One look at their little masked faces and there is no doubt about it -- Raccoons are adorable.
But while these wily critters are certainly cute and cuddly looking, they're not exactly the easiest pets in the world. While enthusiasts and wildlife rehabbers will tell you they are fascinating and loving companions, keeping raccoons as pets is rare for a reason. There's a lot to take into account before deciding to bring a raccoon into your home!
Can You Have a Pet Raccoon?
Yes! In many areas of the United States, keeping a captive raccoon as a pet is perfectly legal. However, you should check state and county laws first; Even if your state allows you to keep a raccoon, some city ordinances will prohibit homeowners from keeping these exotic pets.
If they are permitted where you live, the best way to get a pet raccoon is through an established breeder. Raccoons bred and raised in a home with humans can bond more easily and adjust faster to life as domestic animals as opposed to a wild raccoon.
In What States Are Pet Raccoons Legal?
As of 2020, here are the states where it is reportedly legal to own a pet raccoon:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virgnia
Keeping Raccoons as Pets
Raccoons can be remarkably affectionate. They can become very attached to their owners and spend long periods of time snuggling. However, if they are afraid or become angry, they can and will bite. There have also been accounts of abandoned baby raccoons or young raccoons being good pets, but adult raccoons becoming mean.
Raccoons are very independent and still have wild instincts. There will be days where they want to play and cuddle all the time, and others were they want to treat to their own space. Because of that, they usually need a full room inside or an outdoor enclosure that is entirely theirs. They need plenty of toys to keep them occupied, bedding, and things to climb on and explore.
If they are not given enough space to roam and enough toys to play with, they can become very destructive and inquisitive, getting into places you wouldn't expect and causing damage.
Caring for a Raccoon
Raccoons also need special care to keep them healthy within your home. They should eat a diet primarily made up of fresh vegetables and fruits. Some chicken or fish, or high-quality dog food, should be used to supplement their varied diet.
While these small animals can be trained to use a litter box, if you irritate them, they will willfully punish you by having accidents and leave their feces around the home; Raccoons hold grudges!
Raccoons can learn their name and other commands, but because they are very clever, they can be selective about when they want to obey.
Finding a Veterinarian for Raccoons
In captivity, raccoons are known to have a life expectancy between 10-15 years old. They do require some veterinarian care, and it can be difficult to find a doctor willing to see a raccoon since they aren't common pets. You will typically have to look for an exotic or wild animal vet. Your raccoon will also have to be vaccinated for rabies and canine distemper. In addition, raccoons are susceptible to Baylisascaris parasites, a type of roundworm unique to these wild animals.
Raccoons can be loving and sweet pets, but they require a great deal of work and maintenance as they are still wild animals. They are not the kind of domestic pets you can leave alone for very long; When they get bored, your house can be destroyed in your absence!
The best thing you can do is research raccoons' needs and behaviors thoroughly before bringing one home. If you're considering raccoon ownership, make sure that all of your family members are on board with the commitment and the ways that having a raccoon in your home can offer a very real sense of enrichment to your life!
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