Caring for Pet Sloths

Basic Care of Sloths

Bradypus tridactylus
Nicolas Reusens / Getty Images

Two-toed sloths are rising in popularity as pets. They are very calm, slow moving creatures who eat special diets, are quiet, need a lot of trees to climb on, and can live up to 30 years. But despite their rise in popularity, there are very few legal breeding facilities where one can purchase a two-toed sloth and more and more people and places who are taking part in the illegal trade of the three-toed sloth that does very poorly in captivity.

Pet Sloths: Basics

  • Name:  Two-toed sloths, Linnaeus's two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus), Hoffmann's two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmann)
  • Size: Up to 17 pounds
  • Lifespan: Over 30 years in captivity

Pet Sloth Housing

In the wild, two-toed sloths spend all their time in tall trees. They are not able to really walk on the ground since they have claws at the ends of their arms and legs and not hands or feet; they need plenty of trees or structures to spend their day hanging from. Sloths are not quick creatures by any means, so keeping them in a secured area would only be for their protection from other pets and people.

Logs, poles, branches, and other items that you are able to use to create room for your sloth to climb on must be positioned within reach of each other since sloths do not jump from tree to tree like lemurs and monkeys.

Sloths are from Central and South America where the environment is very hot and very humid.

They need this same kind of humidity and temperature even in a captive environment. This can be difficult to duplicate without having your sloth contained in a large room that allows you to control the environment. A small bedroom with things to hang on is recommended along with heaters and humidifiers to recreate a tropical atmosphere.

If it doesn't feel like a rainforest (about 90-100 degrees with 80-90% humidity) or a hot day in Florida in that bedroom, it isn't a good environment for your sloth to be in. Sloths that remain too cold for too long will experience a drop body temperature and their digestive system will shut down. It's okay to take your sloth out of their makeshift rainforest room for periods of time, but he must go back to his room to sleep his 15-20 hours a day.

Feeding Pet Sloths

Sloths eat leaves. One of the hardest parts of owning an exotic pet is trying to replicate their natural diet in captivity. Thankfully zoos are continuing to do research on diets of exotic animals in captivity that exotic pet owners can use. Therefore, if you do not have access to the kinds of leaves found on the trees of Central and South America (most people do not), you need to obtain a leaf eater pellet like the zoos feed their sloths. Marion Leaf Eater pellets are one kind of leaf eater pellets you can feed but in addition to the pellets, you should offer some lettuces, dandelion greens, apples, and an occasional grape as a treat. It is important to remember you cannot just feed leaves off the trees in your backyard to your pet sloth.

Not all leaves are equal.

Other Care of Pet Sloths

  • Many people think you can just clip the sharp claws on a sloth so they do not scratch you, but sloths actually need their claws to properly grip onto branches and trees.
  • Sloths are also great swimmers so if you want to give your sloth a bath or let him swim in a pool (no chemicals in the water!) he might enjoy a good swim.
  • Make sure it is legal to own a sloth where you live before purchasing one.
  • Find a few exotics vets in your area that will treat your sloth in case he gets sick. Not every vet, especially exotics vets, are available at all times, so it is a good idea to have a list of vets to call when you have a problem in case your regular vet is not available.

Disclaimer: We do not recommend keeping sloths as pets due to their very specialized diet, environment requirements, and the difficulty in knowing for sure that your sloth was not taken from the wild. This care guide is meant to provide some accurate information for those of you who are aware of the difficulties in owning a sloth and choose to own one regardless and want to provide the best care possible.