11 Illegal Pets in California

There are all kinds of pets that are illegal to own in California—some of which might surprise you. Learn more here.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Many animals are deemed illegal to own as pets in
because of the risks they would pose to the environment if they were to get loose. Ferrets, monkeys, bears, and hedgehogs are just a few examples of pets that are against the law to own in the Golden State.
Certain pets are illegal for a reason—and it’s often for both their safety and yours. In many cases, certain animals are made illegal to own because they could be disastrous for California’s local flora and fauna if they happened to get loose. They could introduce diseases and kill or outcompete native species.
Still, some of the pets that are actually illegal in California might surprise you—and you don’t want to be caught in a legal mess if you’ve moved from out of state with a pet you didn’t realize was forbidden. 
, the
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that helps you save on
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, is here to give you a rundown on illegal pets in California ranging from the obvious to the unexpected.
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What happens if you have an illegal pet in California?

California has some of the strictest laws in the country when it comes to owning wild and exotic pets.
If you’ve recently moved to California from another state with more lenient laws—nearby
, for example—some of the pets that California deems illegal might come as a surprise to you. If you own a forbidden animal, you could face some costly legal consequences.
Getting caught owning an exotic or otherwise illegal pet in California could earn you a fine ranging anywhere from $500 to $10,000 plus a potential misdemeanor charge
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you could face up to 6 months in prison and/or an additional fine of up to $1,000.
Whether you do face legal punishment, your animal will most likely be taken away from you. After that, it might be rehabilitated and released into the wild, given to a lab or animal care center, or worst of all, euthanized.
So, what pets are illegal in California? Read on to find out.
MORE: Do I need earthquake insurance in California?

What pets are illegal in California? 

Lions, tigers, bears—oh my! Don’t plan on owning any of them in California. 
Broadly speaking don’t expect to be able to take in an animal as a pet in the Golden State if it’s considered:
  • Endangered
  • A threat to public health and safety
  • A threat to the local environment or local agriculture
Wondering if your pet is in the clear in California? Unfortunately, if you find your pet listed below, they won’t make the cut:


The fact that ferrets are illegal in California can come as a surprise. Although you can commonly find them for sale in pet stores across the US, they’ve actually been outlawed in California since the early 1900s. 
One reason is that since they’re predators, they’d pose a risk to native birds, reptiles, and other California wildlife if they were to escape your home.


Due to similar risks to wildlife as posed by ferrets, you can’t own a mongoose as a pet in California, either. 
Unlike ferrets, though, mongooses are a lot harder to handle and generally aren’t recommended to be owned as pets anyway. They’re prone to picking up and spreading rabies, and their temperaments can be unpredictable.

Chinese hamsters

Not all varieties of hamsters are illegal in California, but the Chinese hamster is. Chinese hamster populations could grow and quickly become invasive in California’s environment, which is bad news for local species and crops.


Gerbils are yet another rodent species that could become invasive in California under the right (or wrong) conditions.


While you can actually own monkeys in nearby Nevada without even needing a permit, you aren’t allowed to own them in California. 
To do so, you’d have to have a permit and a justifiable reason for having them, like performing scientific research or training them for film productions.
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This is another animal that can come as a surprise—while hedgehogs aren’t the most common pet, they’re not uncommon, either. However, since hedgehogs could become invasive in the state if they were to escape, they’re illegal to keep as a pet.


You’ll find plenty of squirrels in California, but you can’t legally keep them in your house. You probably wouldn’t want to, anyway, because they have a notorious reputation for being destructive.
Squirrels can damage everything from furniture to walls and wiring when they’re kept as pets—and their behavior tends to be unpredictable.

African clawed frogs

African clawed frogs are yet another species that can quickly become invasive and make it harder for native California species to thrive, so it’s illegal to keep them as pets.


Bats play vital roles in their ecosystems, but it’s better to leave them in the wild. They can carry rabies and a number of other diseases that can be passed on to humans.


Bears are strong animals who are great at climbing and escaping buildings and enclosures—or, as you might already know, breaking into them. Catching a bear at a bad moment can prove fatal, which is why they’re illegal to keep as pets in California.

Big cats

Like bears, big cat species like lions and tigers are powerful animals that are hard to contain—and keeping them happy and healthy in captivity requires a certain level of expertise. 
Because of the obvious dangers they pose to people, you can’t keep big cats as pets in California.
For all the pets that are outlawed in California, there are also plenty of unexpected animals you are legally allowed to have. 
That said, just because you can own a certain type of animal doesn’t mean you should. Many wild and exotic animals aren’t well-suited to living in captivity. It’s vital that you know what conditions an animal needs to thrive and be able to provide that exact environment before claiming one for yourself.
In addition to dogs and cats, it’s legal to own these animals in California:
  • Zebras
  • Domesticated dwarf hamsters
  • Mice, rats
  • Chinchillas
  • Toucans
  • Monitor lizards

Finding pet-friendly home insurance

If you own pets, it’s usually a good idea to let your
home insurance
provider know about them so you can ensure you have the level of
liability coverage
you need. 
Certain home insurance companies may provide coverage for exotic pets in certain situations—such as if the pet hurts a neighbor. Others might require you to purchase separate insurance to cover your bases.
In a worst-case scenario, if a provider found out that you owned a pet they considered dangerous without informing them, they could deem the animal too much of a risk and drop your coverage.
You hope you’d never need to use it, but if your pet did end up accidentally injuring someone or damaging their property, that liability coverage could help cover legal expenses and give you some extra financial protection.
Finding the right home insurance with pets can be complicated. Luckily, the
app makes finding the right coverage easier than ever. 
It only takes about 45 seconds to answer a few quick questions and start comparing customized quotes from top insurance providers. If you have questions about your feathered or furry friend, Jerry’s friendly, experienced team of agents are just a text, call, or tap away in the app!
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There’s a long list of pets that are illegal to own in California. Included are ferrets, mongooses, bats, bears, lions, gerbils, certain hamsters, monkeys, and hedgehogs.
You probably don’t want to test your luck. Owning a pet that’s been deemed illegal in California can come with some significant consequences. You could face a hefty fine ranging anywhere from $500 to $10,000 and/or up to six months in prison.
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