9 Legal Exotic Pets in Tennessee


In the state of Tennessee, many exotic animals are legal to keep as pets without a permit. However, only captive-born exotic animals are legal to keep as pets, as it is illegal to catch an animal from the wild and keep it as a pet in Tennessee. With that in mind, below are some exotic animals you can legally own as pets in Tennessee.

1. Capybara

  • Lifespan: Up to 12 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $1,000 to $2,500
A pet Capybara

Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world and semi-aquatic animals that live in groups near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and swamps in South America. Capybaras are known for their social behavior and often form close-knit groups with other individuals. As herbivores, Capybaras feed mainly on grasses, aquatic plants, and fruits. Capybaras are also popular as pets in some parts of the United States, although they require a lot of space and access to water. Due to habitat loss and hunting, capybaras are considered a species of "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. You don't need a permit to own a Capybara as a pet in Tennessee.

Capybaras are often kept as pets due to their friendly and docile nature. However, they require specialized care, and may not be legal to own in some areas in Tennessee. Additionally, they are social animals and should not be kept alone, so owners should be prepared to have more than one capybara.

2. Fennec Fox

  • Lifespan: Up to 14 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $1,200 to $3,000
A captive Fennec Fox

Fennec foxes are small nocturnal mammals native to the Sahara Desert and other parts of North Africa. They are known for their distinctive large ears, which help them dissipate heat and locate prey underground. Fennec foxes are social animals and often form groups of up to 10 individuals. They are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on a variety of foods including insects, small mammals, and fruit. 

Fennec foxes have a unique ability to go without water for long periods of time, obtaining all the moisture they need from their food. They have become popular as exotic pets in many states including Tennessee, but it is important to remember that they are domesticated animals and require specialized care.

3. Monkeys

  • Lifespan: Up to 35 years, depending of species
  • Price in the US: Between $3,500-$60,000, depending of species
two Monkeys

In Tennessee, several species of monkeys are legal to keep as pets without a personal possession permit. However, you should note that keeping a monkey as a pet can be a challenging and complex undertaking. It is important to understand that many species of monkeys are not suitable as pets due to their social, emotional, and physical needs.

If you are considering keeping a monkey as a pet, it is important to research the specific species thoroughly and ensure that you can meet their requirements. These may include a large and secure enclosure, a varied and appropriate diet, regular veterinary care, and opportunities for socialization and enrichment. For more information, see these six types of monkeys that are legal to own in Tennessee.

4. Small Rodents

Two guinea pigs

You don't need to obtain a permit to own some small rodents such as guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils, and prairie dogs in Tennessee. These rodents are considered Class III animals in the state of Tennessee. Additionally, these rodents are often referred to as pocket pets due to their relatively small sizes. Of these rodents, hamsters have become a popular choice for pets in the United States. They are small, easy to care for, and relatively low maintenance. Their playful and curious nature also makes them appealing to both children and adults. Hamsters are typically kept in cages, and require a diet of hamster food and fresh water. Overall, hamsters make great pets for those looking for a small and relatively low-maintenance companion animal.

5. Serval Cat

  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $3,000 to $10,000
A Serval Cat

While it is legal to keep a serval cat as a pet in Tennessee, you should note that Servals are wild felines and are not suitable as pets. They require specialized care and a specific diet that most people are not equipped to provide. Additionally, they can be dangerous and unpredictable, with a tendency to scratch and bite. Keeping a serval as a pet may also be illegal in some Tennessee municipalities, as local governments have the authority to ban animals that are legal under state law. So, it is best to admire these beautiful African wild cats from a safe distance in zoos. Or, you can own the Savannah cat, an offspring of the Serval cat and a domestic cat. The Savannah cat resembles its father, the Serval, in appearance much more than its mother, the housecat, and is considered 50 percent wild.

6. Four-toed hedgehog

  • Lifespan: Up to 10 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $100 to $500
A pet Four-toed hedgehog

Four-toed hedgehogs, often referred to as African pygmy hedgehogs, can make interesting and unique pets. They are small in size, usually weighing between 0.5 to 1 pound, and have a lifespan of around 5-7 years. As nocturnal animals, they are most active at night and can be quite active and playful. They require a specialized diet of insects, high-quality cat food, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, hedgehogs require specialized care and attention, so it's important to do your research and make sure you are able to provide the proper environment and care for your exotic pet.

7. Kangaroo

  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $2,500 to $7,000
A Kangaroo and its child

While you can legally keep Kangaroos as a pet in Tennessee, it is important to note that keeping kangaroos as pets is generally not recommended. Moreover, Kangaroos are not common exotic pets in Tennessee. Kangaroos are wild animals and they have specific dietary, social, and environmental needs that are difficult to meet in a domestic setting. In addition, kangaroos can be dangerous and aggressive towards humans. In some Tennessee municipalities, it may also be illegal to keep kangaroos as pets without a proper license.

8. Vietnamese Pot-bellied

  • Lifespan: Up to 20 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $600 to $800
A Vietnamese Pot-bellied

Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs can make great pets for the right owner. They are intelligent, sociable, and can be trained like dogs. However, they require a lot of attention and care, including proper diet and exercise to prevent obesity. They also need a suitable living environment, such as a large outdoor pen with shelter. It's important to research and understand the needs of Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs before considering them as a pet. Additionally, check with local ordinances and regulations, as some places may have restrictions on owning them.

9. Kinkajou

  • Lifespan: Up to 30 years in captivity
  • Price in the US: $700 to $3,500
A kinkajou at San Diego Zoo

While Kinkajous are legal to own as pets in Tennessee, the question is whether they make good pets. Kinkajous can make interesting and unique pets for those who are experienced and dedicated to their care. They are small, nocturnal mammals that are native to Central and South America. Kinkajous are known for their playful and curious personalities, but they require a lot of attention and care. They need a large, secure enclosure with plenty of branches and hiding spots, and a specialized diet that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and insects. Kinkajous are also prone to certain health issues that require regular veterinary check-ups. It is important to thoroughly research and consider the commitment before deciding to bring a kinkajou into your home as a pet.


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