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Why is it illegal to own a hamster in California​? We have the answer!

California has some of the strictest pet laws in the world second only to Hawaii; but why is it illegal to own a hamster in California as well as certain other small pets?

pinterest image of a hamster

Just over the boarder in Nevada they have some of the most relaxed pet laws in America.

If you are found with an exotic pet or even a small one on the banned list you could face a hefty fine and the animal without question will be removed from. For more information on which pets are prohibited in California click this link.

Why is it illegal to own a hamster in California? The ban is due to the fear of a new invasive species population. If a hamster was to start populating in California it could quickly breed out of control. They could also harm native plants and animals.

What are the consequences if caught with a hamster in California?

If you are found in possession of an illegal Hamster. Here are the consequences you could face:

  • Criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
  • A civil fine of $500 – $10,000, plus the costs of the animal’s removal, storage and care.

Fines and even imprisonment is very rare but not unheard of. The usual outcome is that the animal would be removed and unfortunately disposed of. Safe homes are sort after but unfortunately, some cannot be housed and therefore are put to sleep.

The state of California pet laws and restrictions
California has very strict pet laws

Which other animals are illegal in California?

Sadly and understandably there are more than just hamsters that pose a threat to the natural stability of the wildlife in California.

Here’s a list of banned or illegal pets and animals in California:

  • Gerbils
  • Ferrets
  • Hedgehogs
  • Monkeys
  • Squirrels
  • Minks
  • Weasels
  • Polecats

Which hamsters and other small pets are legal in California?

Thankfully some small pets and certain hamsters are legal in California and you will not face prosecution for owning one. However, you do need to buy them from a registered breeder or pet store.

  • Golden hamsters
  • Dwarf hamsters AKA Chinese hamster (Cricetus griseus)
  • Rats
  • Mice
  • Guinea pigs
  • Chinchilla

California may be very strict on pet laws but they are also just as strict if not more so on pet/animal cruelty which we totally agree with. Read all about there Animal abuse and Cruelty law here.

California Bridge image: pet blogs- hamsters are illegal in california

Why is it illegal to keep hamsters in California?

We hope we have covered why it’s illegal to own and keep a hamster in California but just to recap. It’s due to the fear that they will escape into the wild and interfere with the natural wildlife, plant life and inhabitants in the Californian outland and waste lands.

It is understandable why they have imposed these strict rules. However, I’m not sure how it works if over the border in Nevada they can happily keep them and release into the wild.

Unless Hamsters respect the state laws I’m not convinced there are no Hamsters, Ferrets, Gerbils or Hedgehogs in California.

cute picture of a hamster
Cute Hamster but illegal in California!

Conclusion: Why is it illegal to keep Hamsters in California?

If you love Hamsters we suggest not moving to California, maybe move to Nevada where the pet laws and less strict.

All fun aside we understand why the restrictions are in place. California has some beautiful plant life and wildlife which are natural inhabitants of this state and we completely understand the need to protect them.

I still find some of the rules a little strange though. No Hamsters but rats are okay? LOL