Wikipedia describes the raccoon (Procyon lotor) as an omnivorous mammal belonging to the family Procyonidae. It is native to much of North America and can be found as far south as Panama and as far north as Canada.
Adults can weigh anywhere between ten and sixty pounds, and the males are substantially larger than the females. There are over 20 subspecies, which helps explain the large range in size.
Raccoons prefer to live in places that have trees, as they climb up trees when they are threatened and also like to sleep in tree hollows. If they can’t find a tree, a raccoon will make do with a burrow.
Raccoons are smart enough and adaptable enough to find homes in the suburbs and even cities. They are considered a nuisance in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Do raccoons eat cats?
According to Emily Parker, a writer for “Catalogical,” raccoons will indeed eat cats, especially kittens. They are nocturnal predators that hunt many of the same things that cats do, like various rodents and other small animals.
The bigger and more aggressive raccoons will also take adult cats and even small dogs.
Some Youtube videos depict friendly interactions between cats and raccoons. The below video, for example, shows a pet raccoon cuddling with a cat:
In the wild, however, the two animals are more likely to see each other as rivals than friends. Not only can raccoons kill and eat cats, but they can also give them diseases like rabies or infect them with various parasites. Raccoons are also thieves that will themselves to a cat’s food.
Cats are territorial and may try to chase or fight off visiting raccoons, which can end badly for the cat. As mentioned above, the raccoon will often have a significant size advantage. They are also fast and intelligent.
“Don’t raccoons and cats sometimes mate?”
S. Hartwell, a writer for “Messy Beast,” describes some of the folklore surrounding alleged hybrids of domestic cats and other animals.
The Manx cat, for example, is sometimes said to be a cross between a rabbit and cat, and is even called a “cabbit.”
Similarly, the Maine Coon was once believed to be the product of cat-raccoon crosses. Maine Coons are most often brown tabbies, and they tend to have bushy striped tails that look a bit like a raccoon’s tail.
While most people know better today, back in the 19th century, people wrote the scientific journals of the time describing encounters with animals they believed to be cat-raccoon crosses.
The journals took the claims seriously enough to print the descriptions in their “letters” sections. Even as recently as 1984, somebody tried to mate a cat with a raccoon, only to have the two animals fight each other.
Crosses between cats and raccoons or rabbits are genetically impossible, however. The only actual feline hybrids are those produced by mating two different cat species. The Savannah, for example, is a cross between a domestic cat and a serval.
Are there other animals that can eat cats?
Cats, unfortunately, are small enough that they can be prey for a larger predator. Betty Lewis, a writer for “The Nest,” describes some of the animals that can and will attack a cat in order to eat it.
Topping that list is the coyote, which is no longer confined to rural areas. This relative of the dog has spread to the suburbs and cities, and cats can make up a sizeable part of their diet.
In March 2019, the National Park Service reported finishing a two-year-long study of urban coyotes’ diet in Los Angeles and Thousand Oaks. Volunteers collected coyote scat or feces and analyzed the samples.
They found that cats made up 20 percent of the items eaten by the coyotes in Los Angeles. Like raccoons, coyotes will also frequently help themselves to cat food left outside.
The larger birds of prey can also kill and eat a cat. Eagles, owls, and red-tailed hawks have all been known to catch cats and small dogs.
Even if the cat survives an attack, the bird’s talons can leave nasty wounds. If the bird drops the cat while trying to carry it to its aerie, the resultant fall could injure or kill it.
How can you protect your cat from a raccoon?
The simplest way to make a sure your cat never runs afoul of a raccoon is to keep her inside, especially at night when raccoons are most active.
Similarly, cat owners shouldn’t feed their cats outside, as the smell of food will draw raccoons and other unwelcome guests. All pet food should be kept indoors.
Homeowners should fix any cracks or holes in their home to keep raccoons from getting in. Windows should be secured so raccoons can’t get in. It’s particularly important to secure basements and attics.
Homeowners should keep their yards should be kept clean, and not leave out full trashcans or anything else that might smell good to a hungry raccoon.
Wildlife Animal Control provides advice on what to do if someone already has raccoons living on their property or in their house. They note that raccoons in the house probably have a nest of babies.
They also recommend using an automated sprinkler system to scare off raccoons that are hanging around your yard.
One example is the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer. It’s a motion-activated sprinkler that has sensing technology that is smart enough to respond only to the movement of animals, so it won’t spray water if plants move in response to the wind blowing.
The owner can also program the sprinkler so it will work just during the night, just during the day, or both. The sprinkler can repel raccoons and other pests like stray dogs, stray cats, rabbits, and deer.
The University of California’s Integrated Pest Management (UCIPM) Program recommends various exclusion methods to keep raccoons out of a homeowner’s property and away from their pets.
For example, capping chimneys with “spark arresters” will keep raccoons from using the chimney to get into the house. Spark arresters can also keep out other animals like rats and squirrels.
The homeowner can also use 10-gauge 1/3 or ¼ inch galvanized hardware mesh as a tight screen to keep raccoons from nesting under places like porches or decks. The screen’s bottom edge should extend a foot outward and be buried at least six inches deep.
Fences by themselves won’t keep raccoons out since the animals can dig under them or climb over them. Raccoons, however, are sensitive to electric shocks, so an electrified fence can keep the pests out.
UCIPM recommends a single strand of electric wire that is eight inches away from the base of the fence and eights inches above the ground.
The homeowner should use a fence charger similar to the one used for keeping cattle fenced. It would have a high voltage and emit the electricity in pulses. Electrified wire wrapped around a tree trunk will keep the raccoon from climbing that particular tree.
How do you trap a raccoon?
Most people are better off leaving this task to an exterminator or animal control officer. In addition, trapping animals is against the law in some states.
Wildlife Animal Control does offer advice for people determined to try. They do caution that raccoons are intelligent and will remember being trapped if they manage to escape.
The homeowner will also have to release the raccoon at least 15 miles away from their home so the raccoon doesn’t find its way back.
The Havahart trap is the most commonly used humane traps in the United States, and they come in different sizes. A trap for a raccoon should be at least 32 inches long, 12 inches high, and 12 inches wide.
Baby raccoons in the attic have to be caught by hand. They can then be placed in the trap as bait to lure the mother.
Since raccoons are omnivores, they like a lot of the same things that humans do. While some people use meat as bait, that might attract another animal like an opossum or the neighbor’s cat.
Many trappers swear by marshmallows. Raccoons have a well-developed sweet tooth and the size and color of the marshmallows make them look a bit like eggs.
After finding a bunch of raccoon tracks, the homeowner should put the trap on level ground. If the cage wobbles or makes noise, the raccoon will flee.
The trap should also be placed somewhere shady to reduce the risk of dehydration. The homeowner should check the trap at least twice a day.