Can You Own a Bobcat in Texas? Is it illegal?

Can You Own a Bobcat in Texas

Can you own a bobcat in Texas legally as a pet? Let’s take a look at the laws and regulations around owning bobcats in Texas.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are medium-sized wild cats native to North America. They typically weigh between 15-30 pounds as adults and have distinctive spotted and striped fur.

Bobcats are solitary and territorial animals that inhabit a range of habitats including forests, swamps, deserts, and suburban areas.

In Texas, bobcats are classified as nongame wildlife and are common across most of the state.

Their populations are considered stable and they play an important role as predators in local ecosystems.

Bobcats are not your typical house pets. These wild cats are not like domesticated cats at all. Bobcats can be dangerous if not properly cared for.

Can You Own a Bobcat in Texas?

is it illegal to kill a bobcat in texas
is it illegal to kill a bobcat in texas

No, it is illegal to own a bobcat as a pet in Texas without proper permits and licenses.

Bobcats fall under the state’s “dangerous wild animal” regulations. Texas law prohibits possessing “dangerous wild animals” like bobcats without certification from an approved facility and city/county registration.

Only facilities like zoos, research institutions, and rehabilitation centers can legally own bobcats in Texas.

Bobcat Facts

Before jumping into more legalities, let’s first go over some key facts about bobcats:

  • Scientific Name: Lynx rufus
  • Size: Adults can reach 30-40 pounds. They are about twice the size of a domestic cat.
  • Appearance: Bobcats have tan to grayish-brown fur with black spots. They have small tails that are white on the underside. Their ears have short tufts of black hair.
  • Habitat: Bobcats are found across most of North America. They thrive in wooded areas but can also adapt to deserts, swamps, and suburban areas.
  • Diet: Bobcats are carnivores that hunt rabbits, rodents, birds, and other small prey. They are opportunistic hunters and will also eat carrion.
  • Behavior: Bobcats are solitary and territorial. They are most active during dawn and dusk. Bobcats can swim and climb trees well. They also communicate via calls, scents, and marking territory.

Legalities of Owning Bobcats in Texas

Now let’s look at whether it is legal to own a bobcat as a pet in Texas. Here are the key regulations:

  • Bobcats are classified as nongame wildlife in Texas. This means they are not considered game animals that can be legally hunted.
  • It is illegal for private citizens to own, sell, or keep bobcats as pets in Texas. Only qualified institutions like zoos or research facilities may possess bobcats.
  • The only exception is for individuals licensed to possess a bobcat for the purpose of propagation. However, the license holder must specify the purpose of propagation and report annually on the animals.
  • Even with a propagation license, you cannot display or exhibit the bobcat to the public except under certain conditions (e.g. trained for film/TV).
  • Possessing or selling a bobcat without proper permits is considered a Class C misdemeanor in Texas. If convicted, penalties can include fines up to $500.

It is illegal to own bobcats as pets in Texas. The state considers them nongame wildlife that requires special licensing for limited purposes like propagation. Simply wanting a bobcat as an exotic pet is not a valid reason for possessing one under Texas regulations.

Penalties for Illegally Owning a Bobcat in Texas?

It is a criminal offense to possess a dangerous wild animal like a bobcat without proper certification and registration in Texas. Penalties can include:

  • Up to 2 years in jail
  • Fines up to $10,000 per animal
  • Forfeiture of the illegally owned animal
  • Local ordinances may also impose additional penalties like fees or license revocation. Illegally owning a bobcat puts owners at risk of facing criminal charges.

Why Bobcats Do Not Make Good Pets

Aside from being illegal in most states, there are many reasons why bobcats do not make good pets:

  • Wild nature: Bobcats are not domesticated. They maintain all their wild instincts no matter if bred in captivity. They can be very destructive in a home.
  • Safety risks: Bobcats have sharp teeth and claws. They can scratch, bite, and attack their owners. Rabies is also a concern with wild animals.
  • Diet: Bobcats have very specific dietary needs as carnivores. They require whole prey like rabbits. It is difficult to meet their needs in captivity.
  • Enrichment: As solitary hunters, bobcats need a lot of enrichment. They need space to roam, climb, and forage. Most homes cannot provide adequate space.
  • Veterinary care: Exotic vets who can properly treat bobcats can be hard to find. Lack of care is detrimental to their health.
  • Permitting: As seen in Texas, owning a bobcat requires special permits that most people will not qualify for.

For these reasons, bobcats do not adapt well to being pets. They are wild animals unsuited to domestic life. It is best to admire bobcats in their natural habitats rather than keeping them as exotic pets.

Is It Legal to Own Bobcats in Other States?

Bobcat ownership laws can vary by state. Here is a quick overview of bobcat pet laws in some other states:

StateBobcat Pet Laws
CaliforniaIllegal to own bobcats
FloridaRequire Class II wildlife permit
New YorkIllegal to possess without a license
IllinoisBan on possession of wild cats
TexasIllegal except with propagation permit

Most states either ban private bobcat ownership or have strict permitting requirements. Some states like Wisconsin do allow bobcats to be kept as pets with proper permits. However, rules can vary by county too. Be sure to check your state and local exotic pet laws before considering a bobcat.

Can You Obtain a Permit to Own a Bobcat in Texas?

The only permit available for private bobcat ownership is the Fur-bearing Propagation Permit from Texas Parks & Wildlife. However, this permit has very strict requirements intended for bobcat breeders, not individual pet owners. To qualify for this permit you must:

  • Own at least 5 acres of secured land for housing bobcats
  • Provide detailed plans for bobcat enclosures, shelters, care routines and more
  • Pass initial and routine inspections of your facilities
  • Maintain detailed records of your bobcats
  • Only possess bobcats for breeding/propagation purposes

Obtaining this permit would still involve major commitments of land, resources, and record-keeping. It remains very difficult for the average person to legally own a pet bobcat.

Can You Have Other Wild Cats as Pets in Texas?

No, most wild cat species like lions, tigers, leopards, and ocelots are illegal to own as pets in Texas. They are categorized as “dangerous wild animals” requiring the same strict certification and registration as bobcats. 

Some smaller wild cat species like servals, caracals, and Asian leopard cats do have ownership allowances with proper permitting. However, many counties still prohibit these species or enforce additional requirements. Overall Texas has very tight restrictions on exotic pet ownership.


What are some alternatives to owning a bobcat as a pet?

Domestic cats, ferrets, large dogs, and other easier to care for animals can satisfy the desire for an energetic, predatory pet without the risks of a wild bobcat.

Can I own a bobcat without a permit if I say it is an emotional support animal?

No, emotional support or service animal designations do not override exotic wildlife regulations. Proper permits are still required.

What big cats can you own in Texas?

There are several exotic big cats that can be legally owned as pets in Texas with the proper permits, including: Tigers, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Jaguars, Cougars, Lynxes, and Ocelots.

About Hailey Pruett

Hailey “Lex” Pruett is a nonbinary writer at YIHY primarily covering reptiles and amphibians. They have over five years of professional content writing experience. Additionally, they grew up on a hobby farm and have volunteered at animal shelters to gain further experience in animal care.

A longtime resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hailey has owned and cared extensively for a wide variety of animals in their lifetime, including cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, frogs and toads, fish, chickens, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, goats, and more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *