Raccoons aren't common pets for good reason. They are extremely high maintenance and fairly unpredictable, which is why most animal experts advise against keeping them as pets.
Many will damage your home and belongings as part of their daily antics, are difficult to truly tame, and are notorious biters when something bothers them. Plus, raccoons have dietary needs and health issues that can be difficult to manage. And as active animals, they need lots of space to roam. But if you have the knowledge and time to properly care for a raccoon, they can be fascinating and funny companions.
Common Name: Raccoon
Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Adult Size: 16 to 28 inches long, and 7 to 20 pounds on average
Lifespan: Up to 20 years in captivity
Can You Own a Pet Raccoon?
Before even considering a pet raccoon, you should be aware of your local and state/provincial laws. Pet raccoons are illegal in many areas, and even where they are legal there are many laws surrounding their ownership. For instance, some states don't allow the importation of raccoons from other states.
In addition to checking the laws surrounding ownership, look carefully at regulations for raccoon owners. For example, what happens to your raccoon if it gets loose? What happens if it scratches or bites someone? In some areas, the laws are quite harsh regarding the treatment of wild animals kept as pets, and they might lead to your pet being euthanized if it's problematic in the community.
There also are ethical considerations surrounding pet raccoons. Are you able to provide a proper and enriching environment for the animal? Can you feed it a healthy diet with the correct nutrition? Will you respect its boundaries as an animal that can't truly be domesticated? You must consider what's best for the animal over your interest in owning one. Experts recommend spending time around raccoons via wildlife rehabilitation or exotic veterinary practices to see what they're really like.
Things to Consider
Be prepared to invest a lot of time and money in raccoon care. These active and mischievous animals need consistent supervision and lots of toys and other enrichment to keep them entertained. You also must determine whether there's a vet nearby who can treat raccoons, as well as who could watch your pet if you went out of town or were otherwise unable to care for it. We would also suggest calling your home insurer, to see if they will cover damage from a pet raccoon.
Raccoon Behavior and Temperament
Raccoons are intelligent animals, known for their good memories and problem-solving abilities. Plus, these North American natives are nocturnal, meaning they're most active at night. And even when they're born in captivity or raised by humans, they typically retain their wild traits. That means it takes a lot of effort to care for them.
As pets, they don't do well in cages or even in small bedrooms. They need space to roam, climb, and explore to be happy. However, their sharp claws and teeth can easily destroy your property. If they don't have enough of their own toys to play with—or they're just curious or bored—you might find them chewing on your door frames, ripping up your bedsheets, knocking over decor items, and more. In addition, their "masked bandit" reputation doesn't just come from the dark markings around their eyes. Raccoons are quite adept at breaking through latches and other secured areas if their curiosity gets the best of them.
Raccoons will bond with their humans, especially when raised in captivity from a young age. And many do become quite cuddly or playful at times. However, they also are generally quick to bite—even their favorite people—when something annoys or scares them. Plus, they might attack other pets in your home, especially small animals, as they are predators in the wild. So they are best kept solo.
While they do make some vocalizations, raccoons are generally quiet animals. But life won’t feel quiet with a pet raccoon. These animals require a lot of space, upkeep, and supervision.
Could You Own a Pet Raccoon?
Some people who keep raccoons house them in a large dog crate when they aren't home to watch their pet. However, raccoons are too active to be content in a cage for several hours. So the majority of a pet raccoon's time should be spent roaming your house: playing, climbing on things, exploring, and being mischievous. That means your home must be raccoon-proofed. Raccoons are prone to chewing on cords, climbing on shelves, and knocking down valuables. So anything that might injure them or become damaged must be removed from their area.
If you have the space, it's ideal to provide a secure outdoor enclosure for your raccoon. This is a great option when you're busy or need to leave your home and want your pet to have a safe space to play. An outdoor pen should be as large as possible with walls and a ceiling that will contain your animal. Many people build their own pen from wood and screening. Inside, your raccoon should have access to food, water, shelter, and structures (e.g., large branches) for climbing and jumping. Include toys, such as balls and food puzzles, to keep your pet entertained.
Specific Substrate Needs
For the crate interior where your raccoon might temporarily spend time, an easily washable blanket or dog bed on the floor should keep the animal comfortable.
What Do Raccoons Eat & Drink?
Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants. Offer your pet a varied diet, including dog food, poultry, fish, eggs, insects, vegetables, and fruits. Treats, such as nuts and other fatty foods, should be offered sparingly to prevent obesity. A dish of clean water should be available at all times. Consult your veterinarian for the quantity and variety that is best for your animal, as this can vary based on age, size, and activity level.
Raccoons are messy eaters. They like to dunk their food in their water dish prior to consuming it. That means you'll need to regularly change their water and feed them in a location where it's easy to clean up. Most adult raccoons need two meals per day in the early morning and late evening, though follow your vet's advice on this. You can simply put their food in a bowl. But it's also ideal to take some of it to put in food puzzles or hide around their enclosure as a form of enrichment.
Common Health Problems
Raccoons can carry a number of parasites, viruses, and bacterial illnesses, including:
- Canine distemper
- Intestinal roundworms
Raccoons born and raised in captivity are less likely to develop many of these diseases. But it's still very important to take your pet for regular vet visits.
Captive raccoons can be prone to obesity if they aren't given enough space to roam. Ideally, they should be allowed to move freely around your living area and provided with branches, shelves, and other items to climb for exercise. Some also enjoy playing with toys like balls.
Raccoons tend to go through a heavy shedding period at least once a year, as well as in times of stress. Gently brushing them during this time can help to prevent the loose fur from matting.
Raccoons are generally very clean animals and will groom themselves much like cats do. They only require occasional baths with a mild shampoo. Consult your vet for the best bathing frequency to avoid irritating their skin. Also, as pet raccoons won't be in their natural environment that wears down their nails, they'll likely need regular nail trims. An experienced vet should be able to do this for you.
On average, raccoons reach around 16 to 28 inches long, and they weigh between 7 and 20 pounds. They'll reach their full size between 4 months and 1 year old.
On a monthly basis, your main essential cost for a raccoon will be its healthy, varied diet. You also might need to spend money on new toys for mental and physical enrichment. Plan to spend between $30 and $50 per month on average, also budgeting for at least an annual veterinary checkup and any emergency medical care.
Training Your Raccoon
Thanks to their intelligence, most pet raccoons are able to learn their name and even a few commands, such as “sit” and “shake.”
Some raccoons can be trained to use a litter box. But they are rather stubborn and selective about when they want to obey. Litter training them is similar to how one would teach a cat to use a litter box.
Pros & Cons of Keeping a Raccoon as a Pet
Raccoons can be very amusing and playful pets. And some do enjoy cuddling with their humans. However, providing the right environment for them is difficult. They need lots of safe space to roam and consistent supervision. Plus, as nocturnal animals, their antics will likely keep you up at night.
Purchasing Your Raccoon
Never take a raccoon from the wild to raise as a pet. That is typically illegal in most places unless you're a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. And captivity can greatly stress a wild animal even to the point of killing it. Plus, animals taken into captivity often can't be released back in the wild if you decide you can't keep your pet because they become too reliant on and comfortable around humans.
Thus, it's best to acquire a pet raccoon from a reputable breeder. Adoption opportunities are usually few and far between for raccoons unless you are part of a wildlife rehabilitation network. An exotic veterinarian who knows raccoons might be able to point you toward a good breeder. Visit with the animal in person before you commit; don't acquire an animal over the internet or via a classified ad. Expect to pay between $300 and $700 on average, though this can vary widely.
A good breeder will be able to show you how they handle and interact with all of their young raccoons to help tame the animals and diminish their desire to bite. The breeder also should give you thorough information on the animal's origin and health history. Some red flags include a raccoon that is underweight with its ribs showing, as well as a very lethargic animal or one that is not interested in food. These are likely signs of ill health.
As you will most likely be keeping your raccoon solo, you won't have to worry about accidentally becoming a breeder yourself. You also can discuss spaying or neutering your raccoon with your vet.
Similar Exotic Animals to the Raccoon
If you’re interested in pet raccoons, also check out:
Please do your research as to whether owning one of these exotic animals is something you should do.
Is a raccoon hard to take care of?
Raccoons are very difficult to care for, as they need regular supervision and ample space. They are active and intelligent animals that require lots of mental and physical enrichment.
Can you domesticate a raccoon?
Raccoons can become relatively tame around people, but they'll never become fully domesticated. They might bite even their favorite people and are often destructive in the home.
How long do raccoons live as pets?
While they generally only live a few years in the wild, raccoons can live up to 20 years as pets.