Can You Own a Pet Kinkajou?

By Betty Lewis

The cute little kinkajou is found naturally in tropical forests in Central and South America. Monkey-like in behavior, but actually related to the raccoon, this little fellow passes much of his time in trees. He comes in a nice size -- between 4 and 10 pounds -- and devotees find him to be an affectionate, engaging pet. However, he is considered an exotic pet, so he's not welcome in every state.

The Way of the Kinkajou

The kinkajou also is called the honey bear because he's known for raiding honey from beehives in his natural habitat. He eats more than honey, also enjoying small mammals, insects and fruit. This little guy is nocturnal, spending the nights foraging for food, returning to the trees to sleep each morning after a long night of roaming. His feet actually turn backward, making him adept at running back and forth along tree limbs. As a social animal, he and his pals -- known as a troop -- aren't often spotted in the forest canopy, but they're often heard barking and screeching to each other.

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

It's easy to understand the appeal of a kinkajou: he's cute, small and exotic. However, before you decide he's the pet for you, you'll have to do a bit of homework to determine if your state -- and town, county or municipality -- will allow him. As of 2014, only seven states in the U.S. allowed exotic pets without a permit or license and 13 states allowed them with an appropriate documentation. The balance of the states had laws at least partially banning exotic pets. If your state allows this particular exotic animal, you still have to ensure your local government will welcome him; not all municipalities mimic state regulations. If your local government OKs your kinkajou, keep in mind your landlord or housing association may not.

Kinkajou Care

Owning a kinkajou is not like having a more traditional house pet. They usually aren't litter trained, meaning your kinkajou will climb high in his shelter and just let it go when the need strikes him. He'll need a large cage -- a walk-in aviary is ideal -- outfitted with tree limbs for climbing and nesting boxes for sleeping. The cage and your home -- at least the parts he has access to -- also will have to be kinkajou-proofed. These guys are escape artists and they're curious, so they'll explore any place they can reach, which is just about anywhere with those amazing feet, grasping hands and that special tail. He enjoys a wide variety of food, including fruits, vegetables and primate biscuits.

The Realities of a Life with a Kinkajou

If the powers that be tell you it's OK, you've got the basics covered, however that doesn't necessarily mean you should own a kinkajou. Consider that he is a wild animal, even if bred in captivity, so his behavior may not be predictable. Though he's often an affectionate pet, the kinkajou has been known to scratch, bite and wound people. His nocturnal ways mean he often screeches when most people are asleep. He has a long life span as well, living between 20 and 40 years in captivity, so he's a serious commitment for any pet owner. He'll also require veterinary care, so you will have to make sure there's a qualified vet near you to oversee your exotic pet's health. Finally, he's not an inexpensive pet; a kinkajou costs around $2,000 and his living quarters can add hundreds to thousands of dollars more to the cost.