With mask-like markings over their eyes and fluffy striped tails, raccoons are among the most recognizable animals in North America. They figure prominently in cartoons and children’s books, where their cuteness and cleverness endear them to many people. Raccoons in real life are cute and clever like their fictional counterparts, which may make people think they would make good pets. However, real raccoons don’t have loving personalities toward humans, and their cleverness isn’t quite so charming in real life. Attempting to take a pet raccoon into your home is a choice you may soon regret.
Why Don’t Raccoons Make Good Pets?
Because raccoons are cute, smart, and nearly everywhere these days, people often wonder if they would be good pets. The answer is no; having a pet raccoon in Canada is a decision that few homeowners would make if they knew all the possible consequences. Here are 10 of the most important reasons not to attempt to add a pet raccoon to your household.
- It’s illegal: In Canada, it is illegal to keep raccoons as pets, as they are on the ‘prohibited animals list, alongside several other exotic species.
- It’s unethical: Raccoons are wild animals. It’s unethical and illegal to capture a healthy wild animal and force it to live out the rest of its life in confinement. Wild animals should be in their natural environment.
- Raccoons are notorious biters: They will bite family members, family pets, and visitors and their pets. When they sexually mature at 6 months of age, they can suddenly become very aggressive and attack, even if they seemed docile and innocuous as babies.
- Raccoons carry diseases: Zoonotic diseases are those that can spread from animals and infect humans. Raccoons can carry zoonotic parasites and infectious diseases, including rabies, that pose a threat to you, your family, and other pets. For example, the droppings of raccoons can contain raccoon roundworm that can and does infect humans. The egg spores in the raccoon droppings are light and can become airborne, and people can breathe them in and become infected. Infection of humans can lead to larval parasite migration to the central nervous system. These egg spores can live for years as dry pods. This is very dangerous to humans, especially children. Hamilton residents, as well as those in the Niagara area, will be aware that the raccoon rabies virus has made a resurgence in these areas within the last decade, putting homeowners and pets at risk for rabies.
- Veterinary care is hard to obtain: Not a lot of veterinarians deal with raccoons, so if your pet raccoon gets sick, finding care and treatment for it may be difficult, as well as expensive.
- Raccoons can be messy: In the wild, raccoons are omnivorous foragers, so a raccoon diet could consist of just about anything. When raccoons eat they wash and “massage” the food first. They love to use their five flexible fingers to open doors, jars, and latches and make off with anything they find interesting. If they find small holes in your home, they will make them bigger and cause more damage. Additionally, raccoons are nearly impossible to housetrain. It could take months to train a raccoon to use a litter box, assuming that you succeed at it at all.
- They need constant supervision: When you go on vacation you have to find someone willing to take care of your pet. Keep in mind there are no raccoon boarding facilities like they have for dogs and cats. Raccoons can also get up to mischief when they are left alone for relatively short times. If you’ve ever had a dog act up out of boredom, imagine if the dog was considerably more intelligent and had flexible paws capable of gripping. While you’re imagining that, consider that the raccoon’s lifespan in captivity can be up to 20 years, a long time to keep a constant eye on your pet.
- They can be disruptive: Raccoons can produce a wide range of vocalizations, from pleasant-ish sounds such as chittering, whimpering, and purring to more aggressive raccoon sounds, such as growling, hissing, and snarling. Because raccoons are nocturnal, they make these sounds at night while you are trying to sleep.
- They can be hard to handle: They’re faster and larger than you’d think—reaching over two feet long, weighing up to two dozen pounds, and running at speeds of about 15 miles per hour.
- Attempts to domesticate a raccoon could cause wider problems: If your pet raccoon escapes the house, it may scare your neighbours, their pets, and their children. At Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control, we get calls from homeowners trying to get raccoons out of their homes, due to the damage they cause, e.g., damaged and contaminated insulation, holes in walls, roof vents and shingles, etc. Your neighbours are unlikely to appreciate it if you are the cause of their wildlife problems. Furthermore, if the raccoon does escape and break free into the wild, as a result of being domesticated, it will not have the necessary skills to live in the wild, making its chances for survival slim.
Here at Skedaddle, we believe in keeping homeowners safe and secure in their homes, and wildlife thriving outside in nature. That’s why we use humane removal techniques when removing raccoons. We don’t trap the animals and relocate them to a new and unfamiliar place where their chances of survival may be slim. Instead, we remove the babies by hand and put them into a special heated box outside to wait for their mother to find them.
Raccoons typically have several different den sites within their territory. We inspect your home for possible entry points and seal them off so that the raccoons cannot get back in. Confused by being temporarily displaced, raccoons may attempt to take the babies back inside your house, it being the most convenient den site. However, once they understand that your home is now off-limits to them, they will move the babies to another site where they will be safe and protected while they learn the skills they need to survive as adults.
Once the raccoons are excluded from your home and reunited outside, we clean and decontaminate the areas where they have been to get rid of any parasites or pathogens that may remain. Find out more about what is involved in our process of humane raccoon removal.