9 Exotic Animals You Can Legally Own In Canada (But Good Luck With That Upkeep)

Want a pot belly pig? You'll need more than a full piggy bank.

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
​A fennec fox. Right: A wallaby.

A fennec fox. Right: A wallaby.

It may be fun to sleep among wolves or imagine what life would be like with an exotic pet that no one else has — and, legally speaking, you can own a number of wild animals in Canada. But it's difficult enough to find an apartment that accepts cats or dogs, let alone their non-domesticated counterparts, and the upkeep is intense if you want to do it right.

Somehow, that seems to remain a surprise for some owners. Per Global News, Parks Canada recently reported a three-fold increase in abandoned animals in the wild, including exotic pets, many of which wreaked havoc on native wildlife or died from lack of food or shelter.

While the rules vary between provinces and territories, here are some of the exotic animals that remain largely unregulated in Canada (and the things to consider before trying to get one yourself).


A serval.

A serval.

Caitlin Greyling | Dreamstime

These speckled felines are hunters from the African Savannah that grow to the size of a medium dog. Servals aren't easily house-trained and often require a much larger litter box than normal domesticated cats. They also have a penchant for marking their territory with urine.

The B.C. SPCA notes that the energetic cats are "difficult to contain in a home or enclosure" and warns that even with an often sweet disposition they're still wild and "pose a risk to their keepers and the public and native wildlife if they escape."

World Animal Protection reports that 85% of the servals kept as pets in Canada are found in British Columbia and Ontario.


A capybara.

A capybara.

Mikelane45 | Dreamstime

These gentle giants of the guinea pig family enjoy attention from humans, but as social, semi-aquatic creatures they also require special housing and constant company.

Per Pet Ponder, the 150-lbs rodents need at least one other capybara companion, along with a sheltered enclosure and swimming pool to keep them hydrated. They also require around eight lbs of high-quality grass to munch on daily so their front teeth don't overgrow.

Sugar Glider

A sugar glider.

A sugar glider.

I Wayan Sumatika | Dreamstime

These tiny nocturnal marsupials with bug eyes and skin flaps that let them glide between tree branches are very social creatures, which means they bond with human caretakers but they're also used to living in groups of up to 10 in the wild. If kept alone, they can get depressed and self-harm, warns World Animal Protection.

Their varied natural diet is also difficult to provide, between tree gum, sap, nectar, pollen and live insects. But if you're up for the task, the Montreal SPCA recently rescued a bunch of sugar gliders, which are now up for adoption.

Muntjac Deer

A muntjac deer.

A muntjac deer.

Zz3701 | Dreamstime

These deer are sought as pets because of their compact size and affectionate nature. They have protruding teeth and scent glands near their eyes that enjoy rubbing on their owners.

While some have been taught to use a litter box, and make little mess at home, they're also known for chewing on furniture. Muntjac are called "barking deer" because they vocalise with a repeated yelp that is "loud for its size," or what sounds like a scream, when frightened, according to the British Deer Society.


A wallaby.

A wallaby.

Ondřej Novotný | Dreamstime

This smaller relative of the kangaroo is prone to jumping and can hurt itself or damage furniture if brought indoors. Wallabies kept as pets need a large outdoor enclosure, preferably with other wallabies since they are communal animals, and fresh grass to eat daily.

The marsupials are susceptible to catching a parasite from cats (even healthy ones) that causes toxoplasmosis, so they also have to be kept away from any possible carriers.

Pot Bellied Pig

A pot bellied pig.

A pot bellied pig.

Susan Sheldon | Dreamstime

What starts out as a cute piglet can turn into a 200+ lbs sow within three to six years and become much more difficult to home. While the farm animals can be house-trained or walked on a leash, that's where the similarity to dog ownership ends.

Pigs are smart and like to explore with their snouts, which means they can make a mess if left unattended. If bored, they can "create their own fun in the house, often by rooting through cupboards, tearing apart couches and knocking over tables," warns the B.C. SPCA.

Hyacinth Macaw

A hyacinth macaw.

A hyacinth macaw.

R. Gino Santa Maria / Shutterfree, Llc | Dreamstime

These birds, the largest of the parrot family, are endangered in the wild, although that doesn't seem to have curbed their appeal in the exotic pet trade.

They're gentle and bond with their caretakers, which has boosted their popularity, but few owners are ready for the 60-year investment. Given the bird's size (almost that of a bald eagle), hyacinth macaws need a very large, usually custom-built enclosure.

They have powerful beaks and a destructive nature, so they require lots of wooden toys to chew. As social creatures, they also require a lot of interaction and time out of their cage daily to spread their wings.

Fennec Fox

A fennec fox.

A fennec fox.

Aleksey Popov | Dreamstime

If you think a cat getting the zoomies at 3 a.m. is bad, you should see (and hear) one of these little guys. Fennec foxes are nocturnal and hyperactive, so get ready to play with them… a lot.

They also make loud, high-pitched noises and have a tendency for destructive behaviour, which makes them ill-suited for life in a rented apartment. But on the bright side, they're usually friendly and quite intelligent.

Pygmy Goat

A pygmy goat.

A pygmy goat.

Abby Khoriaty | Dreamstime

Goats are herd animals, so they need at least one other goat for company and an outdoor enclosure with at least 135 square feet for each goat to safely run, climb and jump.

They eat a large volume of food every day, so "be prepared to haul heavy hay bales," cautions vet site The Spruce Pets.

While they enjoy interacting with humans, goats can be noisy, especially when they want attention. They also need their hooves trimmed regularly, which can be a challenge for city dwellers who don't learn the skill themselves.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an award-winning writer, editor and former radio journalist with a passion for finding hidden gems in the city.