10 Small Exotic Cats You Can Adopt Legally

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 04/14/21 •  12 min read
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Are you interested in adopting a small exotic cat? Then you’re not alone! In recent years, there’s been a huge increase in the popularity of adopting these small wild cats. These cats are truly from exotic breeds, which are small and safe enough to live in your home. One of the draws is their unique breed, alluring exotic looks and more. They’re just different from our domesticated breeds. But when it comes to their characteristics, are small exotic cat breeds really that different from domesticated felines?

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Having an unusual cat is a goal that many pet parents have; however, exotic cats are not like our domesticated felines. If you’re interested in a special cat breed, it will be necessary to do your research ahead of adopting your exotic feline companion. In this article, we’ll cover things to consider before adopting an exotic cat, different breeds of exotic cats and their personalities, characteristics and what they need to stay healthy. Let’s get started!

Things to Consider Before Adopting a Small Exotic Cat

There’s a lot to learn before you adopt a small exotic cat. When they first hear the words “exotic cat breeds,” many people think of the big cats of the world such as the lion, the jaguar, etc. However, we’re going to take a look at wild cat species that are kept as fur babies. If you’d like to adopt a small exotic cat, there are some considerations to become aware of first. These special breeds have specific requirements and they’re even illegal to keep as pets in many places. So, before adopting one of these fur babies, you’ll first need to check the laws in your state, county, and city to see if you can legally have one of these feline beauties. If you can, chances are pretty high you’ll need a permit and licensing not required when you adopt a domesticated cat.

Next, these unique cat breeds are also usually quite expensive to adopt. Prices average anywhere from $1,500 to over $20,000, depending on the breed and where in the world you adopt an exotic cat. In addition, exotic cats may require specific diets, which can be expensive. They also need to see a veterinarian who is experienced with caring for zoo animals. As a rule, vet expenses will be more, too. Other considerations, these beautiful felines are usually better for highly experienced pet parents. They should have experience with exotic cat breeds. Some of these kitties may need an outdoor run or a room that’s set aside just for them. These sweet fur babies may also not get along well with your other pets. So, before adopting a small exotic cat, be sure to keep all of these considerations in mind. You’ll need a specialized vet, special food to meet the cat’s dietary needs, have room for your fur baby and more.

Now, let’s take a look at some small exotic cats that can be kept legally in some areas as fur babies!

1). Servals


Size: 21-24 inches (at the shoulder); 26-29 inches in length

Weight: 20-40 pounds

Lifespan: 10 years in the wild, 20 years in captivity

These beautiful cats strongly resemble cheetahs but are smaller and shorter than the cheetah. Their temperament is quiet and aloof and are not considered dangerous to humans. In the wild, they prey on birds, rodents, or even small antelopes. They require about 2-3 pounds of meat a day. In addition, they don’t usually climb. Their favorite mode of communication is hissing, though they also use other types of vocalizations. We said this cat isn’t usually a climber, however, you’ll need to know that servals are great jumpers and can leap high into the air to catch birds. They can leap about 10 feet or more off the ground! Your serval fur baby will need to be in an outdoor enclosure, which should be completely fenced, including the top, and the fencing should go several feet into the ground. Servals also enjoy pools where they can swim, obtain drinking water and perhaps even catch its own fish.

If you’re looking for a serval cat for sale, it’s best to buy from a serval cat breeder. The reason is because in the wild, servals are becoming endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching for their pelts, etc. In addition, a knowledgeable, experienced breeder will be able to provide you with the information needed to become the cat’s pet parent and successfully live with your new exotic fur baby.

The breeder may also be able to put you in touch with the right type of vet and will be able to advise about the cat’s diet and other requirements.

2). Caracal Cats 

Characteristics of Caracal Cats:

Size: 16-21 inches (at the shoulder); 29-31 inches in length

Weight: males: 26-40 pounds, females 19-29 pounds

Lifespan: 12 years in the wild, 16 years in captivity

Caracal cats originally come from Africa and Asia and are a type of lynx. Caracal’s natural habitat includes savannas, woodlands, forests and deserts. Their name comes from a Turkish word “karakulak,” which means “black ear.” This feline breed was once used for hunting birds in India and Iran. They were also used as hunters. These medium-large cats often communicate through hissing. But don’t be concerned! This is just how they communicate. These exotic cats are usually more well-mannered, like a traditional cat. These beautiful cats eat anywhere from 2-3 pounds of meat per day. Their typical prey includes a wide variety of mammals such as hares, rodents, and small antelope, and have been known to kill animals larger than themselves.

These solitary kitties are also known to be excellent jumpers. As a result, they require an outdoor pen of about 15 sqm, and the pen’s height should be 2.5m. Caracals are known to enjoy playing and interacting with their pet parents; however, be aware that they will only interact with you on their own terms. You also may not be able to show them affection unless they’re in the mood to accept. These beautiful cats love to play but are quite rambunctious and destructive. So, it’s advisable to play with them in their enclosure, as your home will definitely suffer from the effects of a caracal kitty’s play time! If you’d like to find a caracal cat for sale, then it’s best to find a reputable breeder, who can offer knowledge and advise on how to care for your fur baby.

3). Bobcat


Size: 12-24 inches (at the shoulder); 18-49 inches in length

Weight: males average about 21 pounds, while females average about 15 pounds

Lifespan: averages about 7 years, and doesn’t usually go over 10 years

These medium-sized cats originally come from North America. You’ll know these cats by their muscular, short bodies. While they appear small, bobcats are strong enough to kill large prey, and can kill a human. If you have kids, it’s best to avoid these beautiful cats, or you’ll need to supervise all the time they spend near or around your kids. The other option is to keep a bobcat completely away from your children.

Bobcats can become quite loving and develop strong bonds with their pet parents. Even so, it’s best to not keep them in your home, as they can become suddenly aggressive. The best option is to provide the bobcat with a large outdoor enclosure, though some pet parents do provide both indoor and outdoor housing for their fur babies.

4). Canadian Lynx


Size: 19-22 inches (at the shoulder); 31-39 inches in length

Weight: between 11-40 pounds

Lifespan: up to 14 years in captivity

The Canadian lynx is another beautiful exotic cat that originally comes from Canada, Alaska and some parts of the U.S. These exotic kitties are famous for their ability to climb, and they love to be at the highest points in a home. While the Canadian lynx does resemble the bobcat, they are different when it comes to developing a relationship with their pet parents. The Canadian lynx is more aloof, though they are more easygoing overall. They’re also great with strangers.

These kitties can live in the house with you, but it’s recommended to also have an outdoor enclosure where they can be themselves. Some pet parents, who keep their Canadian lynx in the house, even say the cats prefer sleeping with them. These fur babies are also known for wanting to be in your lap, so be prepared! These exotic cats can be raised with other pets, such as dogs. However, never leave children unattended around these loving kitties, just to be on the safe side.

5). Fishing Cat


Size: 22-31 inches in length

Weight: 11-35 pounds

Lifespan: up to about 10 years in captivity

Fishing cats originally come from southeastern Asia and are known for their long toes and claws, which make it much easier for them to catch fish. You’ll even see the cat has webbing on each of its feet. The first thing to know about fishing cats is that they love water.

This is a protected species because they’re endangered in the wild. As a result, you won’t find many breeders for these beautiful exotic cats.

Not many people have adopted fishing cats, so there’s not much information available on how they are as fur babies.

6). Geoffroy’s Cat


Size: 12 inches in length

Weight: between 4.4 to 11 pounds

Lifespan: up to about 20 years in captivity

Geoffroy’s cats come from Central and South America and are one of the smallest wild cat species. It’s because of their small size that they are not deemed a threat to humans. Their natural habit includes forests, open wetlands, scrub lands and grasslands.

These shy cats are somewhat similar to ocelots, and are known to have be mild mannered, and not used to socializing. For these reasons, the fishing cats don’t make good house pets. They need a lot of quiet and privacy. And when grown, they can become more aggressive.

7). Ocelot


Size: 22-39 inches in length

Weight: males average between 15-34 pounds, females are usually between 15-25 pounds

Lifespan: can live up to 20 years in captivity

Ocelots are native to South America; while they can legally be kept as pets in some places, they’re very rare in the exotic pet trade. This is because they are endangered in the wild.

They’re usually more difficult to care for and don’t like to be trained or disciplined. In other words, these kitties have minds of their own! And some people find their odor too pungent.

8). Jungle Cat


Size: 14 inches (at the shoulder), and 23-30 inches in length.

Weight: can grow to be about 35 pounds

Lifespan: 15-20 years in captivity

The Jungle cat is a medium-sized cat that comes from Asia, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Their natural habitats include reed beds, scrub lands, woodlands, jungles and marshes. They are known for living near humans, due to the abundance of food they find. The jungle cat is may be one of the earliest relatives of our modern domesticated cats.

Jungle cats are similar to the Geoffroy’s Cat and ocelot when it comes to personality. They are shy and need a lot of privacy and quiet. In fact, these cats are not often kept as pets for these reasons.

9). Asian Leopard Cat


Size: about the same size as a domestic cat

Lifespan: up to about 13 years in captivity

These beautiful cats come from parts of eastern and southern Asia. Like fishing cats, Asian leopard cats also enjoy fishing and have webbing between their toes to make it easier to swim.

Asian leopard cats don’t make very good pets due to their preference for living solitary lives.

10). Cat Hybrids

You may have heard of cat hybrids—these are wild cats that are cross-bed with domestic cats. While cat hybrids are not classified as wild cats, because they can retain the behaviors of their wild parents, there are some prohibitions and laws against having them as pets.

Hybrid cats sometimes have a wild side and are known to be more destructive their than domestic cousins. They also have a hard time using the litter box and like to eliminate in areas they choose.  They’re also prone to spraying their territory, which includes all parts of your home.

Exotic Cats for Sale

It’s always best to get your exotic feline fur baby from a breeder. This way you’ll know the kitty has been hand raised and socialized with humans. In addition, you’ll avoid buying a cat that was caught in the wild. A breeder will also be one of the best sources for how to care for your exotic cat and may even be able to help you find a qualified veterinarian to properly monitor your exotic cat’s health.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of amazing exotic cats to choose from. However, it’s very important to check the laws in your area to ensure you can keep one of these beautiful felines as a fur baby. Also be sure to choose an exotic fur baby that’s easier to keep, such as a serval or a caracal cat. No matter the exotic feline you choose, we wish you both all the best in your new life together!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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