Do raccoons eat cats? It’s a question many cat-loving homeowners have pondered. If you have a furry companion that spends time outdoors, especially at night, you may worry about your cat’s safety, and with good reason. While raccoons tend not to be aggressive, cats sometimes can be, and backyard standoffs may result when there is a dispute over territory or, especially, food.
Fights between felines and raccoons are not unheard of, and raccoons can carry rabies, roundworm and other infectious diseases, so any clash between a cat and a raccoon poses a potential threat to the cat’s health, not to mention your own. So yes, under some circumstances, raccoons can and will kill a cat, and if they do, they may go as far as to eat your beloved pet. For all of these reasons, it’s important to learn about raccoons and their behavior around household pets, so you’ll know how to keep raccoons away from your home and property for good.
Will Raccoons Hurt Cats?
The short answer to whether raccoons will hurt cats is that yes, it is possible. Raccoons can hurt cats either directly, by biting or scratching them, or indirectly, through transmitting a disease.
Again, raccoons are not typically aggressive animals, so it is unlikely that a raccoon would stalk your cat or hunt it down in order to attack it, whether for food, protection or sport. That being said, raccoons can become aggressive if they feel their food source is threatened, or if a mother raccoon is trying to protect her babies. These are two reasons why fights do occasionally break out between cats and raccoons.
On rare occasions, hungry raccoons have also been known to prey on kittens and small cats, as well as on other relatively small animals, when there are no other sources of food available. Fortunately, this is rare, especially since food sources tend to be plentiful for these animals that can and will eat almost anything, including insects, dead animals and human food waste. Although it doesn’t happen often, it is a possible scenario for a cat to be injured in an encounter with a raccoon, at least under certain circumstances.
Rabid raccoons may also be aggressive toward cats, as well as humans and other animals. Aggression isn’t the only sign of a rabid raccoon, of course; a sick raccoon might also seem unusually lethargic. If you spot a raccoon in your yard and worry that it might have rabies, here are some signs to look out for that could indicate you do have an extra reason to be concerned:
- Rather than walking normally, the raccoon is unsteady on its feet, perhaps even staggering erratically.
- The raccoon seems confused, disoriented or oblivious to noises or movements that would normally make it run away.
- The hair on the raccoon’s face appears wet and matted, or there is drool or discharge coming from its mouth or eyes.
- The animal is making repeated, unusual chattering or screeching sounds.
If you have pets that spend time outdoors, be sure to keep their rabies and other vaccinations up to date to help keep them safe. It is also important to take other measures to keep raccoons away from your property and your pets.
How To Keep Raccoons Out Of Cat Food
An important aspect of keeping cats safe from raccoons is keeping raccoons away from the cats’ food. Unfortunately, cat food and dog food are reported to be among raccoons’ favorite meals, and raccoons are intelligent, adaptable and wild animals. This means keeping them out of your pets’ food might take some intelligent planning and adaptation of your own.
First and foremost, if you feed your cats or other pets outdoors, don’t store their food outside, and remove their food bowls as soon as they finish their meals. It’s better not to feed them outside at all, if possible; feeding cats and storing their food indoors will greatly cut down on raccoons’ access to the food.
Again, however, raccoons are an intelligent and adaptable species. Even keeping your pets and their food inside may not ensure that raccoons stay away, if you don’t also make sure to close off any holes or other points of entry into your home that might enable a hungry raccoon to come inside. Pet doors are a common culprit in homes where raccoons are a problem, as raccoons can easily figure out how to push through and enter the house. If you have a dog or cat door installed in a door that leads to the outside, be sure to cover or lock it at night, when raccoons are most active.
Do Raccoons Eat Cat Food?
The truth is, raccoons eat almost everything—and many people report that raccoons seem to view cat food and dog food as a real delicacy. So if you feed your cat outdoors or store its food someplace outside your home, there is a real chance you will inadvertently draw raccoons to your property as they seek out the source of that wonderful cat food smell (yuck!). This is why it’s so important to store your cat’s food in a locked, airtight bin, preferably indoors, and to keep all food bowls inside as well. Limiting raccoons’ access to food and water sources goes a long way toward keeping these creatures away from your property and pets.
Raccoons In Backyard? Here’s What to Do
Raccoons may not be naturally aggressive, but they can cause quite a few problems. If raccoons move into some part of your property, turned-over garbage cans and strewn-about litter will be the least of your worries. Raccoons could build a den and have babies in your attic, walls or ductwork. Baby raccoons can sometimes get trapped in hard-to-reach parts of your home’s interior framework, which can result in death by starvation. A dead animal trapped in your walls can make your entire house smell awful for days or even weeks; dead animals also draw fleas, roaches, flies and other pests. Live, healthy raccoons can also cause plenty of other issues, such as chewing through electrical wires, which poses a fire risk, or destroying drywall and insulation, which can be troublesome and expensive to fix.
The good news is that raccoons are quite easy to identify, thanks to their well-known, unmistakable facial markings—namely, the black fur surrounding their eyes that makes them appear as if they’re wearing a bandit’s mask. Raccoons also have fluffy, black-and-brown ringed tails as well as delicate and dexterous paws, and they grow to be about 20–30 pounds—about the size of a very large cat or medium-sized dog.
Think you have a raccoon problem on your property? If you frequently see raccoons around your yard at night or regularly find that your garbage or compost bins have been messed with, it’s understandable to suspect that you have raccoons active in your backyard or somewhere around your home. Here are some steps you can take to protect your cat and any other pets along with your property:
- Since raccoons are most active at night, keep your cats and other pets indoors at night.
- Never leave cat food or human food (or food waste) outside. Use waste bins with tightly fitting lids, including for compost, as open compost piles can attract many types of unwanted critters, not just raccoons. Securing garbage cans with bungee cords and heavy cinder blocks may be necessary to keep the wiliest raccoons out. You can also store smelly waste like meat or fish scraps in your refrigerator or freezer until garbage pickup day, so the odor in your garbage cans won’t attract wildlife.
- If you have fruit trees or bushes in your yard, pick up or rake up any fallen fruit so it won’t attract raccoons. You can also try using hot sauce containing capsaicin as a repellent barrier around the border of your garden, or leave lights on in your garden to drive the raccoons away.
- Raccoons are also attracted to bird feeders, so, unfortunately, if you have a raccoon problem, you may have to do away with birdseed until you’ve taken the right steps to keep the raccoons away. At the very least, try to feed the birds only in the morning, and only as much as they can eat before nightfall. Another option is to bring bird feeders indoors at night, so raccoons can’t access them, or hang them on a very thin pole that raccoons can’t climb.
- Consider raccoon-proofing your fence by adding chicken wire to the top, and possibly an electric line, to keep them (and other animals) from climbing over.
- Don’t feed your cat or other pets outside. Feeding them outdoors increases the likelihood that they will come into contact with raccoons, so it’s best to feed them inside the house if possible.
- Clear away dead trees and logs from your property, as raccoons often make homes inside hollow trees or logs.
- Keep tree branches trimmed back from your roof line to limit wild animals’ access to your home, and patch up any holes in the eaves or other areas of your home or garage.
ABC Can Prevent An Unfortunate Wildlife Encounter
The simple fact is, for most homeowners, wildlife removal is not a do-it-yourself kind of job. Trapping wild animals without a license is illegal in Texas, and methods other than trapping pose risks to homeowners and their loved ones, including children and pets. For all of these reasons, it’s far better to hire an experienced professional who can handle the job. At ABC Home & Commercial Services, our pest removal specialists are experienced in helping homeowners deal with many different types of unwelcome wildlife visitors. We understand raccoon activity, including the fact that raccoons that move into an attic have likely done so in order to have babies, and believe in humane trapping rather than poison as a control method. We will work to unite mother and baby raccoons rather than allowing them to be separated, and we will relocate these creatures far away from your home. We will also use proven preventative measures to keep raccoons away and ensure that other animals don’t decide it’s a good idea to invade your property, so you can keep your family and pets safe from any potentially dangerous encounters.