Will the evil raccoon kill my cat?
May 16, 2007 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Will the evil raccoon kill my cat?

I usually keep my window open just wide enough so that my cat can enter and exit at his leisure. In the wee small hours of this morning, I was awoken by a fierce thud. I looked toward the window and saw what I thought was an obese feline making a hasty escape. I got up to inspect, and found myself staring down a RACCOON! After a few seconds of mutual glaring, I slammed the window shut and the raccoon scampered off (he'd been standing on the roof/ledge right outside my window). My cat was sleeping on my bed at the time and seemed pretty unperturbed by the incident.

The thought of a raccoon vandalizing my apartment actually doesn't bother me as much as the thought of him maiming my cat. I used to like raccoons in the same way I like all fuzzy animals, until a couple of weeks ago when a co-worker told me that one was the architect of the gruesome murder of his childhood cat. Freaked out by this, I kept the window closed for the rest of the night, and of course my cat bitched and moaned and knocked stuff over in protest of his curtailed freedom.

My cat loves to play outside, and he's pretty savvy, and I don't want to force him indoors partly because I live in a studio and partly to avoid the tantrums that would ensue. But I'm terrified that he'll meet his end at the claws of the asshole raccoon! What are the odds that the raccoon will kill my cat? Can I suit him with any raccoon armor? Is there anything at all I can do to protect him? Thank you all!
posted by granted to Pets & Animals (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm in Berkeley, if that makes any difference (like if say the Berkeley strain of raccoons are known for being particularly cat-friendly or cat-antagonistic.)
posted by granted at 1:07 PM on May 16, 2007

A raccoon can easily kill a cat, but chances are he wouldn't bother and your cat would likely skiddaddle long before push came to shove.
posted by zeoslap at 1:16 PM on May 16, 2007

Also the raccoon is looking for food, so make sure there isn't any tasty cat food lying around tempting him.
posted by zeoslap at 1:17 PM on May 16, 2007

Racoons can be very nasty creatures, and they can and will kill other animals.

My father had one long story about a pair of raccoons that had been partially domesticated by a neighbor. I won't get into the whole thing, but one of the data points was that the raccoons, each missing a front leg (they had been trapped) would work together to kill the pets in the neighborhood. I guess they must have been okay to their owner, but they were really nasty to the other animals in the area. They very nearly got his cat... but the cat was gigantic, and a fighter, and ended up disembowling one and seriously hurting the other. But he nearly died himself; they'd gotten his throat and came *this* close to finishing him.

Hmm, guess I told most of the story after all. It had more setup time in my father's version. :)

I don't think the raccoon is likely to actively hunt your cat if it's by itself, and I think the cat would have to choose to fight... if he's not really aggressive and dominant, he's probably fine. If, however, he's the type to pick fights and not back down, yeah, you could have a problem.
posted by Malor at 1:18 PM on May 16, 2007

From what interaction I and my cats have had with raccoons over the years, raccoons and cats pretty much ignore each other. Considering that both species have voracious appetites and are clean freaks, they seem to have enough in common that they mutually tolerate each other.

Mind you, I don't claim to be an expert. This is just personal experience with 3 different cats and several raccoons. Dogs are another subject altogether.

All that being said, don't let the raccoon become a familiar face around the place. If it is snooping around your place there is enough reason to fear rabies (raccoons are a common carrier) that you should consider consulting your local fish & game department for a bit of consulting.

Raccoons look cute and cuddly, but they can be quite fearsome and destructive, let alone disease carriers. Just exercise caution with your pets and your home in mind.
posted by sporky at 1:18 PM on May 16, 2007

From my experience, California coyotes kill a lot more cats than California raccoons. I've never known anyone to have a raccoon killed by a cat but I've met quite a few cats who later ended up as coyote dinner.

That said, I've seen what kind of destruction to other things that raccoons can do, so if I was you I'd seriously make sure to have tight lids on the garbage and not leave things around that make your place enticing for the little buggers.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:21 PM on May 16, 2007

Well, according to this article, Berkeley raccoons are crazy mothers. According to this article, raccoons don't just attack for the heck of it, so unless the raccoon is provoked, your cat should be OK. Although, raccoons do kill hunting dogs (and according to one Twilight Zone episode, a hunter) frequently, the cat should be fine.

I used to keep my cats inside the house when I lived in the country, but that was because of raccoons/wolves/many other wild animals. That and one of my cats is kind of insane when it comes to fights.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:21 PM on May 16, 2007

raccoon killed by a cat = cat killed by a raccoon
posted by miss lynnster at 1:22 PM on May 16, 2007

I think your cat should be safe from the raccoon -- but if you really want to take preventive steps, just make sure there's no sinks, towelettes, or hand sanitizers anywhere in the vicinity.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2007

FYI: raccoons can carry deadly parasites
posted by dcjd at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2007

Cat are usually afraid of raccoons and will generally flee if one gets puffed up and makes the weird growling noises. I've known a big tomcat to take one on, but that is the exception. Raccoons usually wouldn't bother with cats if the cat didn't attack the raccoon first. A raccoon has extremely sharp teeth and once inflicted a nasty bite in the butt of my wife's cat. It didn't take Kreskin to figure out how that encounter played out.
posted by Lame_username at 1:25 PM on May 16, 2007

As a compromise, could you rig a sort of pet door in the window so that your cat could just squeeze back in but the raccoon couldn't follow?

Someone else would have to describe raccoon assault techniques so you would know whether your cat would be likely to escape to the safety of the bedroom or stand, fight and be eaten.
posted by kika at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: but if you really want to take preventive steps, just make sure there's no sinks, towelettes, or hand sanitizers anywhere in the vicinity.

posted by granted at 1:27 PM on May 16, 2007

Also give Alameda Vector Control a call and they may be able to get rid of the raccoon for you (they are indeed a rabies carrier). They are a free service and they trapped a couple of raccoons that were tearing up my lawn over in Oakland.
posted by zeoslap at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: but if you really want to take preventive steps, just make sure there's no sinks, towelettes, or hand sanitizers anywhere in the vicinity.

Oh, because they're dirty? Hahaha, I get it.
posted by granted at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2007

Raccoons absolutely can kill a cat in a confrontation, however they don't typically seek cats out to attack. Most likely the raccoon was looking for a midnight snack, as was mentioned above.

I don't know if rabies is as much of a concern in the raccoon population in CA as it is in NY/NJ (where I'm from), but my first thought of a raccoon trying to come into your house is "eek, rabies!" And they can carry other diseases as well. And make a HUGE mess.

If you can't keep your cat in, then I agree with the suggestion to get a cat door that would only allow your cat to enter & leave. And please make sure your cat is up to date on his shots.
posted by tastybrains at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2007

Raccoons will kill cats if they're hungry enough or if they've had a bad day. If it's a city raccoon it's probably a lot more tempted by your garbage can or dumpster though, as they don't put up as much of a fight as a cat will. Best to be safe, though.

It's a joke. Raccoons are known to clean their food before eating it. The cruelest thing you can do to a raccoon, so they say, is to give it a sugar cube, as it will disolve in water.
posted by lekvar at 1:35 PM on May 16, 2007

Best answer: As a compromise, could you rig a sort of pet door in the window so that your cat could just squeeze back in but the raccoon couldn't follow?

A friend of mine in Berkeley did just this and for the same reason: cats / raccoons. Even if you decide not to fear for your cat's life, you will soon decide you can't live with raccoons shredding everything in your house. One whiff of raccoon shit will change your mind if all else fails. It is crazy stuff.

This friend of mine bought a cat door that came with a special collar with a magnet inside. The magnet was like a wireless key that opened the door for the cat and the cat only. Since she was renting, she couldn't saw a hole in her rear door for the whole thing, so she just put it into a flat piece of plywood, slid her double-hung window sash up, and placed the piece of wood there, lowering the window down onto it to anchor it. I don't think the whole deal was too expensive. Lemme know if you need to borrow a power saw.
posted by scarabic at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2007

If anecdotal evidence is useful ...
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:41 PM on May 16, 2007

Raccoons killed my cat in the Berkeley hills last year. We're pretty sure he was a fighter, though, and prone to confrontation.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2007

There was a recent spate of raccoons targeting cats in Olympia, WA. It sounds like an unusual learned behavior more than a natural inclination, but worth considering. I did watch one of my cats, an aggressive huntress type, face down a raccoon once when it snuck in for a quick meal at her food dish, but the raccoon didn't seem all that threatened. More like annoyed at having to give up its easy snack.
posted by ga$money at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2007

As a former wildlife rehabber - I agree with those who say raccoons carry disease. A few of them (diseases) are dangerous to humans as well as cats. That's your biggest risk. On the other hand, the parasites they carry are pretty much everywhere anyway, and some can only be killed with a blowtorch. Make sure you always wash your hands thoroughly and your cat has all of its shots. Raccoons don't seek out cats. They are not strictly nocturnal, but they are survivalists, and night is the safest time for them. Most raccoons don't have rabies. They do get distemper. They are very curious and very adept - and they mostly want a free meal. You don't want raccoons in your house. You really don't. They're not clean animals at all - and they stink!
posted by clarkstonian at 1:57 PM on May 16, 2007

My father has an indoor-outdoor cat and lives in a rural area with lots of groundhogs and raccoons. We see these beasties quite regularly at night, so this is not me saying "oh, there might be raccoons around." There are definitely racoons around. Two years into his cat ownership experience the cat remains in one piece, as do the raccoons. Granted, the raccoons do not attempt to enter the house. We have no cat doors or unscreened windows; the cat has trained him to let her in or out when she scratches on one of the doors. She has a fair bit of common sense, as far as I cats go.

Results not typical. YRMV. YCMV. YMMV.
posted by Alterscape at 1:58 PM on May 16, 2007

Raccoons are pretty smart. It is going to remember it can get access to your house through that window. It probably won't go out of its way to attack your cat, but remember, all it takes is one bite and you may be required to put the pet down for rabies.
posted by Anonymous at 2:13 PM on May 16, 2007

I've got a friend who used to live in Park Service housing in the Marin headlands. They'd leave a window or two open; raccoons would enter and absolutely destroy their stuff - rip open backpacks to get at the bag a trail mix inside, dump the kitchen garbage everywhere, etc. Your stuff may be more at risk than your cat.
posted by rtha at 2:27 PM on May 16, 2007

Why not leave the window closed at night and only allow the cat out during the day when you can supervise what goes out...and comes in? I know you want to avoid tantrums but it sounds like cats + raccoons = bad news. Surely a few nighttime squabbles are worth a healthy pet? Or if the cat absolutely must go outside at night, get one of the magnetic pet-doors mentioned by scarabic above. Googling "magnetic pet doors" or "electric pet doors" brings up a ton of results.
posted by LeeJay at 2:53 PM on May 16, 2007

Or, your cat could scare the shit out of a raccoon.
posted by mckenney at 3:05 PM on May 16, 2007

I used to live in Berkely, and had two cats, one a very fluffly maine coon-ish thing. I also had a small little catdoor that led out to the wildnerness. The raccoons, no matter how fluffy, ALWAYS found a way to make it through the door. This would happen nightly, and I would become extremely attuned to the sound of my cats walking through the house vs. Rocky and the fam. I would awaken from a dead sleep, spring out of bed and fly through to the living room with a waving broom, screaming bloody murder. These buggers weren't phased.

And then one evening, I got a wake up call. I returned home from work at midnight, opened the front door to find little more than a fluffly tail lying just inside the entry. And a carnage trail leading to two proud, smiling cats among an array of raccoon parts strewn all over the carpet. These cats finally had enough of the raccoons taking on their turf. And they managed to kill one, which was a miracle. Both cats were tore up, scratched, bloodied and shaking. Both had their tails on though. I think we were all lucky. Raccoons are VICIOUS. Fortunately, so were my sweet fluffy things.

I barred up the kitty door. Litterboxes are much easier to clean.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:05 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Raccoons can kill just for the fun of it, when they get bored. I had a friend who worked in a park where the raccoons would rip the heads off of birds and small mammals for entertainment.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:14 PM on May 16, 2007

I have nothing useful to contribute, but this is probably the best thread I've read on AskMe ever.

My neighbor once found a raccoon in his yard, threw a flashlight at it, and when that didn't work, PUNTED the thing over his fence.
posted by nasreddin at 3:30 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tangential: if the raccoon happened to get in and get past you and the cat, it can do some serious damage in your house. They are dirty, flea-bearing, rabies-threat, unpredictably-behaved little bastards that will also track mud all over your sofa* and trash your kitchen. If you really want to let your cat outside, at least get the mag-lock cat door so a raccoon can't follow it back in.

*My mother came in my room one night and carefully closed the door before making a 'shh' sign at me, showing me her gun, and mouthing 'there's someone in the house.' The culprit left via doggy-door before the police arrived, but the pawprints on the sofa were very distinctive. They also used to open the freezer in the carport and sit in the driveway eating frozen lasagna and pies. (The raccoons, I mean, not the cops.)
posted by Lyn Never at 3:39 PM on May 16, 2007

Be careful with making a smaller door for just your cat. I had a family of raccoons move into my attic through an extremely small vent on my roof. What a nightmare that was.....
posted by melt away at 4:01 PM on May 16, 2007

Response by poster: Aw, nutsack. He was totally after the cat food - I store it in a shelf right under the window. I definitely will be reorganizing the apartment setup.

I really can't see my cat challenging a raccoon to a fight. He's only an asshole to those he knows well. I can maybe see him mistaking the raccoon for an obese feline (like I did) and trying to befriend it, but more likely he'd just run away.

The destruction my cat would wreak on my place should I bar him from going outside would equal or even dwarf the destruction wreaked by an army of hungry raccoons. I'm exaggerating, but he really would pitch a fit and I wouldn't blame him.

I really like the idea of the magnetic cat door, especially since I'm not comfortable with leaving my window open all the time (it gets cold at night, and I'm not paying to heat the outdoors and all.). They cost a whole lot less than I thought they would, too. I may take you up on your power saw offer, scarabic (me with a power saw...now there's a scary thought.).
posted by granted at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2007

My kitty actually protected our backyard from a raccoon trying to get into our kitchen for food. The raccoon was more scared of the kitty and was for the most part on the defensive. The kitty would actually chase it around the yard and up trees.

That's just one situation though.
posted by ageispolis at 4:17 PM on May 16, 2007

Another data point: a group of raccoons killed my childhood cat. The cat was young and located in Orinda, near Berkeley.
posted by equipoise at 5:05 PM on May 16, 2007

A raccoon'll gut ya just to hear to scream. Don't kid yourself.

Raccoon killed my uncle. True story.
posted by Bonzai at 5:21 PM on May 16, 2007

Raccoons are known to clean their food before eating it.

My understanding is that racoons lack saliva glands, which is why they wet their food, but that could be a myth.

Up here in the Peoples Republic of Washington, racoons are a growing menace to pets. News reports over the winter talked of roving gangs of racoons taking out dogs and cats.

They are wild predators. Why would they not kill a cat?
posted by trinity8-director at 5:42 PM on May 16, 2007

I have had a LOT of raccoon experiences... many involving cat doors.

Personally, I would err on the side of protecting puss, but most of raccoon aggression seems aimed at other raccoons, usually about food.

I Nth the warnings about raccoon-carried disease. Some are particularly nasty.

FYI, they have really bad breath. I used to be able to tell one was in the house. I've had them tear off nailed-on covers for deactivated cat doors. I've had them come inside the house through an alternate path and find the stairs into the kitchen. I've had momma and three kits in the house at once. I have played broom hockey using baby raccoons. I had steel covers fabricated for my deck posts and lubricated them every week as a deterrent to raccon mountaineering. (It worked!). (Most of this was in Asheville, NC... a veritable metropolis, BTW.)

I've trapped them in a cage whose door I held open with a string while they walked into it. I've fed them by hand and petted them. I talked myself out of a traffic ticket once because I had one in the car I was taking to the local national forest for release.

But I would never have one for a pet, nor leave my pets in their presence. They can be ill tempered and those teeth are big. Brrrr....

I am now going to stop typing and go pet my cats!
posted by FauxScot at 5:54 PM on May 16, 2007

A San Francisco raccoon bit the hell out of my best friend's sweet girl cat. She almost died, and my friend had to hold her down and irrigate the bite wounds that went through her face for weeks until they healed, while the kitty cried and moaned. Close your window.
posted by Scram at 8:26 PM on May 16, 2007

I don't know about the efficacy of most of the magnetic cat doors but I will tell you do not get a Staywell door. I was trying to keep one persistent but not too bright cat out of the house- it took her a week to get the right bang-bang-bang on it so she could come as she pleased.
posted by pointilist at 8:45 PM on May 16, 2007

I've always known raccoons to be capable of killing a cat (or an unlucky dog) when both were interested in the same food, but I had my doubts that raccoons actually hunted down cats. My instinct was to dismiss the anecdotes of cat-killing-'coons as misattributed coyote attacks, but some googling shows eye witness testimony that speaks to the claims I've heard in real life and read above: raccoons actually do hunt and kill cats.

My bet is that diseases contracted from raccoons kill more cats than attacks, but I'm a little surprised and frankly a little creeped out by this new realization...
posted by jaysus chris at 9:51 PM on May 16, 2007

Yeah, what they said. Raccoons can and sometimes do kill cats. The magnet-triggered cat flaps I've seen make no claims of being raccoon-proof; the one I had offered no protection against a critter smart and dextrous enough to pull it open.

Raccoons are very smart and dextrous critters. (Search the web and you'll find lots of stories about how these doors don't offer any meaningful protection against raccoons.)

Our cats are very stupid critters, and my wife saw our tiny cat take a swing at a huge raccoon in our kitchen. (I'm in Berkeley, too.)

Since then, I've installed one of these magnet-controlled doors, which is advertised as raccoon-proof, and can't be pulled open.

Now I'm just scared about a raccoon scratching at the door, and one of our idiot cats walking over to see what's going on, thus opening the door. Once in, the raccoon would have no way to get out.

We've only had a raccoon problem in the rainy season. So I have some months to think about that one...
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:28 AM on May 17, 2007

I lived in San Francisco and had to board up my kitty door when a raccoon started coming in on a nightly basis. It was very aggressive and it was impossible to get it to leave. I would just shut the kitchen door and leave him to it. It would make an unholy mess and freak my cat out. I boarded the cat door up and kept the cat in at night. It just wasn't worth the risk of injury to the cat, or to myself. I've had rabies shots and they are Not Fun.
posted by poissonrouge at 12:57 AM on May 17, 2007

A racoon lives under our front porch, where he waits patiently each night for the garbage can to be filled. We have a cat who comes/goes as she pleases and hangs on the front porch. So far she is still alive, and we have never heard any fights or anything.
posted by poppo at 9:30 AM on May 17, 2007

I knew a woman whose dog died from a racoon holding it's head under water to drown it because the dog tried to go after it. Racoons are crafty.
posted by koshka at 2:50 PM on May 17, 2007

I live in Vallejo and several years ago we had a problem in the Glen Cove area with racoons that were snapping the heads off of cats. The cat/racoon fights were occuring in the open fields and seemed to be disputes over food. Both the cats and the racoons were fighting over the field mice. Some of my friends who lived in the area had to keep their outdoor cats indoors.

I live in northern Vallejo next to a park and the freeway, and we have plenty of racoons, possums, skunks and other wildlife but we've had no problems with the racoons attacking the cats. In fact, recently I saw the cat around the corner sitting next to a racoon while the racoon ate its food.

If you are concerned about the safety of your cat I would recommend installing a cat door with a magnetic clasp activated by a magnetic cat collar. That way the cat door will only open when your cat approaches the door.
posted by alleycatd at 9:04 PM on May 29, 2007

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