These days, animal lovers rave about making exotic animals as pets. Wild animals like foxes, owls, otters, and, now, raccoons made it to the list of must-have pets. Unique animals like these elevate the status of the owner, but there is a myriad of things to consider before pushing through with your pet raccoon dreams. We at The Furry Companion would like to give you a rundown of all the things you ought to know about a pet raccoon.
What Is a Raccoon?
If you have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, a raccoon is Rocket minus the guns and the talking. They have distinct physical features like their fox-like look and dark grey striped faces. They have furry bodies that keep them warm during harsh winters and dexterous, long-fingered paws to help them open doors and containers. A raccoon’s body can weigh about 4 to 30 pounds. These adorable furries can live up to 15 years in captivity.
Being a nocturnal animal, a raccoon is more active at night time. They play, explore, and do dumpster diving in the shadows when everybody is asleep. Belonging to the omnivore family, raccoon owners must prepare meat-rich meals for their little furry babies.
Luckily, a pet raccoon is not like owls who prefer to hunt. Put their meals in a sealed jar, and you will, later on, appreciate your pet’s dexterity and problem-solving capabilities.
Raccoons are no ordinary animals you find in any pet store. The rarity of such a pet may give you the satisfaction of owning an exotic creature. However, do consider these pointers before adopting a raccoon. Being a coon mama or papa has its difficulties and cons. The Furry Companion urges aspiring pet raccoon owners to think before they invite this unusual wild animal to their home.
Reasons to Not Have a Pet Raccoon
1. Keeping a Raccoon Is Illegal in Some States
Wildlife and animal protection agencies have put stricter measures to the protection of wildlife species, such as raccoons. If you wish to adopt a raccoon, you should check first with your local government’s laws on wildlife domestication.
In the United States, more than 20 states prohibit citizens from adopting a raccoon as a pet, seeing it is a native animal that needs the wilderness to survive. Some states allow ownership of wild animals but enforce strict guidelines in raising the animal. For those thinking to use “creative” means to acquire a pet raccoon, importing the animal from outside the country is also illegal.
Once you have identified whether raccoon ownership is legal in your state, only then should you start your search for a raccoon. It is better to adopt a pet raccoon from a professional breeder rather than taking in a stray. However, there is a touching story of a stray raccoon who inevitably became a very well-behaved house raccoon.
The legal work does not stop there as owners should also study laws and regulations surrounding pet raccoon ownership. For example, owners must familiarize themselves with what happens should their pet raccoon randomly bite or scratch a person. What if your pet raccoon gets loose?
2. A Pet Raccoon Transmits Zoonotic Diseases
A raccoon can contract diseases and infect humans, including their owners. These are called zoonotic diseases. A fatal illness such as this is rabies. Once clinical symptoms arise, there is a high chance of fatality. Doctors forewarn aspiring owners that raccoons are the most common wildlife species contracting rabies. Dr. Ned Gentz, DVM, DACZM says that “even though a raccoon may be vaccinated for rabies, if the raccoon bites somebody, the legal authorities will not consider it to be vaccinated and the raccoon will have to be euthanized and tested for rabies.”
Raccoon owners also have to understand that their pet is an inherent biter. They will bite anybody from strangers to other pets and their owners. Even though rabies vaccination is available for raccoons, vets advise against this practice. The effectivity of canine vaccination against rabies injected into pet raccoons is still unknown.
In the event of a raccoon bite or scratch, authorities will not consider pet raccoons as vaccinated. Vaccination of pet raccoons are considered off-label and usually not honored by the legal authorities. They will order your pet raccoon’s testing for rabies and euthanizing.
Other diseases your pet raccoon may contract and pass on to humans and other pets are distemper, salmonella, and leptospirosis. Pets may also contract intestinal parasites that can infect humans as well. Baylisascaris procyonis is an intestinal roundworm fatal to human beings. You can contract it by ingesting raccoon feces-contaminated soil, water, or other objects.
3. Raccoon Healthcare Is Inaccessible
Responsible pet raccoon owners have to look for competent veterinarians who have worked with raccoons. Even in states where pet raccoons are legal, specialized vets are hard to come by. According to J. Jill Heatley , DVM, MS, DACZM, DABVP and co-author, “Vaccination protocols recommended for exotic mammals are therefore based on limited published information, anecdotal experience, and relative risk of disease to the species from the infectious agent or vaccination itself.” Pet owners have to acquaint themselves with their raccoon’s behavior. They need to watch out for signs of discomfort, lack of appetite, and general malaise in their beloved pets.
Pet raccoons are susceptible to distemper, skin infections, intestinal parasites, urinary tract infections, and fleas. However, pet raccoons adopted at an early age and bred by professionals are not so prone to such conditions. It is also the responsibility of coon parents to bring their raccoon babies for regular checkups, deworming, and vaccination.
4. Feeding a Raccoon Is Challenging
Keeping raccoons out of dumpster diving involves owners accommodating their pet raccoon’s preference for both meat and vegetables. A wide variety of food like premium dog food, fruits, and vegetables mixed with insects and proteins is enough. To keep your furry baby in shape and away from the risk of obesity, only a scant amount of nuts and fatty foods is advisable.
Meanwhile, baby raccoons, called kits, sup on milk replacement from pet stores. Remember to never feed a raccoon cow’s milk or human baby formula. However, a bad habit of theirs is dunking their food in their water bowls before consuming it. These messy eaters’ water dishes have to be regularly changed.
5. A Mischievous Raccoon Needs Space
Pet raccoons are mischievous critters, and it shows in their appearance. They have a bandit mask plastered to their faces.
Leaving a pet raccoon unsupervised will leave your living room into a torn mess. Before letting a wild animal such as a raccoon loose into your home, you should raccoon-proof it first. They chew on cords, climb shelves, and knockdown valuables. In an attempt to win attention or get back at their owner, the little bandits sometimes hide valuables.
When housing your little mess maker, it is crucial to consider their inability to stay caged for long periods. What animal would ever wish that? Raccoon homes should have a dog crate where they can stay when owners are not home. Other than that, pet raccoons spend their time roaming around the house and playing. They need lots of space.
If you are lucky enough to have a backyard or open space, build an outdoor enclosure for your pet raccoon. Make sure it is closed, so your pet raccoon does not wander. The outdoor playpen should contain beams and trees to climb and a protective roof for shelter. It should also contain ample amounts of food and water. Owners may also include toys to put in the playpen, whether indoor or outdoor, to keep their furry babies engaged and away from precious furniture. An enjoyable play toy for raccoons is this Nylon Chew Toy available on Amazon. This exciting toy is sure to keep your little raccoon engaged during playtime.
6. A Pet Raccoon Has Different Moods and Temperaments
Raising raccoons is like raising a ferret or a puppy. A raccoon has extreme attitudes: the affectionate and the hell-raising sides. Some owners are in for a surprise as their raccoon reaches the age of maturity.
As a kit, they are incredibly affectionate, especially if exposed to human interaction. When pet raccoons reach maturity at 6 months, they become hostile and sexually aggressive.
A hormonal change initiates within them, making them more irritable and prone to harming their owners and other pets. According to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, “Raccoons act out when they’re unhappy and hormonal. Their natural instinct is to bite when they’re angry, frustrated, or stressed.” Some raccoon parents do not have any problem with domesticated raccoons. However, they are still unpredictable wild creatures capable of harming loved ones.
7. Keeping a Raccoon Is a Tall Order
Welcoming a raccoon into your home signifies that you are ready for a long and demanding commitment. Since pet raccoons live up to 15 years, owners should have a back-up plan involved in their absence. They need to look for a suitable raccoon-sitter if they wish to go on an uninterrupted vacation.
Wildlife experts caution owners of the consequences of adopting a pet raccoon. Once domesticated, raccoons get accustomed to humans taking care of them. Therefore, freeing them to the wild is not a wise or responsible option for owners who no longer want to keep a pet raccoon.
What Pet Raccoon Owners Have to Say
Despite the movement against making raccoons as pets, a fair number of people have firsthand experience with raccoons. Here are some stories of people living with a pet raccoon.
A Pet Raccoon Is Intelligent
Several raccoon owners swear that they are smart animals. They have problem-solving capabilities most pets do not have. How else can they access animal-proof containers?
Aside from getting through obstacles, they can learn how to do tricks. Using a few keywords, raccoons can understand and practice doing skills. However, unlike Rocket the Genius Raccoon, raccoons cannot walk on two legs or fly a spaceship, but they can understand words and can pick up on tones of voice.
A Pet Raccoon Is Quite Loving
Naturally, raccoons are wild animals that have lived the majority of their lives with zero human contact. Reaching out your hand to them, even the slightest, may preempt them to take an offensive stance and end up biting you. Tame, rehabilitated, or domesticated raccoons, however, have more exposure to humans. Some raccoons are clingy and loving companions that love to cuddle on days on end. They are quite affectionate creatures.
A Pet Raccoon Is Trainable
The hardest thing about having a pet would be potty training. With their instincts, they are compelled to go anywhere inside your home. Fortunately, like dogs and cats, raccoons are capable of being potty-trained. Households having raccoons have a designated litter box for these little critters to do their business comfortably. It might take a while, but with consistency and practice, your coon is sure to pick up quickly.
The Verdict: Should You Own a Pet Raccoon?
In the end, wildlife experts advise against adopting these creatures. Being a coon parent is ultimately up to your decision and if the law allows it. Even with their unpredictability, these adorable mess-makers belong to a home capable of showering them with the love and attention they need. Adopting a pet is no joke, so expect more responsibility and commitment when adopting a wild animal like a pet raccoon.
These unpredictable creatures may end up being a significantly loved member of the family or a mischievous mess-maker wreaking havoc in your home. Pet raccoons are cute bandits who may steal your heart at first glance, but weigh the pros and cons before making any rattling decisions. Ask yourself: do you really want a pet raccoon?
Frequently Asked Questions
Do raccoons make good house pets?
Raccoons are generally sweet and loving as pets. Although they require much attention and maintenance. They should often have supervision because they might get bored and destroy house furniture.
How much does a pet raccoon cost?
A raccoon costs around $400 to $500. Including other essentials that a raccoon will need like playpen, cage, food, and toys, the expenses can be as much as $850 to $950.
Why raccoons are the best pets?
Best raccoon pets to get are those that are bred by humans since they are more domesticated. Raccoons are very affectionate and cuddly to humans. But beware of their temper and biting tendencies.
Are raccoons affectionate?
Yes, they are affectionate to humans. They also get attached to their owners and appreciate long hours of snuggling. But, remember, they will still bite if they get angry or alarmed.
Can you potty train a raccoon?
Yes, pet raccoons can be trained to use a litter box. Get a box that is appropriate for the size of your raccoon.
Will raccoon kill cats?
Yes, raccoons can kill cats. Cats may have the ability to run from raccoons, but raccoons are fast and have amazing hunting skills.
Are male or female raccoons more aggressive?
Neither of the sexes is more aggressive than the other, they are equal in general. Although, female raccoons with young can become aggressive.
How do you take care of a pet racoon?
As omnivores, racoons can consume both meat and plants as their diet. Some racoons would eat poultry, fish, insects, vegetables, fruits, and even dog food. Make sure to limit their consumption of fatty foods such as nuts and other fatty foods. You also need to give them clean water at all times to keep them hydrated.
A fitness junkie and a cosmopolitan traveler, Kathy is the mom of peppy baby Malaya and mixed beagle Holly. She’s a capable businesswoman who balances work with living a wanderlust life with her hooman and fur babies.