Can You Have a Pet Raccoon — and Are Raccoons Good Pets?

By David NaarLast Updated Mar 17, 2021 12:33:26 AM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Tito the Raccoon/YouTube

Have you ever wanted to pal around with a pet raccoon? Well, if you live in one of the states that allow pet raccoons, that dream could be a reality. So, which states allow for raccoon domestication? The list includes:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Michigan
  • Wyoming
  • Wisconsin
  • Texas
  • Rhode Island
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

But just because you can adopt a pet raccoon, does that mean you should? After all, there are quite a few logistical hoops to jump through permit-wise — and a lot of hard-and-fast rules. For example, in Arkansas, a person can’t own more than five raccoons at a time. In Indiana and other states, the owner must have a wild animal permit. And, in North Carolina, a veterinarian must "approve" the animal before it’s brought into the state.

Is It Safe to Have a Raccoon As a Pet?

Aside from the legality issues in some states, you may also want to consider your lifestyle and access to resources. Although that may sound like run-of-the-mill pet adoption advice, it’s also true that raccoons are not your average house pets. For example, acquiring a raccoon pet is much more difficult than adopting a cat or dog. Attempting to domesticate the wild raccoon who visits your yard is a terrible idea, so, if you’re serious about your adoption efforts, you’ll want to contact a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian who may know of an injured raccoon in need of a foster home.

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Photo Courtesy: Tito the Raccoon/YouTube

Moreover, if you come across a baby raccoon in nature, make sure it has actually been orphaned and/or injured before you attempt to come to its rescue. If the baby isn't obviously injured, the Humane Society suggests placing it under a clothes hamper (with a light weight on top) or in a pet carrier with an angled stick keeping the door closed. That way, if it turns out that the mother is just out hunting, she can easily spring her baby from the ad hoc pen when she returns.

If waiting around for a raccoon in need isn’t your thing, you may also be able to adopt one — for a fee — from an established breeder. But, before you commit, there’s a great deal of other factors to consider before bringing a raccoon into your home.

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The Health and Habitat Considerations of Pet Raccoons

Ironically, many of the reasons that raccoons can make excellent pets for some people are also why they’re not a good fit for others. That is, raccoons are very intelligent little creatures, and they have great memories and problem-solving skills. Due to their intelligence, raccoons can be potty trained and, much like dogs, learn their names and a few basic commands. On the other hand, raccoons can also portray some cat-like habits: While they might understand a command, that doesn’t always translate into obedience.

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Photo Courtesy: Tito the Raccoon/YouTube

Some raccoons have been known to bond with their human owners, especially when adopted at a very young age. But even raccoons born in captivity tend to retain many of the traits they’d rely on if they lived in nature. In other words, they might be quick to bite when annoyed or scared. So, an aggressive training approach probably isn’t the path forward when it comes to raising a raccoon. Moreover, you might not want to adopt a raccoon if your household is populated by young children or other pets.

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Much like any pet, raccoons need to get in their exercise. These naturally curious creatures can’t be idle, and, instead, need plenty of space to roam and explore. Instead of trying to crate train a raccoon, consider allowing them free range of your home and providing them with an enclosed outdoor space as well. This will likely mean raccoon-proofing your house, especially because these cute critters love to chew, climb, and mess with items. Think you’ll be able to just supervise them? You might want to reconsider. Raccoons are nocturnal after all.

Everything Else You Need to Know About Pet Raccoon Care

Before bringing any pet into your home, you’ll want to do your research. After all, a healthy pet is a happy pet. First, you'll want to make sure that there's a vet in your area who treats raccoons since they don't tend to be the most common pets. Much like a dog, your raccoon will need to be vaccinated against common diseases, such as rabies. And, unless you want to deal with raccoon "puberty," you’ll want to have your new pet spayed or neutered.

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Photo Courtesy: Tito the Raccoon/YouTube

As far as feeding goes, raccoons are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. If you’re looking for an easy solution, pet raccoons eat grain-free dog food, but they can also subsist on a diet of poultry, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables — and even mice. Of course, you'll also want to make sure your pet has access to clean water. In order to mimic a wild raccoon’s diet, try giving your pet nuts and seeds as treats. If you really want to play into their scavenging instincts, try hiding these treats around the house, in small boxes, or on shelves. This will keep them both physically and mentally active.

So, What Do Raccoon Owners Have to Say?

A few years ago, a tame raccoon named Tito began taking the internet by storm after his owner Mitchell rescued him from an attic while working a pest control job. As Tito was just a baby at the time, Mitchell made several attempts to contact animal rehabilitation centers, but didn’t have much luck. Eventually, the two became friends. And Tito went on to become a YouTube and Instagram sensation.

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Photo Courtesy: Tito the Raccoon/YouTube

Mitchell and his wife, Sara, ended up adopting two more rescue raccoons, Cheeto and Piper. Now the trio of raccoons pose for adorable photos and create charming artwork for their fans to purchase. Once, Tito even tried his paw at ASMR. "We do not recommend a pet raccoon to most people," Mitchell noted in an FAQ on his website.

"Raccoons require a lot of time, space, and resources that most people cannot accommodate!" On the other hand, for the right people raccoons can make incredible pets. Just know that no matter how fun and trendy Instagram makes raccoon ownership look, you’re in it for the long haul. Seriously. While the average raccoon lifespan in the wild is anywhere from 2 to 10 years, domesticated raccoons can live for up to 20 years. So, if you have the time, energy, and determination, look into becoming a raccoon parent. But remember to do your research and give it a lot of thought before taking those first steps.

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