Can You Own A Pet Caracal?

Do caracals make good pets? No, these wild cats should stay in the nature where they belong. There are several hurdles in keeping exotic cats and most people wouldn’t be able to take proper care. Most states within the US have also regulated the ownership in one kind or another. Read on to get to know why you better should opt for another species.

Picture of a full-grown wild caracal cat

What Is A Caracal

While some people have a strong desire for keeping a caracal as a pet, others don’t even know what they exactly are. To start with the name: it comes from the Turkish word “karakulak” which means “black ear”.

Caracals are considered big cats, even if they are relatively small compared to a lion or tiger. A full-grown caracal can weigh 40 pounds and has the size of a large dog breed.

Their natural habitat stretches from Africa over the Middle East and India up to Central Asia. In these regions, they live side by side with several other feline predators like cheetahs and leopards.

Many people refer to the Eurasian lynx and servals as closely related species.

Is It Legal To Own A Pet Caracal?

Carcal on limb of a tree

It depends on in which country or state you live. Most western countries like Canada and the USA have at least some kind of regulation regarding exotic cats like caracals and ocelots.

In the following states, you are maybe allowed to keep a pet caracal:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida,
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • South Dakota

However, you will still need to get a license most of the time. Be prepared to show your knowledge and experience with the species to the regulators. Additionally, a person will visit your home to see if you have a proper setup up for the cat.

Especially safety aspects will be proved and it might be that you are not allowed to leave your property with your pet caracal.

States that ban the ownership of any exotic cat are:

  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico,
  • New Hampshire,
  • Vermont
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia

To get a full overview as well as contact details for your local department of wildlife I recommend visiting the website of Big Cat Rescue.

Even if your state allows ownership in general there might be other rules in your county or city. Asking the right person at the department is the way to go.

Are Caracals Domesticated?

Domesticated pet caracal in enclosure

No, caracals aren’t domesticated and they will never be. You can’t compare these wild cats with common house pets. Many people can’t distinguish properly between domestication and taming. Both terms stand for something completely different.

Domestication needs many generations to take place. Dogs for example live over 10,000 years together with humans. In this period we tried to match them with our needs through selective breeding. With success.

This process will never take place in caracals and they will remain the wild animals they are. No matter what you do.

Taming on the other side is very well possible when you raise a caracal kitten from a young age. It might accept you like family but its instinct can kick in at any time. 

Caracal Cat Personality And Behavior

Like bobcats, caracals are loners who only socialize in the breeding season. For potential pet caracal owners that means, that they most likely won’t get along with other pets and felines. This might be different if they were raised together with other species.

Generally, caracals know their size very well. That means they normally won’t take on humans or large animals which aren’t considered prey. However, the behavior of wild cats can turn from one friendly to aggressive in just a second.

Small changes in the environment like colors in a tv show can be the trigger. It’s nothing you can do something about and you must accept it as a part of their character.

Be prepared that your “pet cat” will start to spray in your house. The urine of wild animals has a strong smell and is very hard to clean up. Caracals mark everything they think belongs to them. Furniture and carpets will never look the same again.

Are Caracal Cats Dangerous?

Caracals aren’t aggressive like honey badgers but shy towards humans and larger predators. If it’s possible they will always choose to run away. However, if the cat feels provoked or cornered it might attack you nonetheless.

That being said they will be a threat to livestock and other animals or pets in your neighborhood when they can escape.

Pet Caracals Need A Large Run

It’s not enough to keep a pet caracal indoors all day. They might need an enclosure providing shelter from bad weather conditions but species-appropriate care isn’t possible without much space outdoors.

You should aim for at least an acre to keep a pet caracal happy. Don’t forget to add some trees to the habitat as cats, in general, like to climb. A high fence is necessary to prevent the cat from escaping.

Authorities and neighbors usually don’t find a straying caracal very funny.

Caracals Need To Feed On Meat

Caracals are strict carnivores that take on a lot of prey in their natural habitat. They go after small mammals like rabbits as well as prey that is larger than themselves like antelopes or gazelles.

If you want to keep a caracal in captivity full, you would need to give it two to three pounds of meat every single day. Costs for this add up quickly and you need space to store that much food.

Variety is also important as feeding chicken or other poultry day in day out isn’t the right diet.

The Price Of Caracal Cats – How Much Are They?

Caracal kitten

You can buy a caracal kitten for under $3000 if a breeder has one for sale. The exact price depends on the character and age of the baby.

Many people forget that the costs don’t stop after they have purchased the cub. The majority of the money you will have to spend is for proper housing and the adjustments you will need to make to your place.

The license will have its price as well and you need to put some money aside for food and veterinary care.

However, I don’t encourage you to adopt a caracal please do further research and choose a different pet.

What Else To Consider Before Buying A Caracal?

Exotic cats are everything but low maintenance. The price of owning such an animal goes much further than the number of dollars you would have to spend.

Holidays and vacations are nearly impossible if you have such a cat at home. The license you need to care for it is tied to your person and no one else will be allowed to take care when you are not at home. It’s really a lifetime commitment and cats can get old.

Everything you own will belong to the cat. You won’t need to buy expensive furniture anymore as the animal will spray and chew anything in your house.

If you change your opinion about owning an exotic cat there is no way it could be released into the wild again. This is the reason why rescue shelters are full of abandoned pet big cats.