Top 8 Legal Exotic Cats in The UK

In the United Kingdom, many wild or exotic cats are legal to keep as pets under certain conditions. For starters, you need to be at least 18 years old to own a wild cat and other animals in the UK. After that, you need to obtain a Dangerous Wild Animal licence from your local council to buy the type of exotic wild animal you wish to own.

However, after getting the licence and acquiring the animal, you are required by law to provide your exotic wild animal with somewhere suitable to live, protection from, and treatment for, illness and injury, and a proper diet and fresh water. You may not be allowed to own animals in the future if you are found guilty of not looking after an animal properly. In addition, you may be sent to prison for up to 6 months or get an unlimited fine.

Just because it is legal to keep wild or exotic cats as pets in the UK does not necessarily mean you should own one. If you are considering a pet exotic cat, it is crucial to be aware of the fact that exotic or wild animals are much more difficult to look after and expensive to care for than you may imagine. But if you have the time, energy, experience, and resources, then you can make a commitment to keep an exotic cat as a pet. With that in mind, Below are some exotic or wild felines you can legally keep as pets in the United Kingdom.

As mentioned earlier, you need to obtain a licence from your local council before you can buy an exotic or wild cat in the UK. The licence comes with application fees that vary from one local council to another.

8 Exotic Cats That are Legal To Keep as Pets in The UK

1. Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

a Bobcat

Also known as the red lynx, the Bobcat is one of the medium-sized wild cats native to North America. As the smallest of the four lynx species, adult Bobcats measure from 32 to 37 inches in length and typically weigh between 18 and 35 pounds.

Generally, bobcats are not labeled as dangerous because they do not attack people and their attacks are virtually unknown, though their bite force is around 548 Newtons. Bobcats are opportunistic hunters that feed mainly on squirrels, mice, rats, and wild birds. 

In the wild, bobcats live for up to 10 years. However, as pets, bobcats seem to live much longer. The oldest pet bobcat on record lived to be 32 years old. If a bobcat sounds like the right exotic wild cat for you in the UK, you should be aware that though it is extremely unlikely that a bobcat will attack a human, bobcats pose a threat to other pets and livestock.

2. Caracal (Caracal caracal)

A sitting Caracal

You can legally keep a Caracal as a pet in the UK, provided you are granted a licence by your local council. This medium-sized wild cat, which is characterized by a robust build, a short face, long legs, long tufted ears, and long canine teeth, is native to Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Full-grown caracals typically measure 33-48 inches from head to tail and weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, with males being generally larger than females. A Caracal can make a good pet for the right person, by which I mean someone with a good knowledge of the needs of this incredible species of feline. This adorable YouTube video shows a pet Caracal being hugged and kissed by its owner.

A pet caracal can live for up to 17 years. Acquiring a pet caracal from a licensed breeder in the UK can cost you anywhere from £2,000 to £10,000.

3. Serval Cat

A Serval Cat in the Wild

The beautiful African Serval cat is legal to keep as a pet under a license in the UK. Full-grown Serval cats measure up to 83 cm in body length. The Serval is a jumping cat and is known to be the second-fastest feline after the cheetah. Like the Caracal, pet Serval cats need a specific diet of mostly raw meat and large, fully enclosed outdoor spaces. As a pet, a Serval cat can live for up to 20 years or more. In the UK, you can get a Serval cat for £1,500-£4,500 from a reputable breeder. Like all wild cats, Serval cats are not good for families with young children.

4. Savannah cat

A sitting Savannah cat

The Savannah cat is the result of a cross between the wild African Serval cat and a house cat. In the United Kingdom, you don't need a license to keep F2, F3 and F4 Savannah cats as pets. However, a Dangerous Wild Animal Licence is required to keep an F1 Savannah cat as a pet in the UK. This is because the F1 Savannah cat is considered 50 percent wild, being a direct offspring of a Serval and a domestic cat.

On the other hand, the F2, F3 and F4 Savannah cats are considered less wild because they've been respectively removed 2, 3, and 4 generations away from their wild ancestry. By all accounts, Savannah cats make lively companions. Depending on the filial generation and breeder, acquiring a Savannah kitten in the UK can cost you from £1000 to £16,000.

5. Asian Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

A Leopard cat

The Asian Leopard cat is a small wild cat native to Asia and listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Leopard cats are about the same size as domestic cats and have an average lifespan of 20 years in captivity. In the UK, a license is required to own an Asian Leopard cat as a pet.

6. Bengal Cat

A Bengal Cat

In the UK, you can own all filial generations of Bengal cats as pets without obtaining a license. The Bengal cat is the result of a cross between the wild Asian Leopard cat and a domestic cat, which makes the F1 Bengal cat. Depending on the filial generation and color, it will cost you from £800 to £2000 to buy a Bengal kitten in the UK.

7. Lynx

A Lynx

If you obtain a license from your local council, you may keep a Canada lynx, a Eurasian lynx, or an Iberian lynx as a pet in the UK. Lynxes are medium-sized wild cats known for their self-sufficient and solitary nature. In the wild, Lynxes primarily prey on snowshoe hares, though their diet in the summer also includes squirrels and other small mammals. Lynxes aren't as big as some wild cat species and in certain places, a lynx can be kept as a pet.

8. Ocelot

An Ocelot

A Dangerous Wild Animal license is required to keep an Ocelot as a pet in the UK. Ocelots may look cute but they are not nice or cuddly and therefore do not make good pets. Though they are classified as small, American wild cats, Ocelots are about twice the size of domestic cats. In human care, an ocelot can live for up to 20 years.

Other Legal Exotic Cats in The UK

In addition to the eight species of exotic cats listed above, the following wild cats are also legal to keep as pets with a license in the UK:
  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Cheetah
  • Jaguar
  • Puma
In the UK, you don't need a license to own the following small wild cats as pets: The black-footed cat, Pallas's cat, sand cat, rusty-spotted cat, little spotted cat, bay cat, Geoffroy’s cat, and kodkod.


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