When exploring raccoon ownership, many people overlook the fact these animals require constant enrichment. Raccoons are highly intelligent and are very destructive when left to their own devices.
In the wild, raccoons must search for food, keep their eyes out for predators, climb trees, run, and rely on their senses to survive. When kept in captivity, however, raccoons are relieved of these tasks. As a result, raccoons tend to become obese, destructive, and even aggressive. Providing sufficient enrichment for these remarkable animals poses a challenge, especially considering their intelligence is comparable to many primates.
The types of raccoon enrichment we use at Exotic Pet Wonderland can be broken down into five categories: cognitive, sensory, food, motor, and social.
Cognitive enrichment refers to enrichment that provides mental stimulation for your pet. As mentioned earlier, raccoons are incredibly smart animals. In order to keep your pet raccoon from becoming destructive, you must keep their mind engaged.
Please make sure you are watching your raccoon closely when it is playing with any small toys in order to avoid choking.
Dog, cat, bird, monkey, and baby toys
PVC Jungle Gyms with toys
Cardboard tubes and boxes
Musical baby toys
Smart dog toys
Sensory enrichment for your pet raccoon revolves around stimulating your animal’s senses. Sensory based raccoon enrichment can be broken down into four categories–olfactory (smell and taste), tactile, auditory, and visual.
The raccoon’s sense of touch is the most powerful of all their senses. In fact, the raccoon’s sense of touch is more powerful than most other animals due to having 4 to 5 times as many nerve ending in their hands. Because of this, raccoons really enjoy tactile enrichment. Providing novel textures for your animal to experience is a quick and easy way to provide your raccoon enrichment.
Tactile Enrichment Examples for raccoons:
Painting (with non toxic paint)
A kiddie pool filled with water and/or ice
Textured fabrics and stuffed animals to touch
A sensory board
fur/wool from other animals
Olfactory is essentially a fancy science word that refers to one’s sense of smell. Olfactory enrichment describes the “addition of scents or scented material to an animal’s enclosure” (A Critical Review of Zoo-based Olfactory Enrichment).
Some examples of olfactory enrichment we use for raccoons are as follows:
Pet safe essential oils
fur/wool from other animals
Pet safe artificial scents
Herbs and Spices
New food scents
Auditory refers to sound based enrichment. Just like humans enjoy listening to music and podcasts, sounds are a great source of raccoon enrichment as well.
Some forms of auditory enrichment for raccoons are:
Singing to your raccoon
Playing sounds from other raccoons or other animal species
When providing new forms of auditory enrichment, it is important to continuously monitor your animal for signs of stress.
For humans, things like going to an art museum, watching birds, or scrolling through Instagram are all visual enrichment. Just like humans, raccoons need visual enrichment, too! After all, can you imagine looking at the same thing every idea?
Here are some ideas for visual enrichment for raccoons:
Being able to see other animals (monitor your raccoon to ensure your animal is not destressed)
Changing your raccoon’s enclosure around
Planting a butterfly garden outside the enclosure
Add a bird bath outside the enclosure
Food based raccoon enrichment is one of the most commonly used forms of enrichment. As mentioned earlier, raccoons are prone to obesity. Food enrichment will not only keep your pet raccoon entertained, but it will also slow down the time your raccoon takes to eat.
Some food based enrichment for raccoons used at Exotic Pet Wonderland:
Puzzle feeders for dogs, primates, and large parrots
Kong treat toys
Fruit frozen in ice cubes
Apples cored and filled with meal worms
Pumpkins filled with dried bugs
Hiding food around the room
Placing fruit in a pool or tub full of water or ice
Scattering food around the enclosure
Feeding whole nuts in the shell
Feeding live fish and bugs (meal worms, super worms, Dubia roaches)
Placing food in suet feeders for birds
When it comes to raccoon enrichment, “motor enrichment” does not refer to playing with motors, but instead keeping your raccoon physically active. It is important for your pet raccoon to exercise not only to keep your animal entertained, but also to keep them a healthy weight.
Sensory Saucer Swings
Tug ‘O War
Forms of social enrichment for raccoons include:
Spending time with your raccoon, just talking and playing with your animal
Placing your pet raccoon with another raccoon, or a group (please seek professional advice before introducing a new raccoon)
Training your raccoon using a clicker or talk buttons
In captivity, raccoons are social animals who bond closely with their caregivers. Social interaction is important for your pet raccoon!