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Can You Keep a Toad as a Pet? Vet-Reviewed Species Info & Basic Requirements

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By Nicole Cosgrove


Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Toads can make for interesting pets, but their shy nature combined with the production of bufotoxin and the fact that soap, oil, and other substances commonly found on human skin are potentially poisonous to toads, means that they are usually kept as hands-off pets. They are fascinating and fun to watch, but handling should be kept to an absolute minimum for your sake and the sake of your toad pet.

There are many species of toads in the world. While most are not kept as pets, many are. You will need to provide a suitable habitat, handle the toad carefully, and beware of the bufotoxin some toads secrete. You should also be prepared to care for a toad for the long haul because they can live 10 to 15 years, and some may live even longer than this.

Below we look at some of the most important factors when considering taking on a pet toad, as well as some of the species that are most often kept as pets.

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Please note that many states and jurisdictions may have legislation that prevents capturing or owning toads. Always make sure you have the permission to legally own an exotic pet before deciding to adopt one. Capturing wild animals is not advised, as this disrupts local ecosystems. Toads naturally produce toxins are not considered safe pets for children, the elderly, pregnant individuals, or immunocompromised individuals. They can also prove problematic for other pets, such as dogs and cats. In addition, amphibians may naturally harbor Salmonella and spread it to humans and other pets.

If you are in the US, please refer to state laws before deciding to adopt an exotic or wild pet. Elsewhere, please refer to relevant jurisdictions in your area.

Habitat Requirements

Every species of toad is different and comes from a different part of the world with a different natural habitat. This means that each species has its own requirements when kept as a pet. You need to closely mimic the conditions that the toad would live in in the wild to ensure your pet is safe and healthy. Some toads live in hot and humid environments while others hail from cold environments.

Research the species you are considering buying. Get a secure tank and install UV lights and heaters to meet the environmental needs of the species in question. You should also choose an appropriate substrate. Many toads are burrowing species so they will need a substrate that they can burrow.

North American spadefoot toad
Image Credit: Viktor Loki, Shutterstock

Handling Limitations

Toads secrete a toxin known as bufotoxin from glands behind their eyes. This toxin acts as a defense against predators and can make animals sick. In some cases, the toxin is potent enough that it can cause the death of small animals, and even dogs and cats. While the toxin is not usually strong enough to cause serious problems for healthy adult humans, it can cause allergic reactions and may cause skin irritation. Depending on the species, you may need to wear gloves to protect yourself from the toxin.

Another reason you might want to consider wearing gloves when holding your toad is that they can carry salmonella in their digestive tracts. This is true of healthy toads, and as well as possibly being able to pick up salmonella from the toad directly, it can be passed on from the water in their tank.

As well as the dangers that toads pose to you, regular handling can be bad for the toad itself. They are highly sensitive to soap, oil, and other chemicals on human skin so picking up and handling a toad can cause it to get ill. Wear disposable gloves when picking your toad up and wet them with clean water before picking the toad up. This will help protect you and can also protect your pet.

Toxin Secretion

The toxin that poses a danger to you can also be dangerous for any other pets you have. The toxin is designed to ward off predators and toad predators can include a range of small animals up to animals the size of foxes. Some toad toxins are capable of killing foxes and can prove fatal for cats and dogs, although other toads have toxins that are much less noxious and less likely to cause the death of a pet.

A Long-Term Commitment

It is surprising to many potential owners that frogs and toads regularly live up to 15 years. Many people assume they live for a couple of years only. This lifespan means that you will need to provide a home and care for a considerable length of time. Make sure you can commit to keeping a toad for as long as 30 years before taking one on.

The European green toad
Image Credit: zdenek_macat, Shutterstock

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The 3 Toad Species Commonly Kept as Pets

There are many species of toads and while not all are kept as pets, there are many that are. Below are 3 species that are most commonly kept as pets.

1. California Toad

A common California Toad (Anaxyrus boreas halophilus)
Image Credit: Jason Mintzer, Shutterstock

This beginner toad grows to a size of around 2-5 inches and has a shorter lifespan than a lot of species, typically only living around 5 years. They are inexpensive to buy, readily available, and can live in a 15-gallon tank. Water in the tank needs to be kept at about 75°F (24 °C) and you do need to provide low-level UVB lights for this species.

2. Cane Toad

cane toad in the water
Image Credit: Gualberto Becerra, Shutterstock

The Cane Toad was introduced to the US to help protect sugarcane plantations. It is a large toad species, growing to 6 inches, and has a lifespan of up to 25 years, so they do require a long-term commitment. It is inexpensive and does need a 20-gallon tank, however they cannot handle temperatures higher than 40–42 °C (104–108 °F) and lower than around 10–15 °C (50–59 °F).

3. Orient Fire Bellied Toad

Oriental Fire Bellied Toad closeup on wood
Image Credit: Agus_Gatam, Shutterstock

The Orient Fire-Bellied Toad is considered a species for intermediate owners rather than beginners. It is relatively small and only grows to around 2 inches long. This species does need low-level light and needs a daytime temperature of 82°F (27.8 °C). They can live up to 15 years and require a 15-gallon tank.

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Is a Toad a Good Pet?

Dogs are the most popular pet in the world, popular for their companionship, loving nature, and even their ability to listen to and obey commands. Despite these benefits, they aren’t the ideal pet for all owners. If you go out to work all day, a dog might not be right for you. It is the same story with toads, and it really depends on what you’re looking for from a pet as to whether a toad is a good pet choice.

If you want something to handle or cuddle, or that will play games, then a toad is not a good choice of pet. If you want something that will keep you entertained all day, most toads are nocturnal and many of them are burrowers that spend most of their time underground. However, if you do find toads fascinating, choosing an appropriate species and providing it with a good tank setup can bring a lot of joy.

Can I Keep a Toad in My Garden?

While it is difficult to force a toad to stay in your garden, if you provide the right environment and ideal conditions, one or more toads may choose to stay in your yard. Ensure they have plenty of hiding spots, that natural food is abundant, and that your garden is largely free of predators, and you should find that your toad will hang around.

common toad
Image Credit: jggrz, Pixabay

Can Toads Bite?

Toads may try to bite, but they don’t have teeth. Nor do they have hard beaks. As such, even if the toad makes contact with your finger, it won’t hurt and it won’t break the skin. It is unlikely to leave any kind of a mark and you may not really notice what happened.

Do Toads Like Affection?

Toads don’t form bonds in the same way humans do, although we do like to project these feelings and emotions on them. Your toad may learn to recognize you and will come to rely on you for food. You may well become attached to your toad, too, but it won’t be affectionate with you. Very few toads like to be handled, either.


Toads are amphibians that are characterized by their warty skin. They are generally shy creatures that prefer to stay away from people rather than be picked up and handled. However, they can make fascinating pets, are generally quite low maintenance, and because there are different species to choose from, you can find one with the environmental requirements and characteristics that best suit you.

You should be prepared for a long-term commitment, however, with some species living up to 25 years or more.

Featured Image Credit: delo, Pixabay

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