Raccoons Do NOT Make Good Pets

Young raccoons are so cute, it is very tempting to keep them as pets. And you may hear that they make good pets- they do not make good pets! When they get older, they become agitated extremely easily and get very moody. They become increasingly inquistive and mischievous. If not provided constant enrichment, they destroy everything they can get their paws on. Raccoons are well-known escape artists, and will also injure themselves in attempting to escape.

Not only is it against the law to keep wild animals as pets, it is unfair to the animal. Do not keep a raccoons, but, also, do not release a tame raccoon, as it will be overly friendly with people and considered a hazard to people. It will also have improper interactions with its own species. If the raccoon approaches a person in a friendly, unfrightened manner, it is assumed to carry rabies or canine distemper and is euthanized. Therefore, if you have a tame raccoon, call a rehabilitator so that the animal can “wild-up” before being released.

Transferrable Raccoon Diseases

Canine Distemper: Another reason to not keep raccoons as pets, they can be infected with canine distemper and capable of transfering this virus to pet dogs. Canine distemper is a very infectious, deadly disease that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems. Canine distemper has two forms in raccoon. One form includes signs of runny nose, eye infections, and upper respiratory infections. The other form is known as the “dumb” form. The raccoon stumbles around and becomes super friendly with humans.

Baylisascaris: Raccoons are also the natural carrier of the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis. While not usually a problem in raccoons, IT IS A SIGNIFICANT RISK IN BOTH HUMANS AND OTHER ANIMALS. The eggs of Baylisascaris are able to stick to fur and skin and are present in feces. The roundworm is spread via fecal-oral route. The eggs are found in raccoon latrines (especially woodpiles) and on the fur of raccoons and other animals who frequent latrines looking for seeds. Once on the skin, the only practical way to remove the eggs is with bleach; however, bleach does not kill the eggs. Open flame or steam can kill Baylisascaris eggs. One must be cautious; once Baylisascaris eggs are ingested they become larvae in the intestine and migrate throughout the abnormal host’s body, with a preference for nervous tissue. Baylisascaris larvae will migrate into the eye or the brain of the infected individual. If in the eye, enucleating (removal) is the only treatment. If in the brain, death is the outcome of this condition. For further information, contact the Wildlife Medical Clinic.

Found a raccoon that needs help?

If you have found a raccoon that is exhibiting abnormal behavior around humans–walking up to or not exhibiting fear towards humans, circling, seeming unaware of where it is–call animal control immediately. DO NOT approach or touch the raccoon. These behaviors are almost sure signs of distemper or rabies.

If you find an adult that is injured, it is still recommended to call animal control or a wildlife facility.  Raccoons can be very aggressive and vicious, even when injured–it is of utmost importance to protect yourself and to call people who are trained at working with these animals.

If you find young raccoons that you think may be orphaned, wait a little bit to see if they really are; mom might just be gone for a little while to find some food!  If it comes to be a day later and you still haven’t seen mom, then you could either call animal control, or bring them to a wildlife clinic or wildlife rehabilitation facility. Be sure to wear gloves if placing them into a container for transport! If they have injuries, be sure to be cautious of the injury an mindful when placing them into a transport container–we don’t want to make the injury worse!