Is it likely that the raccoons in my (parents') attic will fall through the ceiling and into the house? And what to do in self-defense? I'm scared!
December 12, 2010 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it likely that the raccoons in my (parents') attic will fall through the ceiling and into the house? And what to do in self-defense? I'm scared!

My parents heard animal (almost certainly raccoon) noises in the attic 24 hours before they left for a week-long vacation and they asked me to watch the house until the pest control people come tomorrow morning (8-10 hours from now).

Last night I slept with my boyfriend upstairs in a bedroom near the front of the house and we heard them shuffling about loudly at 5am. I was startled, but not too scared because I was with a braver person.

Tonight I am alone and too scared to sleep upstairs. The only place downstairs with a place to sleep is on the couch, but there isn't a door on the room.

I read this website and it seems that sometimes (not rarely) raccoons will fall through the ceiling into the house.

Question 1: is this really likely?

The house is in Whitby, ON, about 17 years old; the ceiling has a bumpy finish and it sounds like drywall when I tap it (I don't think it's solid wood). To my knowledge there is no structural damage and the roof was replaced <3 yrs ago.

Question 2: what can I do to feel safe enough to sleep in this room without a door?

I have shut all the upstairs bedroom doors, thinking that will contain them if they fall into the house, but there are no barriers should they fall into the open areas (stairs/landing). What can I do to secure my room?

I have the lights on in the adjoining kitchen... should I leave the lights on where I'm sleeping? I understand that raccoons prefer dark areas. I also have a broom nearby in case of combat. What else?

(I know this sounds crazy, but I am really nervous! Please don't make fun of me.)
posted by cranberrymonger to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's very, very unlikely that the attic floor is that weak. Play music. They want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them, and music signals humans.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 PM on December 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Attics are designed to have crap/people in them without collapsing onto the house. It's really unlikely that a 10 pound raccoon will break through. I'd put on some music to drown out the scratching, since that's kind of freaky, and just try not to think about it too much 'till the animal control guys come.
posted by phunniemee at 10:18 PM on December 12, 2010

Response by poster: Btw, there is nothing stored in the attic currently, except for the raccoons.
posted by cranberrymonger at 10:20 PM on December 12, 2010

I am actually going through the same thing! The critters (not sure if they are raccoons or squirrels) decided to sleep/live/generally make a lot of noise right above my bed. It is quite disturbing.

I would be more concerned about the critters chewing through things like electrical wire than them falling through the ceiling
posted by littlesq at 10:33 PM on December 12, 2010

They're not going to fall through the ceiling. But they will take up residence if you do nothing. Call a professional.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:35 PM on December 12, 2010

Um, actually, a guy who lived in the top-floor flat of the three-unit house I lived in years ago got up in the middle of the night and there was a raccoon in his living room, with a corresponding hole in the ceiling.

The attic space above him was not at all finished - I mean, there was nothing up there resembling a floor. There were a few boards, and insulation, and that was pretty much it, except for the ceiling of the apartment below. Which didn't hold the raccoon up.

If there's a floor up there in the attic, I can't imagine you have anything to worry about. If there isn't, call animal control sooner rather than later.
posted by rtha at 10:49 PM on December 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm so happy you guys are awake to weigh in on this.

The animal catchers are coming tomorrow morning. I am just worried about tonight's sleep.
posted by cranberrymonger at 10:52 PM on December 12, 2010

The only thing that got raccoons off my roof was an electric fence. They learn quickly.
If you get a professional to catch them, others will take their place.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:54 PM on December 12, 2010

They won't fall through the ceiling. They won't hurt you. Just don't corner them.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:55 PM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: If you're really scared, you can always barricade yourself in the bathroom and sleep in the bathtub - just bring the mattress and blankets. A weapon might be overkill, but have your cellphone with you. I don't think it's likely they'll break through the ceiling, but fears are not always rational, so for the sake of peace of mind (and not because of any actual danger), you might do that just to get a good night's sleep.
posted by VikingSword at 11:12 PM on December 12, 2010

Best answer: I think it would help to break this down rationally. How opften do you hear of raccoons falling through ceiling? Not very often. Earthquakes, house fires, floods etc are a lot more common. Even if it does happen what, exactly, do you think the raccoons are going to do to you if they do fall through the ceiling? They're pretty small and afraid of people you know. They are not wolves, it's irrational to be this afraid of them. I'm not "making fun of you", I'm telling you the truth.

Also it might just be a tiny squirrel. I had a tiny squirrel in my attic earlier this year and he sounded like an elephant running around up there.
posted by fshgrl at 11:50 PM on December 12, 2010

The odds of it happening tonight are pretty low. If it does, you can always escape to the yard and call the cops-- wild, possibly rabid creature loose in the residence counts as an emergency.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:04 AM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: Drywall is fairly strong. As long as it hasn't been weakened by the roof leaking water onto it for a prolonged period, a raccoon is not going to fall through. There may also be a layer of plywood on top of the drywall. I doubt very much that you want to go look just now, but it definitely might be up there.

I wouldn't sweat it too much. Even if you somehow DID end up with an unwelcome guest, he'll be absolutely terrified of you. As long as you don't corner him, he'll be desperately trying to get away, not attack. You're WAY bigger than he is, and he knows that.

The only way you're going to get bitten is if you force the issue, and you're not going to do that, right?

You don't actually need to do this, but if you leave the doors open in the house, that'll give any raccoon an escape route to get the heck away from you. As soon as he knows where you are, whether you're asleep or awake, he'll get as far away as he possibly can.
posted by Malor at 3:27 AM on December 13, 2010

My dad's neighbour in Houston had a racoon fall through the ceiling on her while she was in the shower. She was terrified, but I'm pretty sure it was worse for the racoon. It really does happy, but it's rare enough that you shouldn't worry about it happening -- like car crashes and Dengue.
posted by londonmark at 5:15 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are going to call an exterminator, right? One that has raccoon traps.

You absolutely can not just leave this animal in the attic. And it is not because to protect your personal stuff - it is to protect the mechanical systems of your house!

Raccoons are rodents - and like most rodents, they gnaw with their front teeth. They will gnaw on your HVAC ducts and on electrical wire. Both of these things are paid - the electrical wiring, though, that is what you should really be afraid of. Raccoons can and do start electrical fires.
posted by Flood at 5:30 AM on December 13, 2010

It could be that you have field mice, roof rats, chipmunks or squirrels up there, too. Any of these smaller rodents can make about as much noise as a raccoon, sometimes more, as they often will be present in colonies. Good news is that if these are the critters making your noise, they are smaller, and therefore less likely to fall through. Bad news is that smaller rodents, especially mice and rats, urinate almost continually, soaking dry wall with urine which can contain hanta virus and other pathogens. Also, if your pests are roof rats, they are as wily or more so than raccoons, and hard to eliminate quickly. Baits don't work reliably, and trapping all of them can take even professionals several attempts, and plugging all soffitt vents and eaves openings against roof rats can take some time, as they can get in through holes the size of dime.
posted by paulsc at 5:41 AM on December 13, 2010

Raccoons are not rodents; they might chew stuff so they're not good guests, but they're quite clever and much keener to avoid you than you are to avoid them.
posted by anadem at 7:17 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank-you everyone for helping me feel better about this whole situation. I really appreciate the "reality checks" and the suggestions.

The animal catcher came today and said the creatures were definitely raccoons. He's put a one-way trap in the soffit hole and some strong wire mesh here and there to prevent them from trying other entry points.

FWIW, I asked people IRL who I love and trust (parents, boyfriend, roommate) about raccoons falling through the ceiling and though they all gave a resounding "NO," I didn't feel fully confident until I heard it from Mefites. :)
posted by cranberrymonger at 10:46 AM on December 13, 2010

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