THE BLOG
01/10/2017 01:18 pm ET Updated Jan 11, 2018

10 Reasons Raccoons Make Terrible Pets

Because they are so cute and precocious, many people wonder if raccoons make good pets. My answer is always, in a word, "No."

Raccoons are wild animals, and many people don't realize it's unethical and illegal to capture a healthy wild animal and force it live out the rest of its life in confinement. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators like me are trained to care for sick or injured raccoons until they can be returned to the wild. We are also trained to prevent young animals from becoming imprinted, or socialized to humans and domestic animals.

However, some rehabbed animals have permanent injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild. Rehab facilities or wildlife educators can apply for special permits that allow them to provide care to these animals for the rest of their lives.

A part of the criteria for maintaining a permanently injured wild animal is to demonstrate that you are capable of providing a species-appropriate diet, ample sized enclosures with natural environmental enrichment, exercise, and foraging opportunities.

Unfortunately, people seem to be attracted to rare or unique pets, including wild animals. This has led to exotic animal breeders acquiring permits to breed and sell animals that, in my opinion, should never be pets. Raccoons fall into this category.

10 Reasons Raccoons Don't Make Good Pets

1. I can't stress this enough: "Raccoon" and "pet" are mutually exclusive terms. Raccoons are wild animals, not pets, and even "tamed" are extremely high maintenance and require an experienced, knowledgeable guardian. Even several generations of captive bred raccoons still exhibit all of their wild instincts throughout their lives.

2. It's illegal in certain states in keep raccoons as pets.

3. Housing a raccoon can be an insurmountable challenge. Allowing him the run of your house isn't feasible, as this little fellow is tremendously destructive to belongings (including door moldings and furniture) and unpredictable around both humans and pets. However, locking a raccoon in a cage, a bedroom, or other confined space is simply caging a wild animal, which is inhumane.

4. Raccoons aren't easily house trained, so unless you can train her to use a litter box somewhat consistently, or convince her to walk on a leash and you're prepared to take her outdoors on her (unpredictable) schedule to do her business, she'll be relieving herself around your house.

5. Raccoons are notorious biters. They will bite family members, family pets, and visitors and their pets. Translation: raccoons are a medical and insurance liability.

6. Many veterinarians have little or no experience treating raccoons, so finding healthcare for a sick raccoon could be challenging. When visiting a vet, you must show proof of purchase, or there's no way to prove you did not illegally take the animal from the wild. If you own a raccoon that was taken from the wild, you are at risk of having the animal confiscated and being fined. Raccoons can also carry zoonotic parasites and infectious diseases (including rabies) that pose a threat to you, your family, and other pets.

7. If you need or want to take a trip away from home, finding a raccoon sitter could be more challenging than finding a raccoon veterinarian.

8. Raccoons are master thieves. That's why they're called "masked bandits." Those adorable little human-like fingers on his front paws are quite capable of breaking into virtually any locked, latched, or otherwise secured spot in your home.

9. A pet raccoon requires LOTS of your time, attention, and supervision - for 10 or 15 years, which is the normal lifespan of a healthy, well cared for raccoon. And you must arrange for someone to care for her if something happens to you, because once they've been kept as pets, raccoons can't be released back into the wild.

10. Raccoons act out when they're unhappy and hormonal. Their natural instinct is to bite when they're angry, frustrated, or stressed. However, wildlife rehabilitators familiar with raccoons also tell stories of other ways in which the little guys or gals deliver payback, including "repotting" house plants, removing buttons from clothing someone was silly enough to leave around, moving belongings to other locations and sometimes peeing on them for good measure, flipping over water bowls, dumping the contents of bookcases, and stripping the bed sheets.

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.

For more by Dr. Karen Becker, click here