Care and Feeding Of Baby Raccoons
This section is for care and feeding of baby raccoons whether you find or acquire some abandoned babies or if you purchase your baby online. An online purchase baby will arrive to you at 6-8 weeks but new babies can range in age from newborn on up.
To prevent confusion I will start at the very beginning at the point where orphaned babies are found.
First Keep The Babies Warm
Use a soft cloth to pick the baby up. You can wear gloves for babies with opened eyes-they will be scared and may put up a bit of a struggle and growl out of fear. They have little nubs of teeth at an age of about 4 weeks so you might want to take precautions to avoid being bitten. Don't be alarmed by the fuss a baby raccoon makes when they are first picked up. They will calm down when they realize that you are not going to hurt them. Wrap the baby up in a cloth snugly and warm them up by holding them in your hand. You will then want to put them in a small box or pet carrier with several layers of soft cloths while they warm up. Make sure the bedding is non-ravelling since wiggly little animals can quickly become strangled in threads or holes. Also avoid using terry cloth(towels) because their little claws are easily snagged and can get stuck in the fabric loops which can result in twisted limbs. Change your babies bedding at least twice a day-more often in cases of problems. Launder babies bedding without dryer sheets as these leave scents that are hard on the babies respiratory system. The same goes for wood chips which release aromatic oils and are not good to use for bedding nor do they provide insulation or wamth for your babies. Provide external heat by setting the box or carrier on a heating pad set on low. You can also use a hot water bottle well wrapped in a soft cloth in the box. Or you can also use a rice sock by filling a sock 2/3 full with dry uncooked rice. Next tie the top and microwave it on high for 2 to 2 ½ minutes. Place it in the bedding in the box with the baby. This can also be made in the form of a small pillow if you are handy at sewing. When I got my new babies I got baby blankets etc at the local thrift store. I find these are much safer and work better than using cloths or rags and they are made soft for human babies which is ideal for baby raccoons. At this point I also like to add a small plush toy or two which were also purchase at a local thrift store for the little ones to cuddle up to.
Next Ater Warming The Babies Up Check For Injuries
Now that you have gotten your babies warmed up unwrap them and check them for injuries. Wipe them with a warm washcloth that has been wrung out. Check the face for dried blood in the nose and mouth to make sure they can breath easily. When finished try and see if the baby pees. To do this gently stimulate the genitals with the wet warm cloth, a cotton swab or ball. On males stimulate the little nub that is just above the anus on the belly(not to be confused with the belly button which is higher up on the belly. On the females stimulate the little nub very near the anus. This is also how you can tell the sex of each baby as the males will have the little nub up on the belly but the females will not. Stimulate for a full minute or two using light feathery strokes. Also rub the babies bottom the same way but a little firmer to stimulate a bowel movement. Once your baby starts to go don't stop stroking until the baby is finished or they will stop without fully emtying their bladder or bowels. If your baby is injured they you will want to call a vet. You will also want to make an appointment for them at 5 or 6 weeks so that your vet can give them proper shots and care.
Check your babies for dehydration. If your babies are 5% dehydrated their skin is slightly doughy, the mouth may be dry and the baby will be listless. If they are 8% dehydrated they will definately have doughy skin, the eyes will be a little bit sunken and the body will be cool to the touch. If the dehydration has reached 10% the raccoon will be in a stupor semi-coma and cold. They are rarely alive if they are more than 13% dehydrated and if they are will need a catheter placed in a vein which is something a vet, or vet tech can do. Giving babies that are not seriously dehydrated a pedialyte-like liquid by oral tube or syringe will be sufficient but if the dehydration is severe the babies will not absorb fluids through the stomach and intestines.
Warming chilled hypothermic babies is very important. Place them on a hot water bottle that has been wrapped in a small blanket or you can use a 3M ColdHot Pack that the hospitals use. Do not use a heating pad or a heat lamp as it is so easy to cook your babies. Once you get your baby warmed up you are ready to give them the pedialyte-like liquid orally. Pedialyte comes in different flavors but unflavored is the best for raccoon babies. It should be warmed to body temperature and offered frequently every 30 minutes to babies that take only a small amount or every hour or two for those that take in larger amounts. Feed them Pedialyte only and as much as the baby wants until the baby is rehydrated and is producing lots of light yellow urine when you stimulate them. You will still need to stimulate them to pee and poop at each feeding. In an emergency a homemade rehydration solution can be made by mixing: 1/2 t salt + 1/2 T sugar and 2 c water-warm it up to body temperature also. Use this homemade solution only until you can get to a drug store. Pedialyte is a balanced electrolyte solution and is much better for your babys.
Once your baby is rehydrated mix 3 parts pedialyte with one part KMR milk replacement formula for one or two feedings. Next mix pedialyte and KMR milk replacement formula half and half for one or two feedings, finally go to full strength KMR milk replacement formula.
Feeding Baby Raccoons
If your babies are not dehydrated first try and use a human baby nipple. Larger babies should take right away to the nipple but if your baby is smaller you might need to get a smaller nipple at the Pet store that is the size of your pinkie finger. Do Not use the smaller or kitten nipples as these are too short and stubby and they are next to useless for feeding baby raccoons. If they are real smail you might need to use a syringe for feeding. If using a syringe you can graduate later to the human baby bottle when your babies get a little bigger. Go to your local vet or drug store and ask for an o-ring syringes not the single use syringes as these will stick after only a few uses. If you are feeding your baby with a nipple insert a hot darning needle into the nipple. Test it first in the sink to make sure that the hole is not too big or too small. When held upside down only a few drops of milk might come out. If the hole is too big then more than a few drops will come out and if it is too small then none will come out. If you make the hole too big you can save it for when your babies get bigger as you will need it then. If it is too small you can use a larger needle or a toothpick-don't heat the toothpick up though.
Before each feeding you will need to stimulate your baby to pee and poo. The mother raccoon licks the baby to do this so using a wet cloth, cotton swab or cotton ball will do the same thing for your baby. Sometimes your baby will pee a little on their own but don't assume they are now able to go on their own as this will come much later. You will need to stimulate peeing and pooping on your own. If your baby has loose stools just dilute the formula half and half with water for a few feedings until this problem is solved. If they are constipated add some dark karo syrup or molasses to the formula. A teaspoon per 4 oz will work just fine. Once the stool is back to normal quit adding the dark karo syrup or molasses to the formula.
Make sure that you get them KMR or Esbilac puppy or kitten replacement formula. KMR formula is the closest to mother raccoon milk. if you are going to the pet store. I prefer the puppy formula as it is quite a bit cheaper. You can also purchase PetAg or Fox Valley Animal Nutrition online but don't use any other products that these as these are the only tried and true products. Never give a baby raccoon cow's milk, goat's milk, soymilk, human baby formulas or any other pet product other than what is mentioned above. These are not suitable for baby raccoons and could cause sever diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition or death for your baby and a lot of heartache for you. Homemade recipes for wildlife formulas that are posted on the internet are often referred to as death formulas by experiences wildlife rehabilitators so please don't use them. Mix only enough formula for 24 hours and at time and keep it refrigerated. Make sure it is not lumpy. Warming it up will probably break up all the lumps. If not you will have to break up the lumps. I use a spoon and smash it up with the back of the spoon while mixing it in the water. Keep your feeding equipment clean just like you would for a human baby. Formula should be warmed before feeding. Use your wrist to check it to make sure it is the right termperature just like you do for human babies. It should be just a bit warmer than your body temperature but not too hot or too cold. Some babies are very sensitive and will not take the formula unless the temperature is correct. You don't want to overfeed or underfeed your baby. An underfed baby will not get enough calories to survive and overfeeding your baby can get an upset stomach, diarrhea, bloat and sometimes death. At first they might be a little sluggish while eating so go easy at first. Just feed them enough so that they are comfortable and their little tummies are just a little plump. Sometimes a baby will suck their bottle much too quickly and take too much formula if you are not in control. If this happens the formula will bubble out of their nose. If this happens immediately stop feeding, make sure that baby's head is lower than the body and let the formula run out of the nose. Gently wipe the excess formula from their nose and repeat this process until the nose runs clear of formula. This will prevent aspiration which causes the fluid to get into the lungs which can cause immediate death or pneumonia. Also make sure the hole in your nipple is not too large as this will complicate matters.
Now you are ready to feed your baby. I like to use a baby burp pad for smaller babies or a small baby receiving blanket for larger babies to keep them warm and comfortable during feeding. Now and this is very important NEVER FEED YOUR BABY LAYING DOWN ON THEIR BACK. Take your baby wrapped in the burp pad or receiving blanket and place them on their tummy on your shoulder then put the nipple or syringe in thieir mouth. At first this position may seem foreign but don't worry soon enough you and your baby will get used to it. Now massage the baby on the back of their neck this will stimulate hunger and a sucking reaction in the baby. Your baby will probably even purr when you do this. For the first few feedings the baby might be debilitated or desperately hungry so just relax and the baby will relax too. If the baby sucks too fast on the nipple just pull the nipple out of their mouth and try again until they slow down as they can inhale the fluid into the lungs. It might take a little longer to get them fed this way but you do not want to risk having any fluid getting into their little lungs. If your baby will not just slowly drip a small amount of fluid into the babies mouth don't worry they will catch on. In this last batch I had was a large skinny guy who I called Butch until I found him a good home. He was a terrible sluggish eater so I just had to work with him but I kept him here until he got into a regular eating regime which took weeks longer than the rest of the batch. Some babies will catch on easy and others will just take more work. Just keep trying and never give up.
At this point you will also want to decide if you want to keep your babies or find suitable homes or if you want to rehabilitate them as the care will be a little bit different. I like to hold and cuddle my babies as I don't make a very good rehabilitator. I end up keeping one or two and giving the others away. Under no cirmcumtances have I ever sold a baby raccoon. I guess if you are going to rehabilitate them you would not want to handle and cuddle them as much. Also please refer to my state by state legality section to make sure that it is legal to have a pet raccoon in your state. If you are going to rehabilitate them you might be able to find a rehabilitator in your area by calling the local humane society, your local vet or pet store or if you follow my instructions for rehabilitating you could also rehabilitate them yourself. If you are keeping them as pets then they will need lots of love and cuddling.
After your baby finishes make sure that you burp them. When their mother finishes feeding them she will lick their tummy to release any unwanted gas. I usually rub or tap gently on their back to expel the burp. It doesn't take long and sometimes you can put them on their side and rub their little tummy. Make sure that after every feeding you thoroughly wash the baby raccoons face, neck and under their chin with a warm wet washcloth. Formula dries like glue and turns hard, sticking the fur to the skin which not only is uncomfortable for your baby it can also result in fur loss.
Baby raccoons love to suck much more even so than human babies. So if you have fed your baby and feel like he has had enough and he still wants to suck you might try a human pacifier. I have done this many times and it takes a few trips to the store to get just that right pacifier that they like so a good alternative is to choose a baby nipple that you have not yet adjusted with a needle or tootpick. Put a small amount of cotton in the end of the nipple to prevent air from goint into your babies tummy and put your finger inside there too then let your baby suck on that. You can also sew your pacifiers inside the raccoon bed so that your babies will suck on them instead of each other. It is not a good idea to put your bare finger inside the mouth. This could cause behavoral problems later if you plan on keeping your babies as pets.
Determining Age Of Raccoon Babies
Birth to One week- Your babies will be approx 4-6 inches long and weigh approx 2-4 ounces. Their eyes and ears are closed. Their face mask and tail rings are hardly visible. There is a scant fuzz of fur on back and sides with no fur on the stomach. They are pretty much immobile.
2 weeks-They will weigh approx 6 1/2-7 1/2 ounces. They are lightly furred with still no fur on the belly. Eyes and ears are still closed. They have a mask and stripes on their tails. They begin to crawl. They are noisey and about 7-10 inches long.
3 weeks-Weight is approx 11-15 ounces. They are now furred all over. Thier eyes and ears may be open. They are cloudy blue and stay that way until they are about 5 weeks old.
4 weeks-15 1/2 oz-1 lb 3 oz. They should now have their eyes and ears open by now. They are about 12-13 inches long.
5 weeks-1 lb 6 oz- 2lbs
6 weeks-2 lb 6oz-2 lb 4 1/2 oz
7 weeks-2 lbs 7 oz-2 lbs 9 oz-they are fully ambulatory: walking, running and climbing.
8-10 weeks-2 lbs 9 oz- 3 lbs 4 oz
Birth- 1 week feed 3-7 cc per feeding every 2 1/2-3 hours including night time feeding
1-2 weeks feed 9.5-11.3 cc per feeding every 2 1/2-3 hours by now they shouldn't need a night time feeding but if they do go ahead and feed them.
2-3 weeks feed 16-20 cc per feeding every 2 1/2-3 daily
3-4 weeks feed 22.5-38.5 cc every 3-3 1/2 daily
5-6 weeks feed 30-49 cc per feeding every 3-4 hours daily
6-7 weeks feed 1 1/4 oz-1 1/2 oz every 3-4 hours daily
7-8 weeks feed 1 1/2 oz to 2 1/4 oz every 3-4 hours daily
8-10 weeks 1 3/4 oz to 2 1/4 oz daily-at this age you can begin weaning your babies.
Get a set of scales and weigh your babies keeping record of their weight gain. I do this about once a day at first and later once a week is fine.
Weaning Baby Raccoons
Raccoon babies don't wean until they are at least 12-16 weeks old. At about 8 or 9 weeks you can begin to give them solid foods. start out with mixing baby cereal with their formula in a plate. After they get used to then begin adding jars of baby food like pears, applesauce, bananas etc. Also baby food meats, vegetable and blends. I will then graduate them to fresh cooked chicken that is cut into small pieces. You will of course still need to offer them their bottles until they don't want to accept the bottle anymore which will usually be around 16 weeks. When they get used to eating this way(usually about 10 or 11 weeks) you can start to add some more solid foods. Try mixing the baby food with some puppy food next. I have seen some websites that suggest puppy chow or other kibbles etc but I would not recommend this because these contain large amounts of corn which is not only hard on a babies digestive system but on adults too. Try using one of the holistic brands. Check the ingredients and make sure that there is no corn or wheat products. I personally like The Blue Spa or Blue Buffalo line and the Natures Recipe. These all have puppy formulas. Do not give them Purina, KenLRation, or even Science Diet or Iams as all of these are loaded with corn and wheat products which are not good for your raccoon. Blue Spa and Natures Recipe dog food are also great for your dogs if you have any. Once you babies are weaned you can add fresh fruits and vegetables to their diets. They will eat what they like and will not eat what they don't want. Each of our raccoons have had different likes and dislikes so just offer them a particular fruit and or vegetable and see which ones they will eat and which ones they won't eat. This way you can set up a diet of items that they will eat and enjoy.
At the same time you are introducing solids keep a source of fresh drinking water for them. At first they will make a big mess out of this but as they get older the will of course catch on. I like to add some marbles or colored rocks to the bottom of the water dish at first to get them interested in the water. Be sure and change their drinking water often to keep bacteria away. Baby raccoons are very messy eaters and they tend to make a big mess with thier water dishes so be prepared. If they spill it be sure and fill it back up as they will be needing plenty of clean fresh water.
Feed weaned raccoons all they want to eat two or three times a day. The dog food should be 2/3 of their diet while the fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, crackers and treats etc can be 1/3 of their diet. Never under any circumstances feed a baby or adult raccoon cat food. The ingredients in cat food will cause kidney and liver failure in raccoons.
Diet and Nutrition
Raccoons are omnivores. Feed the raccoon fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, turkey and fish. Red meat is not good for raccoons. Start your baby out on a holistic puppy food such as Blue Spa or Blue Buffalo and Natures Recipe. Be sure you choose a poultry based variety. Don't give your raccoon Science Diet, Iams, Purina, Ken L Ration etc. These products are loaded with corn and by products and they are not fit for your dogs either. Make sure they also get plenty of fruits, vegetable and nuts. Offer all types of fruit, vegetables and nuts at first and you will be able to discern which ones your raccoon likes. Most raccoons like dried and fresh figs, prunes, raisins, grapes, berries, melons, pears, apples, peaches, kiwi, plums, avacados, carrots etc. They also like all nuts especially almonds and feed them these twice daily along with cooked poultry and dog food. Never feed a baby or an adult raccoon cat food. The ingredients in cat food will cause kidney and liver failure in raccoons.