Can Raccoon Be Pets

Can Raccoons Be Kept as Pets?

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Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are wild creatures who often live in close proximity to humans, whether they’re busily scrounging for food behind restaurants or scouring agricultural sites. Although raccoons are common sights for many people, they’re definitely not the most common pets around.

Illegal in Many States

The legalities of owning a raccoon depend on where specifically you live. Keeping a pet raccoon is strictly illegal in many states, including but not limited to New York, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky. If you reside in an area in which ownership of raccoons is prohibited, you are not permitted to spot a raccoon out in nature, bring him into your residence and care for him. If you’re passionate about owning a raccoon, however, find out whether you are allowed to do so by calling your area’s law enforcement centers.

Legal in Some States

While ownership of pet raccoons is banned in many states, it isn’t in others. Some states allow its residents to own pet raccoons without permits. Many states do call for permits in raccoon ownership, however. Other types of restrictions also often apply to owning a raccoon. Some states might only allow captive raccoons who were acquired from licensed breeders, for instance. Other states might have restrictions on exactly how many raccoons an individual can keep inside his home. Make sure you understand your region’s laws before you attempt to take a raccoon as a pet. If you can keep a raccoon only with a permit, apply for one as soon as possible. Indiana is one example of a state that allows pet raccoons, but solely with permits.

Considerations of Pet Ownership

If it turns out that owning a raccoon is legal in your area, make sure you think the whole idea through extremely carefully before making a decision. Raccoons, unlike dogs and cats, aren’t domesticated. When they become reproductively mature, they can adopt hormonal behavioral patterns, including fierceness fueled by territoriality. Mature raccoons can wreak havoc on the interiors of peoples’ houses. Adult males are usually more problematic, and hazardous, than females. Always consider safety in making your decisions. Think about your safety, the safety of other people around you, and the well-being of the wild animal. A youthful raccoon might seem cuddly. He’s anything but.

Veterinary Care and Raccoons

Behavioral concerns aren’t the only potential problems in raccoon ownership. As wild animals, raccoons can have diseases such as rabies. Parasites are a possibility in raccoons. Some of these diseases can be transmit to animals and humans — severe danger. If you get a raccoon as a pet, you must take him to a veterinarian immediately to check for illnesses. Since raccoons are such rare pets, it might be difficult for you to track down a veterinarian who is willing to look at yours.

Can Raccoon Be Pets

Raccoon dogs as pets

Advantages Disadvantages What you need
Food Medical Manageability
Behaviour Other animals How to get one

Being virtually unknow doesn’t help much in becoming a popular species. Yet the raccoon dog’s remarkable powers of adaptation make it very easy to keep as a pet. One needss little more that an enclosed section of a garden.

The advantages

Raccoon dogs are not particularly agressive and show caution and respect, but they will approach and will accept to be hand fed. It may take a while for a dog to allow the owner to approach without fear.

Raccoon dogs don’t bark, don’t wag their tail, don’t get over a fence of a meter or higher, unless it can be climbed, don’t crave for attention, will eat almost anything, sleep most of the day, don’t have to be kept inside at any time, summer or winter (provided there’s a dry place to sleep) and choose a fixed place as latrine, which is convenient for cleaning up. In the Netherlands they’re not considered dogs, so they’re tax-free. Work during daytime doesn’t present a problem as the dogs will usually sleep most of the day.

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The disadvantages

Raccoon dogs seldom listen, they’re useless as guard-dogs, they don’t learn tricks, shed their winter coats in a rather explosive manner and are not entirely house-trained.
Adult dogs often aren’t domesticated to the point of allowing someone to pick them up without protest. Such a protest may translate in iodine and band-aid. However, any pup used to people can be raised to an acceptable level of domestication.

What you need

According to the german guidelines for zoos, one would need about 30 square meters for a couple, and an additional three square meters for every subsequent dog. I think that’s a bit sparing. Forty square meters for a dog and an additional 10 for every subsequent dog is more like it. If a fence is smooth, one meter is enough to keep the dogs in. They’re not great jumpers, but they do climb to a degree, so a wire fence should be higher. They also dig quite acceptably, so going 30 cm. into the ground is not a luxury.
A dry sleeping-box is necessary and sufficiënt. A plastic rain butt turned on the side is ideal: the deeper the better, with the entrance turned towards a wall, close enough to just allow the dogs in, and the back heightened to prevent rainwater from getting in. A pond is great, as are shrubs and bushes. If you have more than one dog, a kennel to separate them, if necessary, might come in handy.


Compared to badgers and foxes, raccoon dogs are more omnivorous. As a basis I use regular dry dog food. I add daily per dog several defrosted chickens, or fresh sardines or anchovy, or 100 grams of chichen hearts, -livers, -stomachs or whatever the poulterer has on offer. They also like fruits, grapes in particular, nuts, pistachios, raisins and cheese. Everything counts in small amounts, and there’s ample room for experiments because it guarantees the dog’s full attention. Small quantities of salt (pistachios, sardines, cheese) present no health risk, but I try to avoid sweets. One day a week, our dogs get no food at all. Fresh water should of course be there at all times.


It won’t hurt giving your vet some additional information on the dog. In my experience it’s save to give the same medication that would be given to a domesticated dog of about the same size. This holds for the use of antibiotics as well as modern forms of flee and tick prevention. In the latter case I use drops on the skin of the neck, because spraying or powdering a raccoon dog may be a bit problematic.
Rabies vaccination poses no problems and Snowy, according to his vaccination papers, has had a shot against parvovirosis and leptospirosis. Although there’s a great chance that any vaccin developed for dogs, will be effective in the case of a raccoon dog, there’s no absolute guarantee. In the worst case scenario the dog could develop the very disease it is vaccinated against. Consult your vet in any case.


I’ve had quite a few raccoon dogs, and they differ quite a bit. The current white male Max came from the Solinger Vogelpark in Solingen, Germany. He was 3 years old when I got him, and considering his zoo background he’s very relaxed and approachable, even with the pups. I’m sure I can get him to accept a leash. I’ve had dogs that were a lot shyer, but also one that showed little respect for humans and was in fact quite dangerous.

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Misty was bottle-raised and exceptionally tame. So tame in fact that she also shows little respect for humans. The difference is that she’s not agressive, but my son Falco must watch his back, because she considers him to be a «biteable brother».

Punishment won’t help! Being agressive only leads to the dog wanting to flee or being agressive too. Submission is never an option! Provided a large enough enclosure, the dog is usually not agressive by nature. If in doubt, a broom is an excellent defensive weapon.

Once used to a leash, the dog is not very problematic outside. It will get used to traffic very fast, but it won’t cross open space at first, but rather keep to the wall, the fence or the hedge at hand. They’re never in a hurry either, and one particular flagstone may suddenly and for no particular reason require minutes of investigation. Bushes, shrubs and hedges with a northern signature are favorite for rubbing against.


Raccoon dogs will occasionally pace up and down part of a fence. This is not a sign of stress but normal behaviour as long as a pistachio is enough to snap them out of it. They may also go in circles around the table fifty times, while you’re watching television. As long as they alternate with other behaviour, like lying in the sun or sauntering about, it’s ok. Only if they keep it up for hours on end, one might presume somethings wrong.
From ten in the morning till eight at night they tend to sleep with occasional breaks. At night they’re active, but not noisy. They seldom make any sound at all, and the occasional short howl (a wolf woudn’t even consider it a howl) has a very modest volume. They never bark, although I once heard something like it, when Timur almost got one of the cats.
In the mating season the number of sounds increases with the frequency. The males make different chucking sounds, to impress both males and females, and there’s a lot of growling and hissing going on. If such a situation escalates, it may become a nuisance, so it’s better to separate males in spring.

In the autumn the dogs gain weight. At the same time they develop a winter coat of extremely fine hair, the stuff that comes off in spring, which makes them double their size, at least to the eye. It’s all part of the normal winter preparation, where an option to hibernate is kept open. In the Netherlands they never use that option.

The tail moves only up and down, never sideways. It goes up in case of agression, fear or sexual arousement. The curve is always downward.

Adult raccoon dogs that come from zoos seldom play, although a tennis ball will occasionally get their attention. They may play for a few minutes among themselves, or chase a butterfly (sometimes an imaginary one) but never for long. I give them dry food in a feeding ball, so that eating becomes a kind of football game that’s fun to watch.

Other animals

Natural prey like small rodents or even rabbits don’t mix well with raccoon dogs. I wouldn’t advise ferrets either, because they’re usually over assertive and too plain stupid to see the danger. A raccoon dog grabs its prey and immediately shakes its head violently, filleting it.

Cats are ok as long as they have enough escape routes. We do have two. Actual confrontations may even blow over, because raccoon dogs aren’t that much bigger than a cat, and a claw in one’s nose is a formidable deterrent.

I used to think that raccoon dogs prefer their own company, but some don’t care at all. At best they will tolerate their own kind. Domesticated dogs are usually far more interested in raccoon dogs, than vice versa. The best combination may be a raccoon dog with a domesticated dog of at least equal size. An educational pal to show the raccoon dog how a dog is supposed to behave, or to remind the domasticated dog of it’s wild ancestry.

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How to get one

You can order a dog from after a talk about what to expect of it.

Pet Raccoons: Good Idea or Total Disaster? Read This First

One look at their little masked faces and there is no doubt about it— raccoons are adorable.

But while these wily creatures 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.

Are Raccoon Pets Legal in Your Area?

In many areas, keeping a raccoon as a pet is illegal. Check your state and your county laws; even if your state allows you to keep a raccoon, some city ordinances will prohibit it.

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.

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 wild 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 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 diet.

While they can be trained to use a litterbox, if you irritate them, they will willfully punish you by having accidents 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.

Raccoons and Finding a Veterinarian

In captivity, raccoons can live to 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.

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 change your life.

Do you think raccoons make good pets? Tell us in the comments below.

All photos courtesy of Remo’s Raccoon Home.

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