Many people may not think of raccoons as pets but those who live with them find that they make fascinating and funny companions, although prone to a little, or maybe a lot, of mischief.
Is It Legal to Own a Pet Raccoon?
Before even considering a raccoon as a pet you should be aware that they are illegal in many areas. Check with your local and state/provincial regulatory laws before pursuing the idea of having a raccoon as a pet.
If raccoons are legal where you are then, and only then, should you start your search. It is best to obtain a pet raccoon from a breeder, although one may be difficult to find. Some have raised orphan raccoons as pets but this may also be illegal even in areas that you are allowed to have a captive bred pet raccoon.
It is also best if your raccoon is used to being handled from an early age. This will help make them more social and less prone to biting you (raccoons are prone to biting, especially if they feel threatened, so be prepared that this may happen).
How Long Do Raccoons Live?
Be prepared to make a long term commitment to a pet raccoon. They need lots of care and attention as well as supervision and if they are well cared for it is reasonable to expect them to live for 10-15 years. Just like any pet, you need to consider who can look after your pet raccoon if you go on vacation, pass away, or if something should happen that makes it so you cannot keep the raccoon.
They can't be released back into wild so you should always have a back up plan.
Veterinary Care for Pet Raccoons
Prior to getting your pet raccoon find a veterinarian who is willing to treat them. Even where raccoons are legal it may be difficult to find a vet who is willing to deal with them. Raccoons are susceptible to distemper and rabies and although they can be vaccinated with a canine killed rabies vaccine (it is unknown whether this vaccine is truly protective for raccoons), in the case of a human bite incident, regulatory agencies most likely will not accept the vaccine as effective and will confiscate or euthanize your raccoon.
Raccoons can develop all sorts of medical issues. Obesity, skin infections, fleas, intestinal parasites, urinary tract infections, and other problems may cause you to find yourself calling your vet so it is best to know who you're going to call.
Raccoons are messy eaters because they like to dunk their food in their water dish prior to consuming it. A big variety of food, including dog food, insects, vegetables, fruits, and protein such as chicken are some of the items raccoons should be eating on a daily basis. Treats such as nuts and other fatty foods should be offered sparingly to prevent obesity and daily enrichment activities using food should also be performed.
Housing Pet Raccoons
Raccoons are not small so most people who keep them in their house utilize a large dog crate to contain them when they aren't home. The majority of their time is spent roaming your house, playing, climbing on things, exploring, and being mischievous. They are too active to be content sitting in a cage for long periods of time.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT