Cruel pet otter craze fuelled by Japanese otter cafes and social media


Wild otters are being poached from their natural habitat, confined in terrible conditions and irresponsibly bred to feed international demand

Just because a wild animal is cute, it does not mean you should take it home with you


Otter cafes 

In Japan, there are more than a dozen animal cafes featuring otters. Each animal at these venues is suffering for the sake of entertainment. 

  • The otters whimper, shriek and make distress calls while customers are interacting with them 
  • Some are kept in solitary conditions with no natural light
  • Others are seen biting their claws and exhibiting traumatized behavior
  • Some of the worst housing conditions include small cages with no access to water


Asian otters are threatened by the growing pet trade

An otter being held by the neck in a cafe in Tokyo, Japan

Poached to the brink of extinction  

Because of these cafes and images of pet otters on social media, wild otters are being hunted and trafficked out of existence to satisfy growing international demand. 

Our undercover investigation reveals the cruelty behind the illegal hunting, trafficking, and increased attempts to captive breed otters across Japan, Thailand and Indonesia: 

  • Otter cubs are snatched from their parents in the wild. The fiercely protective parents are shot, electrocuted or their nests are smoked out, so poachers can take their cubs 
  • Three out of four Southeast Asian otter species are at risk of extinction in the wild  
  • Suggested involvement of law enforcement and government officials facilitating the cruel trade 
  • It is a fairly common practice to cut or even remove the teeth of otters being kept as pets making them safer to handle.  At a rescue centre we visited, it was reported that this is seen in the trade a lot. Many otters arrive in sad conditions, tooth decay is common, and some arrive with no teeth, or have had their canines cut

You can read our report here.

Otters are #NotPets 

An otter will never be happy in captivity. 

They are born swimmers who will travel long distances in their native waterways.  

There is no way to replicate this in a home. 


Most pet otters are kept in spaces vastly smaller than their natural habitats and aren’t given the correct nutrition, even if owners have the best intentions to feed them properly. 

Otters are highly social and live in large family groups of up to 20. This is a far cry from their captive existence as pets. 

Cassandra Koenen, global head of Wildlife. Not Pets campaign says: 

“Just because a wild animal is cute, it does not mean it should be kept in someone’s home as a pet. Unfortunately, this fact appears to be lost on many people as they are influenced by social media, and influencers showing them off as fun and cool pets."

How you can help

  • Our investigations show that social media is a major driver in creating a desire for pet otters. You can help by not sharing videos showing pet otters, putting an end to the normalisation of the pet otter craze
  • Read our report uncovering the horrors of the pet otter trade
  • Help us spread the word: save the image below and post it in the comments of pet otter videos, raising awareness on the suffering of these animals ⬇