Factors to Consider Before Getting a Pet Raccoon

I felt stunned the first time I met my neighbor's pet raccoon. The animals excitedly ran up to me and chirped several times, asking to be held. When I picked her up in my arms, she proceeded to play with my hair like an infant. My neighbor's raccoon is one of the most tame and friendly animals I've ever met, far exceeding most cats and dogs in its personable nature. However, I personally would never own a pet raccoon. Here are some major factors that potential raccoon-guardians must consider before purchasing a raccoon or "rescuing" one from the wild.
1. It could be against the law. Wild raccoons are among of the most common rabid animals in the United States. Because undiagnosed rabid raccoons can transmit rabies to pets and humans, many jurisdictions have strict regulations prohibiting interactions between humans and raccoons. Call your local Animal Control authorities to determine if raccoons are legal pets in your area. If you break the law and get caught, you could end up facing a very stiff fine and having your pet confiscated and euthanized.
2. Raccoons need veterinary care. Like cats and dogs, raccoons need-- and are entitled to-- good health care. Your raccoon will need to go to a veterinarian experienced in exotic animals. Remember that, if you adopt a raccoon in an area where it is illegal, you won't find any vets who are willing to treat your pet if he gets sick or injured. Minimum veterinary care for a raccoon will involve rabies shots, annual check-ups, parasite treatments, and treatments any time your pet becomes ill.
3. Pet raccoons need a varied diet. While a dog or cat can live healthily on a relatively monochromatic diet of prepared food, raccoons can not thrive in captivity without variety. At the advice of his pet's veterinarian, my neighbor gives his raccoon pre-packaged ferret food and treats, along with canned cat food, watermelon, apples, carrots, chicken, turkey, fish and grapes. While you may find wild raccoons munching on chips and marshmallows at campsites, these should be given sparingly to pets-- or avoided entirely.
4. Raccoons need extensive training. Cats and dogs often "train themselves," learning to be unaccompanied in a house for hours without wreaking havoc on the home. A raccoon can not and will not "train itself." It needs nearly 24-hour supervision until it is at least several months old. No cage is large enough to humanely contain an adult raccoon, so you must know that your animal is well-controlled and adjusted enough to be alone without human supervision.

5. Raccoons don't always get along with other pets.
 My neighbor's raccoon broke into his pet rabbit's cage and killed the animal. A few weeks later, it had a bloody fight with his pet Pomeranian, which led to both animals requiring extensive veterinary care. Before getting a raccoon, you need to carefully consider how it might impact the other animals in your home. If you aren't 100% certain that the raccoon will get along with your other animals, get a guinea pig instead.
Adopting an animal is always a big decision, and it requires particular consideration when it involves an exotic or non-domesticated animal. Always defer to local laws and your veterinarian's judgment before adopting any new pet.