Raccoons are common nocturnal animals that can be found throughout the United States, except in parts of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. So, if you have cats at home, the first thing that might come to mind when you think of these animals is, do cats and raccoons get along?
As fur parents, we are always concerned about the safety of our pets. If your cat enjoys the outdoors frequently, there is a great chance they might encounter wild animals like raccoons. Fortunately, though, it is rare for raccoons to pick a fight with cats. In some cases, they might even get along well with our feline pets. However, this does not mean raccoons will not pose any threats to your pets. This article will explain why, so read on!
Raccoons – friend or foe?
If your cat loves spending time outdoors, especially at night, it is quite normal to worry about their safety. Every now and then, your furry friend might encounter wild animals around your neighborhood, so there is a possibility that they could get into a fight. Altercations are actually quite common, as felines are known for being very defensive over their territories and food sources.
Occasionally, wild animals like raccoons might visit homes and wander around yards looking for food. These bandit-masked mammals are widespread in the US and will forage almost anything they can find. So, if you leave your cat’s food outside, chances are that nearby raccoons will become regular night-time visitors to your home.
While raccoons are not aggressive animals and are unlikely to pick a fight with your cat, they can cause big problems if they invade your backyard. Aside from possibly engaging in a standoff with your pets, a raccoon can also destroy your flowers, steal your hard-earned garden vegetables, or take up residence in your garage or attic. Raccoons are also carriers of diseases and parasites that can threaten both your pets and your family members. Hence, as much as possible, you do not want any raccoon coming too near your home.
Do cats and raccoons get along?
One of the many questions asked by fur parents is – can cats and raccoons become friends? Surprisingly, yes! Cats and raccoons are often indifferent towards one another. Neither animal feels threatened by the other, so there are little to no interactions between them. In most cases, both animals get on with their own business and continue on their separate ways.
However, there are also plenty of stories about raccoons seen eating side-by-side with cats. While this might seem cute and heart-warming, there are a few good reasons not to encourage your furry friends to have close contact with wildlife.
Raccoons can carry diseases and roundworms that can endanger your pet, not to mention the rest of your family. Keeping your cat’s vaccinations up-to-date might help, but it does not guarantee that they will not contract any disease from a raccoon. For this reason, it is never a good idea to actively encourage your pets to share the same food bowl with raccoons.
Are raccoons a danger to cats?
While you might have heard horror stories about raccoons killing and eating cats, these scenarios are very rare. Depending on certain circumstances, it is possible for a raccoon to kill a cat. One example is an aggressive mother raccoon trying to defend her offspring from a cat. Territorial disputes might also cause a cat to attack a raccoon, in which case the cornered wild animal will be forced to fight back.
Raccoons are natural carnivores, so it is possible for them to kill and eat small kittens if their food options are limited. They can also target other small animals like rabbits, birds, and chickens.
In most cases, however, raccoons very rarely attack and kill adult cats. More often than not, the interactions between these two animals are peaceful. Thus, cats generally do not see raccoons as a threat.
Raccoons and cats can share diseases
Perhaps the biggest danger of having raccoons around your home is the possibility of them sharing diseases with your pets. As mentioned, these wild animals are prone to carrying both infectious and parasitic diseases. While these might not always be fatal for a healthy cat, they can be problematic and expensive to treat.
Some of the diseases that raccoons can spread to domestic cats are:
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals. In North America, raccoons have been notorious for carrying and spreading the disease to other animals, including outdoor cats and dogs.
Some of the tell-tale signs of an animal infected with rabies include:
- sudden weakness of the legs
- breathing problems
- difficulty swallowing
- behavioral changes such as aggression or depression
If you have spotted a raccoon displaying unusual behavior around your property, make sure to call your local animal control right away.
2. Feline distemper
Feline distemper, or panleukopenia, is another contagious disease that is caused by a virus. Raccoons are one of the primary carriers of this disease. Cats that have direct contact with an infected raccoon can contract distemper through the animal’s saliva, fleas, respiratory droplets, and feces.
Feline distemper symptoms become apparent approximately ten days after the cat has contracted the infection. Some of the common symptoms are as follows:
- High fever
- Glowing green eyes
- Unusual discharge from the nose and eyes
- Foaming at the mouth
- Overall changed behavior
Keep in mind that the panleukopenia virus can stay alive in the environment where it was shed and remain transmissible for many years. Hence, you should protect your furry companions at all times by keeping their vaccinations up to date.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects a cat’s internal organs, particularly the kidneys. Raccoons can spread the disease by contaminating your cat’s food and water bowls with urine. Unfortunately, the bacteria can stay alive and infectious for several months, and this is one of the reasons you should never allow a raccoon to share your cat’s bowls.
There is no known vaccination for leptospirosis, so your best defense is to prevent the disease in the first place. Remember that most cats with leptospirosis will not show obvious symptoms. However, a strong link has been observed between leptospirosis and chronic kidney problems in cats.
Baylisascariasis, or “raccoon disease”, is a parasitic disease prevalent in the raccoon population and widespread among outdoor animals. Raccoons make the ideal host for these roundworms because they are not severely affected by the parasites. However, the infected animal can suffer from several health issues, including inflammation and tissue damage. The larvae can also migrate to the brain and badly affect the animal’s nervous system.
Cats can get the parasite by ingesting the microscopic eggs from raccoon excrement. They might also lick the eggs off their paws after having a walk on infected soil or eat the meat of intermediate hosts like birds and rodents.
Baylisascariasis can affect cats in two ways – through intestinal infections and visceral disease. Either way, an infected cat will display a combination of these symptoms:
- Loss of coordination
- Light sensitivity
- Respiratory complications
- Visible nematodes in the eye
- Liver problems
With proper treatment, adult cats can recover from baylisascariasis infection. However, infected young kittens might struggle to survive the disease.
Ways to protect your cat from raccoons
Raccoons might appear friendly to our feline companions, but these animals can spread diseases that might harm our pets and family. Therefore, proper caution should be taken if your area is known to be inhabited by raccoons.
To protect your cats from potential trouble caused by these animals, follow these tips to keep raccoons off your property:
- It is recommended to keep your pets indoors at night, to avoid them coming into contact with raccoons. As you might know, raccoons are nocturnal creatures and therefore mostly active at night.
- Do not leave cat food outside, as this will likely attract a hungry raccoon. Do not feed your pets outside.
- Make sure to discard your leftover food properly – do not throw it outside your home.
- If you have a garden with fruit trees or bushes, make sure to clean up any fallen fruit. Use barriers or natural repellents like hot sauce to discourage raccoons from entering your garden.
- Raccoon-proof your fence by adding chicken wire or electric lines. This will help prevent raccoons from climbing over fences and rummaging in your garden.
- Install motion-activated lights or sprinklers to scare raccoons and other wild animals away.
- Make sure to keep your garden and areas around the home clean. Trim the branches of your trees, and remove poles or tall trees that the animals might use as bridges to access your rooftop.
- Seal any openings in your home, such as cat flaps. Make sure that your garage, doors, and windows are closed at night.
Cats and raccoons are neither friends nor enemies. Raccoons do not treat cats as prey, except perhaps for young kittens when other food is scarce. The two species might even get along, depending on the circumstances. However, it is still best to keep your feline companions away from these wild animals, as raccoons are known carriers of parasites and diseases.
Keeping your cats indoors overnight is the best way to avoid possible contact with raccoons. You should also secure and clean up the areas around your home to ensure that raccoons do not find your home a good source of food or warm shelter.
Image: istockphoto.com / Sonsedska