Most of the animals we find in your attic, garage, or under your porch are objectively cute. You might feel tempted to try to take care of a squirrel or a raccoon.
There’s a reason dogs and cats are the most popular pets. Animals like squirrels, raccoons, and opossums cannot be domesticated. Some individual animals might be trained, but none of them are tamed.
Is a Squirrel a Good Pet?
Not that long ago, squirrels were one of the most popular pets in the United States. And today, there is a bit of a renaissance. Like the rest of the animals on this list, squirrels are not domesticated.
Unlike cats and dogs, they do not have the bite inhibition reflex. Also, their incisors never stop growing. Squirrels manage that growth by constantly gnawing. If you don’t have something to gnaw on, they’ll destroy your home. For pets, they have a very specific diet.
Many states legally prohibit squirrels from being kept as pets, so it’s worth talking to an exotic animal veterinarian about the laws in your state.
If you do decide to adopt a squirrel as a pet, remember that it is a lifetime commitment; once a squirrel becomes reliant on humans, it loses its ability to survive in the wild.
Can I Keep a Raccoon as a Pet?
As cute and cuddly as raccoons may look, they are not pets, and should not be treated like pets.
Raccoons are wild animals that can cause severe harm and damage under the confines of a home. Unfortunately, keeping a raccoon as a pet is rare for a reason. They are not bred to coexist with humans in a domestic environment like most dogs and cats.
Raccoons are smart, curious, active, and playful animals. However, they are also demanding, attention-seeking, and unpredictable. Born to roam wild, raccoons act out when held captive. When trapped in confinement, they will use their long, dexterous, tapered fingers and nails to pry their way out.
Their tendency to act out makes interacting with others close to impossible. In a human home, raccoons often feel trapped—which can stir up extra agitation and hatred to fuel the fire.
Opossums do not make ideal pets for a few reasons. Opossums have a high growth rate and have many offspring, many of which fail to reach adulthood. Basically, they age very quickly—often living no longer than three years—and such fast lives are simply not what people look for in pets.
Opossums have a rather nondiscriminatory diet—they go through garbage, forage gardens, and even eat carrion—but it is difficult to replicate such a diet in a domestic context, and failing to meet their nutritional needs can have severe consequences on their health.
If all that isn’t enough, their immune systems are also very weak, making them susceptible to disease. They also can be aggressive towards other animals, but some owners report a strange lack of aggressiveness towards cats specifically.
Is that a Pet Skunks?
Believe it or not, skunks are somewhat popular as pets, so much so that they have been domesticated and bred for human ownership for over 60 years (despite being illegal in most states). The big difference between a domesticated and wild skunk is that domesticated skunks are “descented,” meaning they are made incapable of spraying, between two and five weeks of age. There is debate as to whether or not this procedure is ethical; some argue that a descented skunk has been deprived, unfairly, of its natural defenses. For this reason, it is imperative that a descented skunk not be let outdoors.
Skunks can be unique and rewarding pets, but they require specialized care. Skunks are naturally crepuscular animals—meaning they are active at dusk and dawn—but can be trained to sleep at night and be active during the day. They also need attention—skunks, when left alone for extended periods of time, have the potential to become destructive. They can also be demanding eaters, as they are at their best when their diet contains lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains.
Can I Trap a Rat for a Pet?
You can have pet rats, but you should not try to catch your own pet rats.
They’re no golden retrievers, but people who have rats as pets attest to their intelligence, charisma, and gregariousness. Like most small animals, however, rats can nip when frightened, so children should be taught to handle them gently.
Wild rats can carry diseases that are transmittable to humans. Young children are at greater risk because of their undeveloped immune systems and because of their tendency for close contact with pets without proper handwashing. For this reason, the CDC recommends that households with children under 5, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems not keep pet rodents.
The best place to get a pet rat is from an animal shelter, as animals sold in pet stores often come from breeding mills, where animals are kept in deplorable conditions.
Can I Keep Mice as Pets?
Like rats, mice can make entertaining pets. They are low-maintenance and make very little noise. But they are intensely social creatures, so it is necessary to adopt them in a group (or at least a pair). They will need to be kept in a cage, and males need to be separated, since unfamiliar males tend to fight. WebMD has a useful guide on mouse ownership that can be accessed here.
The principal difficulty with snake ownership is that they require very precise habitats to survive. An escape-proof aquarium is essential. Lighting has to be set up to mimic a day and night cycle, and temperatures need to be warmer and cooler during the day and night, respectively.
Optimal temperatures vary from breed to breed, so prospective snake owners should consult with a veterinarian on how to provide the correct temperature.
Also, one must be comfortable providing whole prey to the snake, usually in the form of mice or rats. Needless to say, caring for a snake requires a great deal of attention and dedication, but the meticulous nature of snake ownership is something that is enjoyed by many.
Nuisance Wildlife as Pets
The most common animals that infest your homes are squirrels, raccoons, rats, and mice. Depending on where you live, opossums and skunks will live comfortably among people. These animals have adapted to live in a human environment and are more comfortable around people.
It might seem like this behavior would lend itself to an ideal and unique pet. It would not.
Squirrels, rats, mice, bats, and raccoons are wild animals. Their behavior can be erratic which leads to damaged property and injury risks.
If you find wild animals in your house, do not try to feed them. Do not try to tame them. Call the professionals at Trutech Wildlife Service to safely take care of any nuisance wildlife.