Raccoon

Ring-tailed Raccoon, Racoon

Family: Procyonidae Raccoon Picture: quot;Rufus"Raccoon "Rufus"Procyon lotor
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I have a pet raccoon named baby. She was stranded by her momma last year. We waited two days for her mom to come back but she never did. So I called several... (more)  Kimberly Creighbaum

   Here is a raccoon up past his bedtime! This younster couldn't keep still, climbed all over everybody and was constantly "checking things out"!

   Racoons are a pet that requires a lot of attention (to keep them out of trouble?), but if given the right environment are lots of fun to keep. They are extremely smart, active, and curious animals. Please read some of the reader comments to get an idea of what problems can be encountered before considering taking on a raccoon as a pet!

   Since wild raccoons have adapted to suburban and urban environments, they are considered a pest by many people. Most states have regulations concerning ownership of racoons so check to make sure you meet all the requirements before you seek one out.

For information about Small Animals and their care visit:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Small Animal


Geographic Distribution
Procyon lotor
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Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Procyonidae
  • Genus: Procyon
  • Species: lotor
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Scientific name:

Procyon lotor
Common North American Raccoon

Background:


   Raccoons range throughout the United States, actually they range from southern Canada to the Panama. They are fond of areas near water in piney forests and broadleaf woodlands.

Description:

   The raccoon is a medium sized mammal about the size of a small to medium sized dog. They will grow to about 30 inches long including a bushy 10 inch long tail, and will reach 25-45 lbs. as adults. They have a long pointy snout, large eyes and ears, five digits on each foot and a ringed tail.
   The name 'Ring-tailed Raccoon' describes them by one of their very distinctive markings, a ringed tail. They are also recognized by their familiar black ‘mask’, giving this wily animal an almost comical look. Their course fur is a mixture of gray, brown, and black.

Environment:

   In the wild, the the raccoon will have a den built in a hollow tree. Usually an outdoor area at least 4'x4' with a source of running water is needed. If kept in the house they are readily box trained and are similar to keeping a cat or dog except you will probably have to put childproof latches on your cupboards and drawers!

Care and feeding:

   Provide lots of water (if not running water) every day as they have a curious habit of washing their food before they eat it. Raccoons are omnivorous. In nature they eat various small animals, fish, frogs. molluscs, and fruits.
   In captivity, most people feed them a ferret diet, cat food, and table scraps (they will eat just about anything). See about foods for ferrets here. Besides offering them their natural diet they will also eat vegetables, crayfish, crabs, insects, and they love eggs.

Social Behaviors:

   In their natural habitat they do not exhibit aggressive behavior, but males will defend territories. They are generally solitary animals except during breeding season. We have found no information on keeping several raccoons together so we assume that unless you are keeping a family, it is probably best to keep individuals separate in captivity.

Dr. Jungle says...."these guys are packed full of energy!"
Raccoon Pictures of "Rufus" and "Dufus"
Photo @ Animal-World
Courtesy David Brough

"Rufus" and "Dufus"

   These two young racoons, Rufus and Dufus, are both males and are 5 months old in these photos. They are about 15 lbs. now but will reach 25-45 lbs. as adults.

   As babies they were bottle fed with a puppy feeding formula - Esbilac, and powdered goats' milk. Weaning began at 8 weeks and took 2 weeks to complete. Science diet cat food blended to a pudding-like consistency was also used.

 

Handling and Training:


   The cunning Raccoon is easily tamed, and makes a pleasant 'monkey-like' pet. It should be noted however, that though young raccoons make entertaining pets, many become surly, rough and even vicious as they approach sexual maturity.

Activities - Exercise and Play:


   Raccoons are nocturnal, but are sometimes active during the day. They are a mammal that is known for their inquisitiveness. Besides being very curious and active, they are expert climbers. They will thoroughly enjoy some excercise time where they can explore in areas that are both high and low.

   Make sure that your raccoon's designated play areas are properly "raccoon-proofed", not only to prevent damage to the area but to reduce the chances of him injuring himself during play.

Breeding/Reproduction:

   Raccoons' breeding season is from late winter through early spring. Females give birth from April to June and have an average litter of three or four babies. The pups remain in their birth den until they are about seven weeks old, at which point the mother moves them to a series of alternate dens.
   In some parts of the country, young raccoons spend their first winter with their mothers, but it is just as common for them to leave the mother in the late fall of their first year.

Ailments/Treatments:


   As with all animals, raccoons can become ill or hurt. You can do your best to avoid this by taking good care of your pet. Make sure he gets proper nutrition, grooming, and exercise. This will keep your raccoon in the best of conditions and reduce the chances of him getting sick.
I   f your raccoon endures serious injuries such as back injuries, severe bleeding, broken bones, or poisoning, it should be taken to a veterinarian.

Availability:

   Most states have regulations concerning ownership of raccoons so check to make sure you meet all the requirements before you seek one out, your pet store can help you with this.
   Be sure to check your state and local restrictions before acquiring a raccoon.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
Lastest Animal Stories on Pet Racoon

Kimberly Creighbaum - 2014-01-09
I have a pet raccoon named baby. She was stranded by her momma last year. We waited two days for her mom to come back but she never did. So I called several rehabbers and no one wanted to take a raccoon. One person even told me to have a vet put her down. No way to that! I love animals.  Baby is a joy to have. Very affectionate and playful. She just has a look of pure joy on her face when she plays. We have a chihuahua and they are best buddies. I never thought a raccoon could be such a joy but Baby is really fun. They do keep you on your toes, you have to watch them all the time because they are faster then a two year old and love getting into things. Always exploring everything they can get into. Wouldn't trade her for the world though :) 

  • Linda - 2014-07-29
    I found a baby raccoon about 4 weeks old that I'm caring for. Can you tell me what did you for de-worming or any input you can share. Thanks Linda
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Herb Rowder - 2004-10-10
I once had a pet racoon named Renovie. I got him as a pup when a friend of mine found his dead mother by the side of a tree and 3 pups up in a nest. I also had a dog at the time, a cockapoo male, but they got along OK and even slept together. He would use a litter box like a cat, and would eat all kinds of things that people eat, and also what the dog ate. He liked to eat dry dog food by taking a piece in his paws and dipping it in the water bowl, letting it soak a while, and then eating it. He did not damage anything, but he could open any cabinet and would go in there and root around, and once in a while you would find him sleeping in a large speghetti pot. I only kept him for about a year though, because as he matured he really wanted to be outside all the time... he literally climbed the curtains. I would take him for walks with the dog, both on seperate leashes. The dog would visit the bottom of the trees and Renovie would climb them. I had people actually pull their cars over and ask me what kind of "dog" that was!

After a year, I saw my friend again who had given him to me and he said that he would take Renovie to a farm he knew of where the people would feed him and let him run around in their protected wooded area. That seemed like the right solution so I had to let him go. I missed him though. He was a good pet. Perhaps a female would not have been so anxious to go out and roam, but I doubt it. They are after all, wild animals and that instinct is very strong in them.

In the year I had him, he went from about 2-3 pounds to a little over 25 pounds in weight so they grow very fast and are always kind of hungry. Having a pet racoon is like having an animal that is a cross between a cat and a monkey. They are very curious and intelligent animals. At least as smart as a very smart dog. They figure things out and can use their hands very effectively to solve problems and open things. They will reach into your pockets and pull stuff out to have a look. I used to keep some "snacks" in my shirt pocket so when Renovie would sit on my lap he would reach in there and get something to eat. If his little "stash" ran out he would complain about it and poke me in the nose with his nose and paw my pocket so I would put more stuff in there for him to pull out. He seemed to like the act of getting the snack out of my pocket as much as actually eating it. Like a dog, he knew his name and would come when you called him, making a little chittering sound like the cooing of a dove. Anyone who ever had one would have to say they were good pets and worthy of respect.

  • Patience - 2014-06-26
    Hello I have a pet raccoon he is very sweet but I heard they seem to get mean when they get older is that true at all?
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J - 2006-09-26
I am a licensed rehabber in Calif. Raccoons are by far my favorites. They are cute, affectionate & very endearing. I would love to keep them all but I know that isn't the best for them. I have been trying to get permission for an educational raccoon for our group so have done a great deal of homework & have decided I will be chosing another mammal. Raccoons are social, they bond quickly to the caregiver (they miss "mom"). They are insecure as babies, but as they age, they become more independent. With that, the adorable playfulness & curiosity becomes more aggressive & destructive (this is their nature & what they need for surviving in the wild). Their teeth are sharp & so are those claws! I wear shabby Levis just for them climbimg my legs - which is "painfully cute" when they are little. I watch in fascination & photograph them for hours. At around two they become unpredictable in their behavior. They do like things on their terms afterall, & have displayed aggressive behavior when least expected so most rehab facilities will not use raccoons due to liability. If one bites, it is destroyed to check that it is free of rabies. This has happened to people who just had them as pets & family or friends have been bitten. To have a pet euthanized due to old age or infirmity is heartwrenching enough - it would be unbearable to have an animal I took out of its elements destroyed in its prime when it wasn't necessary. Neutering does not stop all aggression, males are normally less agressive than the females in captivity. Things I am personally aware of have been: 1) pet raccoons will kill other small pets up to small bunnies, including birds, 2) help themselves to fish in tanks & koi ponds, 3) jump on the back of a dog & ride it when really angry, act out against their caregivers, etc. & 4) can demolish & destroy the inside of a home in no time. There are exceptions, of course. Caging or tethering them would break their spirit - they are nature's clowns who never stop exploring...besides, they only get meaner. I am grateful to ALL who try & save them. They do need special formula & diets that aid in their development. People food is not what they get in the wild as babies. Like any species, they need the proper nutrients just for them. If you are going to keep one, at least contact a rehabber who will help you out & get you the right information. Rehab centers are full of adult raccoons that people have tried to raise & don't want anymore & they can't be placed. When weaned, my raccoons go to another rehabber with a state regulated cage to grow bigger & "wild up" before being released. I cry while driving them there, I cry when I leave & when it comes time to release them I will be crying again. I know it's best but they really get into your heart - any hand raised orphan will be imprinted & it is very important that if they are going to be released they go to a rehabber that can try & get them back to the wild in a way that they will have a chance to survive & live their lives out as they were put on this earth to do.

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SunChaserWildlife - 2010-01-17
The debate on whether to have a pet raccoon has been surpassed by the need of your voice for all urban wildlife. State Wildlife agencies are responsible for the welfare of ALL wildlife, not just the animals selling hunting tags. Wildlife is owned by the citizens and is to be managed by the state agency under the terms of a Public Trust Doctrine.

Yet, over-stated risks and lack of proper education and reporting is leading our society to malign intelligent, beneficial urban animals such as skunks, raccoons, foxes...There is NO perspective anymore! Always use caution with wild animals, but do not act in fear. Research the animals that live in your backyards and learn the truths.

And please, speak up for these animals and defend their rights to not be banned from rescue and rehab. States like NC order all these animals be killed, denying qualified rehabilitators (citizens who own the wildlife equally) the right to rescue & rehab them. Such state killing programs are becoming the "norm" because the public does not speak up against this.

Rabies testing is a billion dollar business - millions of healthy animals are killed and their heads sent to labs for testing. Oral rabies vaccine baits can eradicate this disease - but people have to care enough to demand it be done by their local and state gov't.

Raccoons intelligence has been proven second only to higher monkeys. Raccoons kill venomous snakes, and as with skunks are the best mousers you can find!

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Belinda - 2007-06-29
I have had Raccoons as "pets". I use the word pet loosely, because there were more like members of the family. I agree that 99% of people who want a pet raccoon will probably not be able to properly take care of them. They are so very precious when they are babies, but like everything else, they grow up. I kept my coonies inside and they had full run of the house. They were never caged and were allowed to go in and out at will. They chose to stay inside most of the time and I have never had one that went out and did not come back. They used a litter box that was filled with water instead of litter. I simply dumped out the dirty water once or twice a day and as long as the water was kept relatively clean, they never used the potty anywhere else except the box. They are extremely curious and those little "hands" are constantly feeling of everything around them. I get the biggest kick in the world out of them and would take in another in a NY second, but I know what to expect and know that I can handle it. They are as destructive and mischieveious as they are cute. They can get into anything, anywhere. I had childproof locks on EVERY SINGLE CABINET IN MY HOUSE! They can open medicine bottles, the refrigerator (nothing like coming downstairs in the middle of the night to see what the noise is only to find a raccoon sitting in the fridge, eating what looked good and tossing the rest onto the kitchen floor), they will unplug your clocks, tv's ect., break your trinkets and whatnots, hide your keys, chew the buttons off your cell phone, and yes...they DO and WILL BITE. They have very sharp claws and teeth and can inflict damage even when not meaning to. They (at least mine did) become very territorial towards their house and their family. You must put them behind closed doors before letting company inside. Mine would not tolerate the presence of anyone that did not live in the house. If a thief had ever broken into the house, he/she would have been easy to find later. If they managed to get out of the house, you could just check the local ER for a shredded person! So...if you are super patient, don't mind replacing material possessions, can take pain from bites and scratches, have adequate space, never go on vacation, have excellent homeowners insurance, rarely have company and if you have the proper paperwork/licenses to keep one, go ahead. But please please! Be sure you can take care of it FOREVER or provide for it in case you are unable to.

  • Gunner\'s Mom - 2013-05-07
    You nailed it. I have had mine for two years. We bought him from a breeder, as a baby. He is fixed & vaccinated. He is my son. You are absolutely correct. I talk a lot of people out of the idea because it takes a rare, certain person to be a Forever Mom. If an owner were to decide they don't want the pet anymore, chances are this beautiful animal would wind up being put down at some point, as they don't like serious change. Therefore, one must make a life long commitment to this pet. I am fortunate Gunner has myself & his daddy, otherwise, there would be no vacation for me. Only one of us goes at a time..the other remains home with him. As far as his minor mood swings (like any person has), he has learned my stern voice, 'don't you bite me.' I do want to point out that tbe column above is incorrect, which I am sure you noticed too... For those unaware, DO NOT FEED RACCOONS CAT FOOD OR TABLE SCRAPS!!!!! A good quality DOG food & HEALTHY people food (as snacks). Nothing pertaining to tomatoes, onions, garlic, CHOCOLATE....cat food will eventually harm & kill internal organs, chocolate can kill immediately, & the other at the least will cause major tummy trouble. I feed mine Iams weight control dog food, celery, frozen green beans (awesome snack!), & fresh spinach leaves. Respect your baby, & he/she will show you respect & love in return :-)
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Nicholle - 2004-08-01
I am new to this but i wanted to share my experience. I have a three month old raccoon that I just love..I got Coby when he was eight weeks old. I never would have thought that he could be sooo smart and cute at the same time. I have a three year old pitbull and they play as if they were born together. I had a hard time the first week because he would not eat anything the vet told me to feed him. I started to experiment and finally I came up with a recipe that he loves. (i prepare this at night so that it is ready for the next day). 2 cups of kibbles and chunks dog food, 2 cups of water and four scoops of JUST BORN kitten milk with colostrum ( made by Farnam) its hard to find but has great balance. I feed Coby four times a day, but he will let me know if he is hungry early. I finally have him trained to potty outside, I take him out when he wakes-up, he does his duty and then plays for a couple of hours. I also found a flea control product that is safe for raccoons..made also by Farnam called bio-spot, strip-on for cats and ferrets. I put it on Coby when he was 9 weeks and he had NO side effects. I hope that this will help other new raccoon parents.
Nicholle

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