- Raccoons are incredibly intelligent. “Raccoon-proofing” your home will be more challenging than dog- or cat-proofing it.
- If you need or want to leave your pet raccoon for an extended period of time, it may prove difficult to arrange care for them. Boarding facilities won’t accept them, and a lot of pet sitters lack the experience necessary to care for them properly.
- Raccoons are known to carry a number of diseases, including rabies. There is currently no approved rabies vaccination for raccoons, meaning that you’ll always want to keep your raccoon indoors to keep it safe.
Every once in a while, you may see a raccoon being kept as a pet. While this isn’t legal everywhere, some areas do allow raccoons to be kept as pets. However, these animals aren’t domesticated and haven’t been bred to interact with people. Therefore, raccoons are considered fairly challenging pets to keep.
Sure, raccoons are incredibly cute, especially with the mask markings on their face. They’re about the size of a dog or cat, so keeping them in your home may not seem like that big of a deal. Plus, some people do domesticate them. President Coolidge even had a pair of pet raccoons in the white house.
Not everything is bad about owning a pet raccoon. However, not everything is good, either.
Owning a Pet Raccoon
Raccoons are more intelligent than most wild animals. We know that they have excellent memories and can problem solve. In fact, they’re more intelligent than most dog breeds. However, this intelligence isn’t always a good thing. Raccoons are extremely agile and dexterous. Therefore, they can get into things within your home that cats and dogs would never dream of.
Furthermore, pet raccoons are only legal in 16 states. Therefore, even if you could snatch one, you’d be breaking the law.
Raccoons may seem fluffy and cuddly. However, they have tons of energy and spend much of their time playing when domesticated. Raccoons being rehabilitated spend much of their time wandering around an getting into things. Still, they may cuddle from time to time.
Many pet raccoons spend at least some of the time in a cage set aside just for them. Because they tend to get into everything (even dangerous things), they require constant supervision when allowed to explore the house. When you aren’t home, the raccoon needs somewhere it can be safe.
Downsides of Owning a Pet Raccoon
Raccoons aren’t domesticated. Therefore, there are several challenges to owning one. Many of these are common with other type of pets, but some are unique to wild animals.
Difficulty Finding Vet Care
Raccoons often have a challenging time finding vet care, as most vets won’t know how to care for a raccoon. Even in areas where raccoons are legal, most vets don’t care for them regularly – if at all. Veterinary medicine isn’t developed for raccoons, and they may have reactions to medications made for dogs and cats. In many cases, the problem boils down to a sheer lack of information on how raccoons work from a medical standpoint.
You can often find exotic vets near most cities and even some rural areas. Often, these vets may be willing to see raccoons. However, that doesn’t mean that they will know how to treat them.
If you think going on a vacation with a dog or cat is hard, try going on vacation with a pet raccoon. Boarding facilities won’t take raccoons, especially since they’re known to carry diseases. Instead, you’ll have to hire a pet sitter to come to your home and care for your raccoon.
Of course, most pet sitters have never watched a raccoon and won’t know anything about they’re care. You’ll have to take that risk when hiring a pet sitter – or not go on vacation at all.
Sadly, raccoons are known to carry a range of different diseases. They often carry rabies, and there is no approved vaccination for rabies. Therefore, you’ll simply have to keep your raccoon inside and away from infected animals. However, if your raccoon bites or scratches someone, the authorities may confiscate the raccoon for safety purposes.
Raccoons can carry other diseases, too, like distemper and salmonella. They’re also prone to fleas and ticks, just like other animals. Baylisascaris occurs in raccoons with roundworms and can be deadly to people.
Unlike with most animal diseases, raccoons carry several diseases that can affect humans.
Raccoons are escape artists and amazing at getting into things. Many domesticated raccoons can open doors and child-proof locks. When you have one in your house, there isn’t much that is safe. Their long-fingered paws can be utilized for many human tasks, so traditional pet-proof barriers don’t work.
Furthermore, raccoons can learn through practice. A raccoon that’s just been domesticated probably won’t know how to open a door, but that doesn’t mean they won’t learn.
Cats and dogs have lived next to people for centuries. Therefore, humans have bred them for generations to make them more compatible with humans. For instance, dogs can digest grains largely because they’ve lived next to people for so long. Cats meow in their high-pitch voice because it sounds like a human baby and gets our attention.
These traditional pet species have evolved to be pets. Raccoons are wild animals and haven’t undergone this evolution.
For this reason, raccoons tend to be more aggressive than your average pet. In the wild, aggression is how a raccoon stays alive. In captivity, aggression is still a raccoon’s go to instinct. Some raccoons are more aggressive than others. However, the odds of ending up with an aggressive raccoon is much higher than with other pets.
Not only is owning a raccoon more difficult, but it can also be unsafe. Raccoons are a primary carrier of rabies, which means that many of them carry rabies. Rabies is deadly to humans, though there is a vaccination available. You must be vaccinated before you start showing symptoms.
The easiest way to stay safe around raccoons is to learn the symptoms of rabies. While raccoons may not show tons of symptoms early on, the disease progresses pretty rapidly. These symptoms include:
- Lack of response
- Uncoordinated walking
- Confused, erratic wandering
- Wet, matted fur
- Discharge from the mouth and eyes
- Repeated vocalizations
Generally speaking, the animal will appear confused and have coordination problems.
Raccons can also become infected with a range of parasites. These may be passed onto their owners or other pets through direct or indirect contact. Therefore, you’ll have to keep an eye on your and your pet’s health.
Adopting a Raccoon
If you decide to adopt a raccoon, you’ll need to find a quality breeder that breeds domestic animals. Taking an animal from the wild isn’t allowed by practically all laws. Plus, raccoons have to be handled and socialized from birth to make a good pet. A breeder is required, even though you’ll have to pay a bit of money for a properly bred raccoon.
Because raccoons are rarer pets, you may have difficulty finding one. Often, you’ll have to wait on a waiting list for your turn at a kit.
Taking Care of a Raccoon
Caring for a raccoon is different than for the typical pet. Your raccoon cannot be left to wander freely around your home without supervision. Therefore, you’ll need a spacious enclosure that your pet can roam around in when you aren’t home. Preferably, this enclosure should be indoors to reduce the risk of diseases, especially since there are no approved vaccinations for raccoons.
You can train your raccoon to use the litter box similarly to a cat. In fact, the process is basically the same, with many raccoons naturally utilizing the litterbox.
If you’re spending much time at home, you may be able to get away without an enclosure. If your raccoon is only left alone for short periods, a dog kennel of the proper size may work. However, your raccoon requires more exercise than the average pet, so it cannot remain inside the kennel for much of the day.
You’ll have to supervise your raccoon like a hawk when you’re home. Raccoons get into everything. Child-proofing your home is recommended. However, raccoons can get around many child-proofing measures, so don’t assume your house is ever safe.
Raccoons eat a range of different foods. Often, owners use a commercial dog food as their raccoon’s main diet. Obesity can become a problem for older raccoons, so free-feeding isn’t recommended. You can also give your raccoon a range of other foods, like fish, veggies, and fruits.
Raccoons prefer to “wash” their food in a bowl of water before eating it. Keep this in mind when setting up their eating area. They can make a bit of a mess.
What States Allow Pet Raccoons?
Are you still convinced that you want a pet raccoon? One more thing to consider is whether or not owning a raccoon is allowed in the state you live in (or country if outside the U.S.). Within the U.S., there are 13 states that allow private ownership of raccoons:
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Of the states where raccoons are allowed to be kept as pets, some may have restrictions, or require special license requirements or permits to own them. An example is the state of Delaware, where a wildlife rehabilitator permit must be obtained from the Division of Fish and Wildlife to own one.
In Arkansas, not only are raccoons legal, but many wild animals are allowed to be kept as pets like bobcats, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, opossums, and squirrels. But in states like Alabama, raccoons are illegal because of the diseases they can carry that are spreadable to humans and pets, and the fact they can get violent if scared or provoked.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/cullenphotos
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