Can Raccoons Be Pets?
With adorable little hands and inquisitive expressions, pet raccoons have become trendy. Pumpkin, the most famous trash panda, has 1.5 million followers on Instagram. Through sunny filters, fans get a glimpse of Pumpkin’s high-class lifestyle — lounging poolside, massaging his dog companions and savoring tasty bowls of edamame.
These dumpster divers are smarter than dogs, and their antics can be endlessly entertaining, but like all Instagram celebrities, looks can be deceiving.
Like many pet raccoons, Pumpkin was taken in as a baby when she fell out of a tree in the Bahamas. With a broken back leg and no rescue facility in sight, Pumpkin’s saviors gave her a rarified life of air conditioning and bottomless watermelon.
But having a pet raccoon isn’t always this rosy. For a more accurate look at life with these masked bandits, check out Raccoon Willie, who shamelessly ate through the dry wall above his owner’s kitchen cabinets. Read on to find out why the risks of having a pet raccoon can often outweigh the rewards.
These Bandits Break the Law
In many states, it’s illegal to own a pet raccoon. And in all states, it’s illegal to take an animal from the wild. That means any legal pet raccoon must come from a licensed exotic animal breeder.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Raccoon
Clever and mischievous, raccoons will get into lots of trouble if they are left unsupervised. They love to gnaw and claw, destroying your home and your belongings along the way. Be careful, because these willful little beasties can go from curious and cuddly to aggressive and territorial in a matter of minutes.
Wild at Heart
Unbelievably intelligent and undeniably adorable, it’s easy to forget that raccoons are not actually pets. Unlike dogs and cats, which have been domesticated for thousands of years, raccoons are wild, moody and looking for trouble. Even after several generations of captive breeding, raccoons remain wild and willful.
Careful, They Bite
When a raccoon is unhappy, frustrated, stressed or hormonal, its natural instinct is to bite — family members, pets and visitors. Since unsupervised adult raccoons can’t be trusted, they are a medical and insurance liability.
They sure are cute, but there’s a reason they’re called trash pandas. Raccoons carry parasites like roundworm, bacteria like salmonella and infectious diseases like rabies, distemper, Chagas and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Eating House and Home
Due to their wily ways, raccoons cannot roam your home unattended. They may destroy your furniture, trash cans, drywall, moldings and even attack your other pets.
And since these eight to 20-pound fur balls are too busy to be crated, they require their own room full of bedding, toys and climbing perches. Without space, exercise and enrichment, they’ll get destructive in a hurry.
These little rascals can exact punishment when they feel overlooked or ignored. They’ll destroy houseplants, pull buttons from clothes, flip water bowls, dump bookcases, strip bedding, steal shiny objects and relocate your stuff.
Even if your belongings are safely secured, these masked bandits have human-like fingers that can break any lock or latch you throw their way.
House Broken? Nope
Unlike domesticated pets like dogs and cats, raccoons aren’t easily housetrained. Some can be trained to use a litter box, a toilet or go outside on a leash, but there’s no guarantee your home won’t become a giant bathroom.
They Don’t Eat Cheap
Say goodbye to your clean kitchen, because raccoons are messy eaters who like to dunk their food in water before they eat it. They also require a widely varied diet of fruits, veggies, insects, protein and high-quality dog food. And their penchant for obesity means junk food must be carefully restricted.
Vets are Rare
Many vets have never cared for a raccoon, so you’ll have a hard time finding help when your raccoon is sick. This is unfortunate, because raccoons can develop a host of medical issues, including obesity, skin infections, fleas, intestinal parasites and urinary tract infections.
Baby Sitters are Even Rarer
Good luck finding someone to care for your wily critter when you’re away. Many people are scared and intimidated by these inquisitive creatures, so finding a sitter could be even harder than finding a vet.
Raccoons are a lot like people, but their adorably humanlike traits also make them difficult pets. These nocturnal mischief-makers will respond to their name, but they’ll pick and choose when and what they obey. And they’ll have accidents and destroy things if they are bored or want to punish you.
Raccoons are Forever
Having a raccoon is like having a puppy for 10 to 15-years. Providing enough attention and supervision can be a full-time job. And adorable baby raccoons often grow up to become unpredictable adults with disciplinary issues. So, if it doesn’t work out, there is no way to release a partially domesticated raccoon back into the wild — making euthanization the only option.
If You Must Get a Raccoon
If pet raccoons are legal in your state, and you have your heart set on one, be sure to adopt one from an established breeder. Raccoons that are socialized at an early age will be more likely to bond with you.
Once you are certain you don’t have any pets or small children who could be harmed by a raccoon, find a qualified vet and get your raccoon neutered and vaccinated against common diseases.
If you come across an injured or abandoned baby raccoon, call a local wildlife center that is trained in caring for injured wild animals.
Just Say No
If you’re not up for a 10- to 15-year, 24-hour commitment, your best bet may be getting a cat that resembles a raccoon. There are thousands of homeless domestic pets who would love to come home with you.
Raccoons are adorable little creatures whose curbside antics are best left outdoors. If you find yourself with an uninvited raccoon guest, you need a professional who can relocate your furry friend. Call Stark today and keep your love for trash pandas confined to your Instagram feed.