Raccoons are undeniably cute animals with their masked faces and striped tails. Their mischievous personalities and clever antics have made them famous characters in cartoons and storybooks. You may have even encountered one rummaging through your garbage can on trash night. With their endearing appearance and seemingly friendly demeanor around humans, you may be tempted to bring one home as a pet. However, raccoons are wild animals, and taking one into your home poses some serious challenges that potential owners need to consider carefully.

Raccoons Are Not Domesticated

Raccoon dog

Unlike dogs and cats that have been domesticated over thousands of years, raccoons are still 100% wild animals. They have not been bred to live comfortably alongside humans and in human environments. Raccoons have maintained their wild instincts for digging, climbing, foraging for food, defending themselves, and more. No matter how friendly they may seem, they do not have an inherent understanding of the boundaries and rules of living in a home like a domesticated pet does. This can lead to frequent messes, property damage, and even attacks if they feel threatened or territorial.

Legal Restrictions on Owning Raccoons

In many states and municipalities, it is illegal for private individuals to keep raccoons as pets due to their wild nature and potential to spread disease. You would need to apply for a special permit or license, meet strict enclosure and habitat requirements, and have the raccoon properly vaccinated. Even then, permits are difficult to obtain in most areas. Illegally keeping a raccoon can result in fines or having the animal confiscated by authorities. It’s essential to check your local laws before considering getting a raccoon as a pet.

Raccoons Require Specialized Care and Habitats

Raccoon dog

Raccoons are highly intelligent and active animals that require a great deal of mental stimulation and space to roam, play, and dig. Simply keeping one in a small cage or limited to your home would be unethical and stressful for the animal. They need a secure outdoor enclosure that can accommodate their climbing abilities and allow for natural foraging behaviors. Finding raccoon-appropriate food and providing them with enrichment activities is also crucial. A raccoon’s nutritional and environmental needs are complex and quite different from typical house pets.

The Risk of Zoonotic Diseases

As with any wild animal, raccoons can potentially carry diseases that are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Raccoons are a prime vector for rabies, as well as leptospirosis, salmonella, and other pathogens.

Raccoon dog

They can pass these on through bites, scratches, exposure to their feces or bodily fluids. Avoiding direct contact by keeping raccoons outside will reduce but not eliminate the risk of catching something. You’ll also need to exercise extreme caution when cleaning their enclosures. Raccoons are virtually impossible to fully domesticate in a way that removes all disease risks.

Destructive Behaviors Can Be a Problem

Raccoons have a strong drive to chew and explore anything that looks interesting or novel in their environment. This can lead to significant property damage and mess as they tear through walls, cabinetry, furniture, clothing, or any belongings left within their reach. It’s their natural instinct to forage for new food and water sources. Unless you create a hyper-secured, raccoon-proof environment, you can expect frequent headaches from their destructive behaviors.

Raccoon dog

Public Safety and Risk of Attacks

By their very nature, raccoons are unpredictable and can lash out aggressively if they feel cornered, threatened, or are simply expressing their wild instincts. While their teeth and claws may look small, they can inflict serious injuries, particularly to children or the elderly. Raccoons can also potentially spread rabies or other diseases through bites and scratches. They may seem cute and gentle at times, but they are still wild animals with the potential to cause harm. It’s simply not worth the risk for most owners.

Raccoon dog


While raccoons are undoubtedly adorable creatures, they make very difficult, dangerous, and high-maintenance pets for the average household. From a practical, ethical, and legal standpoint, raccoons simply do not make good pets for typical owners. They require tremendous amounts of specialized care, ample secure space, costly maintenance, and put both you and the raccoon under excessive stress by bringing a wild animal into an unnatural domestic environment. Unless you are an expert wildlife rehabber with professional training and facilities, it’s best to appreciate raccoons from a safe distance and leave them in their natural habitats where they can thrive. For most people, a domesticated dog or cat is a much safer, more suitable pet choice. Raccoons may be cute, but they belong in the wild, not in our homes.

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