Four-year-old Melanie can clap, dance, sweep the floor and even ride a bicycle. Melanie is also a raccoon.
While raccoons are intelligent animals, Melanie is particularly gifted for her species.
“Melanie's special,” her owner, Kimberly Unger, told The Daily Mirror. “She has the intelligence of a human toddler.”
Raccoons’ intelligence made them popular test subjects during the early 20th century; however, they eventually fell out of favor — partly because they were smart enough to make frequent jailbreaks.
“All raccoons are pretty smart,” said Suzanne MacDonald, a professor of animal behavior at York University in Toronto. “Back in 1913, this guy named Walter Hunter wanted to see if raccoons are smarter than dogs. He had memory tasks and found that raccoons actually were really, really great at remembering things for a longer period of time than dogs.”
Melanie has committed more than 100 different behaviors to memory, and Unger’s photos and videos of these tricks have turned Melanie into an Internet sensation. She recently even got her own TV show, which will air in the U.K., where they live.
Unger adopted Melanie when she was just 8 weeks old and said they established an “unbelievable bond.” She began socializing and training the tiny raccoon at a young age so she’d be comfortable in a variety of situations.
"She's so friendly with people of all ages and with other animals. She's used to traveling in cars, buses, trains, walking alongside traffic, going shopping, and she's even been to primary school."
While Unger says Melanie makes a wonderful pet, she cautions that not all raccoons are suited for domestic life.
"Raccoons don't tend to make good pets for most people because they can be mischievous and temperamental."
In the United States, raccoons can be legally kept as pets in more than 20 states, according to MyPetRaccoons.com. However, many states require permits to keep the animals, and it may be challenging to find a veterinarian willing to treat what’s considered a wild animal.
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