Can Raccoons Be Good Pets? Weighing Pros and Cons

Paul West/ Pet And Wildlife Care

Raccoons with their bandit-masked faces and mischievous antics often capture your heart in viral videos. But have you considered if these wild creatures can transition from backyard visitors to family pets? In this article, we’ll delve into the realities of keeping raccoons at home, from legalities to their complex needs.

Understanding the nature of these clever critters is key to answering whether they’re suitable companions. We’ll explore their behavior, care requirements, and the challenges they present as pets. Get ready to discover if you can truly cohabit with these curious animals.

Legalities of Keeping Raccoons as Pets

Before you entertain the idea of a raccoon scampering around your home, it’s crucial to understand the legal framework that governs the ownership of these animals. The legality of raccoon keeping as pets varies significantly from state to state and sometimes even by local jurisdiction. While some areas may permit raccoon ownership with specific licenses, others have stringent laws prohibiting raccoons as pets altogether.

In many states, wildlife possession is closely regulated to ensure the safety of both the public and the animals. To verify where your state stands, reach out to your local wildlife agency or check the state’s fish and game department. These agencies provide the necessary information and are tasked with issuing permits if they’re required for raccoon ownership. Here’s a brief rundown of different legal scenarios you might encounter:

  • States that allow raccoon ownership with a permit: These states often mandate a thorough application process that assesses your capability to care for a raccoon properly.
  • States with outright bans: Owning a raccoon in these states can lead to hefty fines or even criminal charges.
  • States with no specific laws: Even in the absence of state laws, local ordinances can impose their restrictions, so check with city or county offices.

If you find that it’s legal to own a raccoon where you live, the next step is to familiarize yourself with the requirements and responsibilities that come with such a permit. These might include:

  • Providing a suitable habitat with enough space to satisfy a raccoon’s physical and mental needs
  • Ensuring regular vet visits and vaccinations are up-to-date
  • Demonstrating knowledge of raccoon diet and behavior

Bear in mind that permits could be subject to annual renewal, and ongoing compliance with state and local regulations is non-negotiable. Ignoring these legalities not only puts you at risk for legal trouble but also jeopardizes the well-being of the raccoon.

The Behavior of Raccoons

Understanding raccoon behavior is crucial if you’re considering one as a pet. Raccoons are intelligent creatures, known for their curiosity and dexterity. They have nimble hands and are skilled at manipulating objects, which makes them masterful at opening latches, turning knobs, and getting into places they shouldn’t be.

Raccoons are also nocturnal animals, which means they’re active at night. Your home might come to life with their antics after dark, from foraging to playing. This nocturnal lifestyle can clash with your daytime routine, potentially leading to disruptions in your sleep and daily life.

In the wild, these animals are solitary but can adapt to family life if raised from a young age. However, they maintain a degree of independence, which can make them unpredictable. Their playful nature often translates into mischievous behavior, requiring close supervision and a safe, raccoon-proof environment.

These creatures require mental stimulation to keep from getting bored. Without it, they may resort to destructive behavior. Here are a few activities that can engage a pet raccoon:

  • Puzzle feeders that challenge them to obtain treats
  • A variety of toys to keep them entertained
  • Interactive playtime with the owner

Raccoon owners must be aware that these animals have a sharp learning curve and may remember where they find food, leading them to return to that spot repeatedly. It’s essential to maintain cleanliness and secure food sources to discourage unwanted foraging habits inside your home.

If you’re prepared for the investment in time to raccoon-proof your home and dedicated to ongoing behavioral enrichment, you might find a unique companion in a pet raccoon. However, it’s important to gauge whether you have the patience and flexibility to adapt to their nocturnal and independent demeanor.

Care Requirements for Raccoons

When thinking about adopting a raccoon, you’ll need to consider their unique needs. Comfortable Housing is a priority. They’re adept climbers and escape artists, so an enclosure must be secure. It should have climbing structures to satisfy their natural instincts and plenty of space to roam.

Diet plays a critical role in their health. Raccoons require a balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and protein. You can’t just feed them leftovers; think high-quality dog food, cooked meats, and specific fruits like berries and melon. Be mindful of their tendency to become overweight, monitoring portions is essential.

They also need Constant Mental Stimulation. This means providing them with toys and puzzles to keep their active minds engaged. Hide food to encourage their foraging behavior or invest in interactive pet toys that challenge them mentally.

Cleanliness is another aspect you can’t ignore. Raccoons can be litter trained much like cats. However, they’re naturally inclined to “wash” their food which can result in water bowls quickly becoming messy. Regular cleaning of their living space is crucial to prevent the spread of diseases, some of which can be zoonotic.

Remember, raccoons have sharp teeth and claws. Safety matters for both you and your pet. Regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and consistent handling from a young age can help to manage their wilder tendencies. Prepare to spend time socializing your raccoon to minimize aggressive behavior.

Lastly, don’t forget about Exercise. Raccoons are naturally very active and won’t thrive in a restricted space. They should have a secure outdoor area where they can climb and explore, ensuring they stay fit and healthy.

Caring for a raccoon is a substantial commitment. Your willingness and ability to create an enriching and safe environment will dictate your success in keeping a raccoon as a pet. Keep all this in mind when considering if a raccoon could be your ideal companion.

Challenges of Keeping Raccoons as Pets

When you’re pondering the idea of raccoons as domestic companions, it’s crucial to confront the complex challenges they bring. Despite their clever antics and undeniable charm, raccoons aren’t your run-of-the-mill pets. Their intelligence is a double-edged sword that demands constant vigilance and creativity from you as an owner.

Housing a raccoon can be a daunting task. You need an escape-proof space that can contain their curious, nimble fingers. Think about baby-proofing but on a whole new level; these masked critters are known for their dexterity and can open doors, drawers, and even windows. Plus, raccoons have a natural instinct to explore and dismantle anything in sight, which means your home must be meticulously organized and free of hazards.

Diet is another area that requires special attention. Raccoons are omnivores with voracious appetites, and they need a well-rounded diet to stay healthy. You can’t simply fill a bowl with kibble like you would for a dog; instead, you must offer a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, and high-quality protein sources. This isn’t just about nutrition; it’s also about keeping that keen mind occupied. A bored raccoon is one that will find trouble.

Socialization presents its own set of challenges. While young raccoons might adapt to human contact, they mature into solitary creatures that can become aggressive. You’re up against their intrinsic behavior, and no amount of training can fully tame their wild nature. Also, remember that raccoons are nocturnal, which means they’re wide awake and active when you’re likely trying to get some sleep. You’ll need to adjust your schedule significantly to accommodate their night-time activity peaks.

Finally, the legality and ethical implications of owning a raccoon must be considered. Many regions have strict regulations or outright bans on keeping raccoons as pets due to concerns about disease transmission and the impact on local ecosystems. Before taking on such responsibility, serious research into your local laws is imperative.

Remember, deciding to house a raccoon is not to be taken lightly. It’s imperative to weigh the pros and cons carefully and consider if you’re equipped to meet these challenges head-on.

Can Raccoons Be a Good Pet?

When you’re enchanted by a raccoon’s mischievous eyes and dexterous paws, it’s tempting to imagine having one as a pet. However, it’s pivotal to understand that while raccoons can show affection, they possess behavioral traits that make them challenging to domesticate.

You might be fascinated to know that raccoons are incredibly intelligent creatures. This intellect means they require constant mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Handing them puzzle feeders or creating an enriching habitat that’s ever-changing can provide much-needed mental exercise.

However, consider the full scope of their natural behaviors. Raccoons are nocturnal and are often most active when you’re ready to wind down for the night. They’re known for their destructive tendencies such as tipping over trash cans in search of food. Inside a home, this behavior can translate to ravaged cupboards and scattered belongings.

Socializing raccoons is another task that requires your dedication. Young kits may enjoy the company and engage in playful behavior, but as they grow older, their solitary nature kicks in. They can become unpredictable and aggressive, especially during mating season. Unlike dogs or cats, raccoons do not seek lifelong companionship from humans or other raccoons.

One aspect often overlooked is the health risk associated with raccoons. They are carriers of various zoonotic diseases like rabies and roundworms which can be transmitted to humans and other pets. You must be vigilant in maintaining their health and vaccinations, which involves finding a veterinarian skilled in exotic pet care—a task that can be both difficult and costly.

The practicalities of raccoon ownership extend to the legality of such an endeavor. Many states require special permits to keep raccoons, and some have outright bans. It’s essential to research and comply with your local wildlife regulations to avoid legal trouble.

Before opening your home to one of these striped bandits, weigh the joy of their company against the demands they present. Engage with local wildlife rehabilitators or caregivers who can provide real-life insights into the day-to-day experiences of living with raccoons. This firsthand knowledge could be invaluable in your decision-making process.


Raccoons are undeniably charismatic but they’re not the ideal pet for everyone. You’ve seen the challenges they present—from their need for constant stimulation to their potential for mischief and the health risks they carry. Before you consider a raccoon as your next companion, it’s crucial to weigh these factors carefully. Seek advice from those experienced in raccoon care and fully understand what you’re committing to. Remember owning a raccoon isn’t just a novelty; it’s a serious responsibility that requires commitment and a deep understanding of their needs.

Paul West
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About Paul West

Longstanding and passionate about really having family fun in the backyard. I'm no expert but I've picked up a thing or two along the way!