

Mountain lions are beautiful, so it’s understandable why some people want to keep them as pets. They have a certain mystique about them, and exotic pets are a glamorous concept.

But, they are wild and dangerous animals. Getting too comfortable or careless around a mountain lion can be a fatal mistake. 

They are also high-maintenance pets.

In this article, we’ll take a look at where you can legally keep a mountain lion as a pet, what they need to be healthy, and why keeping mountain lions as pets is a bad idea.

Pet Mountian Lions

Mountain lions are sometimes kept as pets. This is detrimental to the animals and to the humans. Taking care of a wild, high-maintenance animal such as the mountain lion is no easy task. Most people aren’t able to offer their exotic pets what they need.

Keeping wild animals as pets is unhealthy, both for you and the pet. 

While all their needs can be covered by a well-meaning and well-informed animal enthusiast, the exotic pet trade is disruptive.

Taking animals from their natural place in the ecosystem and forcing them to live with humans isn’t good for them. 

In case you find injured animals or abandoned cubs, it’s best to call for professional help, like wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers. Don’t keep them.

Baby mountain lions are different from common cat kittens, so mistaking them for the latter is unlikely. Don’t take mountain lion cubs from the wild even if you think they’re abandoned. Their mother is most likely out hunting.

Pet Mountian Lions

Can You Legally Keep Mountain Lions as Pets?

Yes, legally you can keep mountain lions in several states. You can keep big cats without any regulations in Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. In other states, ownership of mountain lions is allowed with permits. Check your state’s laws before thinking of getting an exotic pet.

Mountain lions can legally be kept as pets in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Wisconsin

In these states, keeping dangerous wild animals as pets is not outlawed. No permits are needed.

In other states, keeping exotic pets is a bit more difficult. Many states require permits to keep mountain lions (or other exotic pets). This depends on the state legislature. 

For example in Delaware big cats can be kept if the individual registers the animal and gets an Individual Permit.

Here are the states where pet mountain lions are legal if you have the necessary permits:

  • Arizona
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • Idaho
  • Texas
  • Missouri
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Indiana
  • Pennsylvania
  • Maine

Ownership of mountain lions is banned in the remaining states. There may be exemptions for certain organizations or individuals.[1]

Can You Legally Keep Mountain Lions as Pets

Do Mountain Lions Make Good Pets?

No, mountain lions don’t make good pets. They are large, wild predators. Mountain lions are also hard to take care of and can be dangerous to those around them. Mountain lions raised from birth can appear tame in comparison with animals raised in the wild, but they can not be domesticated.

Mountain lions aren’t good pets. They are wild animals and will never be fully tame. They may be docile and friendly to some people, but they are unpredictable and dangerous

Professionals advise against keeping wild animals as pets.[2]

Mountain lions raised in captivity can be just as dangerous as wild ones. They are powerful predators, and they aren’t domestic animals.

There are many reasons why keeping a pet mountain lion is a bad idea:

  • They are dangerous, even if they seem tame.
  • They will destroy their environment.
  • They need a lot of space.
  • They need a lot of attention and care.
  • They cost thousands of dollars to maintain. (They eat 20 pounds of meat every day)

Domestic Animals vs. Tame Animals

Domestication is different from taming. The difference is found in their genes. 

Domestic animals are a result of evolution and continuous human influence on an animal species. These species need humans to survive and thrive and are used to living among us. Domestic animals lose many of their wild traits as their genes have been changed by human interaction.[3]

Taming is a much shorter process than domestication. Tame animals are like wild animals, except they have been conditioned. This usually takes place from birth. 

Tame animals are socialized with humans and other pets to dampen their wild behavioral tendencies.

The difference between tame and domesticated animals is that tame animals still are inherently wild. They still have wild tendencies and can be dangerous, even to their “owners”. 

Tamed animals are easier to keep than fully wild ones as they are more accepting of humans. Mountain lions are not domesticated. If they are raised and socialized by humans they can be tame.

Mountain lions with health issues, like the famous Messi, are possibly easier to deal with since they are more dependent on humans.[4]

Do Mountain Lions Make Good Pets

Pet Mountain Lion Behavior

Pet mountain lions can be docile and friendly towards one or two people, but they are more unpredictable in other interactions. They generally get attached to the person that raised them. 

They are still wild, and they need to be continuously taken care of and given attention. They can be unpredictable and dangerous, even to the people they are attached to.

How to Take Care of a Pet Mountain Lion

Taking care of a pet mountain lion is difficult. They need to be fed the right food, given space to roam, and stay active. They also need a lot of attention from their caretakers as they are emotionally attached to them. Young cubs are especially needy.

To take care of mountain lions you have to give up most of your free time. Especially when they are cubs. 

Young mountain lions are fully dependent on their mothers or, in this case, caretakers.

Their diet is important. Milk formula is necessary until they can switch to a meat-only diet. They need to be fed regularly and it will cost more as they grow.

Mountain lions also need a lot of space. They naturally roam a lot in the wild. They are restless and dangerous if they don’t have the necessary space.

If you find mountain lion cubs and you suspect they are abandoned it’s best to call a wildlife organization for information on how to proceed.

How to Take Care of a Pet Mountain Lion

A Mountain Lion’s Diet

Mountain lions are hypercarnivores, meaning their diet has to consist of more than 70% meat. They are some of the best hunters in the Americas, capable of catching large animals like elk and moose.

They are much larger than a common cat so they eat way more than our normal feline pets. Mountain lions need a large quantity of meat daily, with varied meats and organs to keep them healthy.

Here is a brief overview of cat vs. mountain lion food:

Animal:CatMountain Lion
Type of Food:Dry and canned food. Meat, bones, organ meats.
Quantity:3-5 oz of canned food;Dry food according to packaging;5-12 pounds of meat in captivity every day;20-30 pounds if they don’t eat every day and in the wild.

Mountain lions eat less if they are regularly fed.[5]

Related article: Mountain Lion’s Diet

How Much Does a Mountain Lion Cost?

Mountain lions are expensive. A cub costs between $900 to $2500. But buying a cub is just the first step. All of the changes you’ll have to make around your house will also cost you. Maintaining their good health (food, medical expenses, and others) is also expensive.

Mountain lions and exotic cats in general are expensive to buy and even more expensive to keep. They are high-maintenance animals that need a lot of care and attention.

Purchasing a mountain lion cub can set you back as much as $2500. On top of that, you may need a permit. These can also be costly.

Before buying a cub you have to make sure you have enough space for it. An adequate enclosure will cost you between $5000 and $10000, depending on the size of the cougar.

Different states also require you to have certain amounts of land, fences, and other safety measures. These also cost a lot depending on where you live.

Maintaining your mountain lion in good health will be costly. Besides the large amounts of meat that you have to buy, veterinary visits are expensive when you have an exotic pet. You’ll need to find a willing and capable veterinarian.[6]


Mountain lions can be legally kept as pets in some states, but it isn’t a good idea to do so. They are wild animals and keeping them and everyone else safe is hard and expensive. They will make your life more difficult and you won’t be doing the animals any services either.

About Codrin Frunzete

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