Raccoons and squirrels may look cute and cuddly (especially as babies) but it can be very dangerous to treat them as pets in your home. While Disney cartoons may portray wild animals as intelligent and loyal companions, they cannot be domesticated, and will eventually cause you trouble. Here are some reasons why pet raccoons and squirrels are a bad idea:
Why raccoons can’t be pets
In Ontario, it is illegal to keep native wildlife as pets. Toronto has an established list of prohibited mammals in their bylaws. If these animals are found in a private home or being kepts as a pet on private property, the City will issue a fine of $240 (plus a surcharge), and the animal may be confiscated and euthanized.
Raccoons and squirrels are wild animals who survive and thrive best in their natural environment. Keeping a healthy wild animal in confinement is harmful and unfair to the creature’s well-being.
Babies Grow up
While baby raccoons and squirrels may sit in your lap, eat from your hand, and allow you to pet them, their natural instincts will kick in as they grow. They bite, scratch, and can destroy your furniture and home. Many people who try to raise wild animals eventually decide to release them back into the wild. Unfortunately, wild animals raised as pets have difficulty surviving on their own because they have not developed the critical skills necessary to live in the wild (like hunting or hiding from predators).
It is also illegal in Ontario to release animals back into the wild.
They May Carry Disease
Raccoons can be carriers of rabies (and leptospirosis) without showing any symptoms. While squirrels are not known to carry rabies, they are carriers of other dangerous diseases:
- Lyme disease
Bringing these animals into your home puts your family and other residents at risk for potentially life-threatening diseases.
You Cannot Domesticate Them
It is difficult, if not impossible, to housetrain a raccoon or a squirrel. They are not bred as domesticated animals, like dogs and cats.
Few Vets Will Touch Them
There are very few veterinarians who can (or will) deal with these animals. If wildlife get sick, you will be in a difficult situation in your attempt to care for them. Also, if you decide to go on vacation, it’s unlikely you’re going to find a “pet sitter” or boarding facility that will take the animal.
If you find a baby squirrel or raccoon who needs help, call your local Animal Control office to care for these creatures instead. They will know how to safely handle wildlife in danger.