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Can You Keep a Sloth as a Pet? Here's the Real Answer

Can You Keep a Sloth as a Pet?
Buying a pet is not an easy task, earlier people used to opt for usual animals like dogs, cats, rats, and birds. But, nowadays everybody is fascinated and thrilled to bring home an exotic pet. One such animal is the sloth. Many pet enthusiasts want to keep a sloth as pet, because it is known to be friendly and cuddly. But can you keep one as a pet?
Ashmeet Bagga
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2017
Did You Know?
In spite of their labored walk on land, sloths are known to be great swimmers.
Sloths love to cuddle and are attention seeking mammals. They belong to the Megalonychidae and Bradypodidae families. There are two types of sloths: Two-toed sloths and three-toed sloths. These mammals are also related to ant-eaters because they sport the same set of claws.

Sloths are known to be very sluggish, slow, and lazy. Most of the time, you will find them hanging onto a tree's branch if they are not sleeping. They prefer climbing trees and branches, reason being, they have trouble walking on the ground because of their claws. They rarely descend from the trees, only to defecate, which is once a week. Their ears are tiny like humans, their fur color varies from brown to gold. Sloths in the wild live a solitary life, but in captivity, they stick together and play together.

They love to eat plants and their all-time favorite is the hibiscus plant. Very little is known about this animal; however, if you are planning to keep one as a pet, why don't you ask yourself, are you ready to be a good owner?
Points to Consider
Bringing home a sloth that is used to the environment of Central and South America is not an easy task. It involves seeking a license, finding a breeder, locating a local vet who is qualified and ready to treat exotic animals, etc. Taking care of a sloth demands attention, special care, and lots of money.
★ Obtaining a License
You need to consider the state laws on owning an exotic pet before you plan to get a sloth. Potential owners have to meet certain criteria and conditions, and obtain license and special permits. It is compulsory to apply for exotic pet insurance. Besides, you need to get familiar with the local county laws in your area about keeping an exotic animal as a pet to avoid hefty fine and possibly jail. The website Bornfreeusa will give you in-depth information about the legal formalities and contact information about the proper offices in the state. There are a very few places from where you can buy a sloth, but the illegal trade of sloths is rampant.
★ Choosing the Right Type
Sleeping sloth
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of sloths, and the two-toed sloths are known to be larger of the two species―they weigh around 12-19 pounds―they also make suitable pets. Three-toed sloths do not adapt well, when taken out of their natural habitat. Even though a two-toed adapts easily, as an owner, you need to take extra efforts so that they adjust to life in captivity.
Sloth hanging
★ Cost
A baby sloth can cost between USD 2,000 - USD 4,000, but that is just the purchase price. You need to spend on vaccinations, food, cage, extra provisions, etc. Their lifespan is more than 20 years. Getting a sloth home is like bringing home a baby, except that a human baby grows up and one day leaves, but you need to take care of a sloth for its entire life. You need to consider your financial situation for the next two decades before taking any decision.
★ Feeding
Sloth eating
They are known to eat leaves, but not just any leaves. Now, of course, you cannot go to the forests of Central and South America to get leaves for them. Many zoos in California are carrying out research on their eating habits, which can prove beneficial to pet owners. You can buy a leaf eater pellet like Marion Leaf Eater pellets. But in addition to this, you can feed it lettuce, apples, baby carrots, squash, sweet potato, green beans, etc. Their digestive system is fairly sensitive, so their diet should be carefully examined. Feed them goat's milk. Water, obviously, should be easily accessible. It should be poured in a bowl and kept within their reach, on the ground and higher areas.
★ Enclosure and Climate
Sloths have lower amount of mass muscle as compared to the other animals, they don't shiver when it gets cold, in an effort to stabilize their body temperature. Therefore, you need to provide a warm climate for your captive sloth. A warm enclosure or cage that has a high humidity should be provided. You need to simulate the rain-forest climate for your sloth to feel comfortable. They are highly sensitive to extreme climates. So, extreme heat or extreme cold can prove fatal to sloths.

Though sloths are considered lazy, they require ample space to carry out their foraging activity. An 8-ft high cage can make an ideal enclosure, you can buy one or get one customized according to the available space. If you do not have ample space, a small room can be ideal to house your sloth. A small room allows you to control the temperature by placing heaters and humidifiers. Be ready to bear the energy bills for these provisions though. Fill the room or enclosure with branches, ropes and other equipment for the animal to hang around. You can buy one large walk-in bird aviary, they come in all shapes and sizes. Always remember, don't introduce stuff that will be toxic for your pet.

If you are planning to keep 2 or more sloths together, make sure they are well-behaved as males tend to fight. Also, two-toed sloths are active at night, while three-toed sloths are not. So, keep them separate. You can put a hammock in their cage as a bed, but once they are domesticated, you will find them lounging on your sofa or bed. They sleep for 10-15 hours a day.
★ Behavior
Sloths are known to be quite docile and silent animals. Till date, there have been no reports of a sloth getting aggressive and attacking humans or other animals. They are known to be very affectionate; even though they are tagged as slow animals, they love to play. Many owners claim that they love to play peek-a-boo. They love seeking attention, and many times, you will hear loud shrills, simply because you are not paying attention to them. Sloths love to cuddle and may become grumpy if you don't hug them, but a small hug will melt their heart. They are easy to deal with it, because they don't try to run away and due to their slow movements, are easy to keep an eye on. They love soft toys and won't ever let go of their possession, even while sleeping.
★ Vet Care
The chances of finding a vet with experience in dealing with a sloth are very slim. You must try to find a vet who deals with wild animals and exotic animals. Sloths have very sensitive digestive systems, so extra precautions have to be taken if your pet falls sick. Sloths, when transported from one place to another, are prone to stress, and the chance of mortality is high. So before getting a sloth, talk to your local vet or one who has experience in dealing with sloths.
★ Reproduction and Baby Sloths
Baby sloth
Females conceive only once a year, and pregnancy can last up to 6 months or maybe a year. So if you bring home a female sloth, she will give birth to one baby sloth. Baby sloths, just like humans, spend two years with their mothers learning how to eat and how to stay safe. Young ones lick leaf fragments from their mother's lips, which gives them an understanding about the appropriate leaves to eat.
Even though sloths are cute and cuddly, they can get depressed really fast when separated from their natural habitat. They need extensive care and love, they are known to live for more than 20 years in captivity, if treated properly. So my suggestion is to leave the wildlife in the wild, where they will thrive and live a healthy life. After reading the pros and cons, I am sure you will be in a better position to know whether you are capable of taking care of a sloth.