What You Need to Know About Pet Raccoons

North American Raccoon outside
Raccoons are not your typical pet but some people love them just the same. Ralf Poller / Getty Images

Many people may not think about keeping a raccoons as a pet but those that choose to find that they make fascinating and funny companions. Raccoons are a lot like a large ferret or puppy but have characteristics that are still special to their species and are full of mischief.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Raccoon?

Before even considering a raccoon as a pet you should be aware of your local laws since 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. Many states consider raccoons to be native wildlife or fur bearing animals and have special laws that pertain to these types of animals.

Where Do You Get a Pet Raccoon?

It is best to obtain a pet raccoon from a breeder, although these may be difficult to find. Some people 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. Taking native animals from the wild is not permitted in most areas.

It is also best if your raccoon is used to being handled from an early age since they can be prone to biting. This is another benefit to purchasing a raccoon from a breeder as the breeders typically interact with the young coons.

This will help them to be more social and less likely to want to test you with their teeth. Raccoons are curious and are still considered wild animals, even if they are purchased from a breeder, so they are less predictable than a puppy.

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 for the length of their life. 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 work 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 though), 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 before you need to do so.

Feeding Raccoons

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 sources like 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. Daily enrichment activities using food should also be performed since raccoons will easily get into trouble if they don't have something to do.

Housing Pet Raccoons

Raccoons, normally weighing in somewhere between eight and twenty pounds, 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 a raccoon's 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 so be sure to provide plenty of space and time to entertain your raccoon.

Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT