Pet Rats

can cardinals be pets

Can Cardinals Be Pets?

When considering owning a pet, one’s thoughts may never turn to a cardinal. After all, unlike common household pets like cats and dogs, wild birds are usually seen more as observers and working members of the environment rather than companion animals. But can a cardinal–this most American and beloved of feathered birds–be kept a pet?

What Does the Law Say?

As most wild birds are legally protected by state and federal laws, the answer is generally no, cardinals cannot be kept in captivity as pets. While not always enforceable, owning a wild bird is usually prohibited, and if caught may result in fines or legal penalties. It is also important to note that wild birds such as cardinals, even if caught at a young age and hand-raised, do not generally make very good pets as they were not bred as companion animals.

What Are the Options?

If you are enthralled with the cardinal’s beautiful plumage and unique call, there are actually a few ways you can get close to these birds aside from owning one outright.

  • Bird Feeders: Birdfeeders are a great way to see and interact with cardinals. Fill the feeder with a variety of seeds, and soon the birds will become comfortable coming back to partake in a meal.
  • Bird Baths: Birdbaths provide lots of amusement and an interesting way to watch cardinals as they bathe and splash about in the water.
  • Bird Houses: Birdhouses can be especially fun for clever builders and hobbyists, as well as a great way to attract a wide variety of birds and their families to your property.


Though it is not advisable or legally allowed to keep cardinals as pets, there are still ways to enjoy the beauty and song of this lovely species. Feeders, baths, and houses are great ways to bring cardinals right to your own backyard and watch them at work in their natural environment.

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