Can Penguins Be Home Pets? Top 5 Facts You Must Know

No, you can’t buy and own a penguin as a pet because it is illegal to do so. Penguins are exotic animals and are protected by law. The only way you can legally own a penguin is if you run a zoo facility or you’re a wildlife rehabilitator.

Key takeaways

  1. Why can’t penguins be pets?
  2. Top 5 Challenges with taking care of a pet penguin
  3. Cost of acquiring a pet penguin
  4. Where can I buy a penguin
  5. Top 8 Penguin species

Why Can’t Penguins Be Pets?

It is illegal to keep a penguin: this is because they are wild creatures, and by US law, these types of animals are banned from being kept as pets. The only where animals like penguins can be kept as pets is if the owner has a license or runs a zoo. Wildlife rehabilitators can also keep exotic animals like penguins.

Another main reason why penguins can’t be pets is that they’re an endangered species. Unlike exotic cats where you can easily get a permit in the US, the law is far more strict when it comes to penguins. The government is content so long as the penguins are in the wild or zoos, but not in your home.

Note, however, that if you’re in a place where it’s legal to keep wildlife as pets, or where these animal conservation laws are not enacted, it may be OK for you to keep a pet penguin.

That said, here’s all you should know about keeping a pet penguin.

Top 5 Challenges With Keeping A Pet Penguin

1. Feeding

Penguins eat a lot: on average, a penguin consumes 30 – 40 pounds of fresh fish every day. This is what you have to provide, if and when you do get a pet penguin. Let’s say you spend $100 – $200 every day to give your pet penguin the recommended daily ration; in a week you’ll spend $500 to $1000 on feeding alone. I’m sure you can tell that keeping a pet penguin will surely put a dent in your pocket.

2. Company or multitude

If you truly want your penguin to feel at home, then you’ll have to get it a companion. Penguins are social animals that move in groups: this is why you usually see them flock together at the seaside before or after hunting.

So, best case scenario, you’ll have to acquire a number of penguins to make up a group, or worst case scenario you’ll have to acquire a male and a female.

Top 5 Challenges With Keeping A Pet Penguin

There’s also the requirement from the government, that you keep more than one penguin (specimen), especially if you’re running a kind of reserve or zoo. Taking care of more than one penguin is a whole new level of trouble and expense.

3. Habitat

Penguins are natives of the antarctic regions. Penguins were made to live in the cold. This automatically makes them the wrong kind of pet to have in a tropical region.

It’s not clear what kind of complications penguins may have if raised in hot areas, but, certainly, they won’t live a good life. The best you can do is to try to keep them in a very cool place or facility with near-zero temperatures.

Asides from the temperatures, you’ll need to create the right kind of environment for swimming. Penguins are water birds that swim at 20 miles per hour, diving hundreds of feet deep in cold icy waters.

For your penguin(s) to be healthy and strong, you have to make some kind of saltwater pool for them. Normally penguins hunt for fish while diving, but in this case, you can just feed them fish later if you can’t make fish available in the pools.

4. Wild Nature

Just so you know, penguins have never been domesticated before. They may look cute and fluffy, but the last thing you want to do is cuddle a wild penguin.

Penguins are quite untrainable, so you won’t be able to teach them to use the litter box, or to stay quiet when you’re working.

And did I mention they’re very noisy? Penguins make loud noises when excited, hungry, or disturbed. They do have their own share of bad habits.

5. Messy

Penguins eat a lot, and guess what; they poop a lot too. If you’re not ready to clean up their mess every day or hire someone to do them, you had best let these birds remain in the wild.

Penguin poops smell a lot like rotten fish: you definitely don’t want such an odor in your home. If you run a facility, you’ll spend a lot of time and money cleaning up their pool, as this is their favorite place to poop.

Cost Of Acquiring A Pet Penguin

The cost of acquiring a pet penguin ranges from $1,000 to $20,000. Actual prices will vary depending on the merchant, the age and specie of the penguin, and the shipping fees involved.

Cost Of Acquiring A Pet Penguin

Where Can I Buy A Penguin?

You won’t find penguins in your local pet stores. The only way out is to search online for stores or professional breeders that sell penguins. Once you find one, contact them and place your order.

Top 8 Penguin Species

The table below shows the top 8 Penguin Species. If you live in countries that claim certain parts of Antarctica (these include New Zealand, Australia, France, Chile, Argentina, Norway, and the UK), you’re sure to run into these cute birds once in a while.

Emperor PenguinAntarctica Only
Adelie PenguinAntarctica Only
GentooAntarctica and sub-antarctic
Chinstrap PenguinAntarctica and sub-antarctic
Macaroni PenguinAntarctica and sub-antarctic
Rockhopper PenguinAntarctica and sub-antarctic
Magellanic PenguinSub-antarctic only
King PenguinSub-antarctic only

Final words

Penguins can be very cute and cuddly, but in the end, these creatures don’t make good pets. Keeping them just brings too many challenges. Furthermore, their endangered state makes them more difficult to obtain than most exotic pets. All in all, pet penguins are a luxury that can only be afforded by the wealthy. If you don’t have the facilities and cash resources to maintain these birds, you had best admire them from afar.


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