How Much Does a Lion Cub Cost?

Written by: Staff

Owning an exotic animal, such as a lion, is quite common in America and many have had the opportunity to raise a lion cub as a pet.  More than likely, owning a lion requires a license according to the state you live in and you can’t simply walk into a rescue and take one home.

lion cub by Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters), on Flickr
lion cub” (CC BY 2.0) by  Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters)

How much does a baby lion cub cost?

On average, a lion cub will cost anywhere from $1,500 to as much as $15,000.   The rarer the breed, the more you are going to have to plan on spending. On various exotic pet classified websites we found online, the average listing was $600 to $2,000, for example.

Owning an exotic pet, however, is highly regulated by the state.  In case your state’s laws permit these exotic pets at the home level, you will still need to apply for licensing from the proper agency, normally the Department of Wildlife and Rescue or an equivalent office.  You have to prove to the state agency that you are capable of taking care and barricading your potentially perilous pet from harming your community, your family, and yourself.  This is the most difficult part of applying for the license.  In some cases, you may have to hire a professional zookeeper to look after their pet lion cub before a license is issued.

The Big Cat Rescue, located in Tampa, Florida, says the average lion cub can cost $2,500, but aside from the initial costs, the website says you can expect to invest almost $22,000+ in your first year for a small to a midsized cub.

What are the extra costs?

You will need state and federal permits.  These licenses and dues can cost you well over $200 per year.

The state and federal agencies will also require you have a liability insurance, and this type of insurance policy can cost you $1,000 to $15,000 a year depending on insurance factors.  This policy is designed to protect you from lawsuits and other legal issues in the case that you lion should attack and/or injure someone.  Keep in mind it can be very hard to find a reputable insurance company to protect you.

Of course, you will have to buy a cage, feed it with a high-quality protein diet and also manage its health as it grows and this will significantly add to the animal’s cost.  High-quality food and vitamins will cost you $1,000+ per year and even more as it matures.  A cage, at a minimum, should be 15 feet deep, 10 feet high and at least 20 feet wide.

Annual vaccinations and other routine/unexpected medical treatments need to be budgeted for as well.  Just like a household pet, the costs can easily reach into the thousands if the cub were to need medical attention.  Unlike a household pet, however, a specialty vet will need to visit your location since it will be unsafe to take a lion to a local vet’s office.

Worming your cub each month can cost you between $45 to $70, and the cost of flea prevention will range from $100 to $250 a year, depending on the size.

A stainless steel travel squeeze cage, capable of holding your lion cub at its maximum weight, can cost between $250 and $2,500 depending on its size.

If you need to transport your lion for any reason, a durable van and a forklift will be required to deliver it from one point to another.

Also, most states have different cage requirements of varying standards.  Some states require that you have no less than five acres, for instance.  If you don’t have the acreage, then you may need to budget for new land.

Tips to know:

The average lion cub can live 10 to 22 years, and cubs, on average, can grow up to 130 inches long and can weigh up to 675 pounds.  Lions will mature at two years old.

Most states and federal regulations require that you have a perimeter fence that is at least eight feet tall on a minimum of five acres.

Not all vets will be capable of caring for your lion.  In fact, it may be quite hard to find one in your area that is willing to take a lion as a patient.  Make sure you research this before deciding to purchase a lion cub.

The Captive Wildlife Safety Act was introduced and passed in the US House of Representatives in 2004 to address the problems of availability of wild cats as pets. This Act prohibits the interstate and foreign trade in exotic cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and cougars for the pet trade. Circuses, zoos, wildlife rehabilitators and some other licensed facilities are exempt. This legislation was introduced with the sole purpose of making these big cats unavailable to the pet trade, although it is not an outright ban on ownership.  Experts estimate that there are around 10,000 to 15,000 tigers now kept as pets or in private facilities in the US. For perspective, it is estimated that there are only about 5,000 left in the wild.

Lion cubs are often purchased via exotic animal auctions or from private breeders.

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