Otters are adorable animals, and owning them as a pet has become increasingly popular. However, they are wild animals with complex care and habitat requirements, and many private owners cannot provide them with what's needed to thrive. This article will examine what is required to have an otter as a pet and if it is wise to own one.
Types of otters and where they live
Otters are carnivorous mammals found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. They are in the subfamily, Lutrinae, but part of the same family as weasels, badgers, minks, wolverines, and more.
Only 13 extant species of otters are found across the world; all are aquatic, semiaquatic, or marine. Each species belongs to seven genera. The names of the species and where they are found are listed below:
- Eurasian or European Otter – Coasts of Europe, part of Asia, and parts of Northern Africa.
- Hairy-nosed otter – Southeast Asia.
- Spotted-necked otter – sub-Saharan Africa.
- North American River Otter – North America.
- Southern River Otter – Chile and Argentina.
- Neotropical River Otter – Central America, South America, and Trinidad.
- Marine Otter – South America.
- African Clawless Otter – sub-Saharan Africa.
- Asian Small-clawed Otter – South and Southeast Asia.
- Congo Clawless Otter – Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and possibly Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Rwanda, or Uganda.
- Smooth-coated Otter - Southeast Asia.
- Giant Otter – South America.
- Sea Otter – Coastal water of the Northern Pacific.
What is needed to care for an otter?
One of the first things to consider when caring for an otter is their diet requirements. Otters are carnivorous, and much of their diet consists of fish, small mammals or amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates, such as crabs and mollusks. Otters are also quite active and require feedings several times throughout the day. Therefore, to meet dietary requirements, owners must have large quantities of food readily available, which may be challenging depending on where the owner lives and is likely to be expensive. Food quality is also a concern, as otters are prone to developing kidney stones, and improper nutrients can increase the chances of these developing.
Another primary concern is space and environment. Otters require a lot of space to roam and access to water to swim and play in. It is recommended that the space needed for two otters is 645 sq ft or 60 square meters, which is roughly the size of a small apartment. Otters are also very social animals, so having at least two otters is recommended.
The environment around otters is also essential. Otter species have adapted to live in various areas of the world and have different features and abilities unique to the genus and surrounding ecosystem. Bringing an otter into a drastically different ecosystem can be confusing and affect their quality of life. They may also not be equipped to handle new terrain or weather. For example, the marine otter, used to the warmer temperatures of South America, may not be equipped to handle the cold and harsh winters found in North America. Therefore, trying to mimic the otter’s natural ecosystem as closely as possible is crucial.
Knowledge and patience are also necessary when owning an otter. Although otters have a reputation for being more docile and tolerant towards humans, that does not mean they can be treated the same as domesticated pets. Otters are wild animals with sharp teeth and claws, may become irritated or aggressive in certain situations, etc. Understanding their behaviour and characteristics is vital when owning one. However, no matter how much knowledge one has, it is impossible to completely predict how otters will act and react in different situations.
Do otters make good pets?
No, otters do not make good pets. The extensive food and habitat requirements are unique to each species. To fulfill the basic requirements needed to provide an adequate environment, owners must spend a lot of money and have large areas of land to mimic the otter’s natural ecosystem. Owners would also need to spend lots of time and money on upkeep and food.
Otters are also wild animals. In addition to posing potential safety concerns, the otter will treat their living space like they would in the wild. Otters are known for being loud and destructive. Upkeep will be time-consuming, the area will be messy, and scat will need to be cleaned up constantly. Otters also use scent marking to claim their territory. They rub their scent glands across their environment, which leaves an unpleasant and potent smell.
Other important factors are status and legality. Many otter species are endangered or at risk due to hunting, environmental changes, pollution, etc. Several countries have legislation protecting otters from being kept as pets. Even if it is legal to have an otter as a pet, many exotic pet curators do not go through proper channels to capture and sell animals. Therefore, purchasing an otter can do more harm than good and is not advised.
Enjoy an otter stuffed animal
Instead of buying an actual otter, an otter stuffed animal can be purchased instead. Here at Fluffy Stuffie, we sell a variety of cute and exotic animal stuffed animals and Owen the Sea Otter is one of them. He is 10-inches long, has soft, brown fur and is holding a clam between his paws. You can purchase Owen the Sea Otter on our website.