This Cute Raccoon Is Stealing Our Cat Food!

I was out on the back deck reading after dinner when Tom poked his head out the door, looked past me towards the steps, and laughed, saying “Who’s your friend?”


We quickly realized that this was the raccoon we’ve seen hanging around our yard recently. Claire and I had spotted her the day before, boldly bathing in our backyard fountain, totally unconcerned when we came close enough to take this iPhone photo.


But that evening on the porch, it took a few minutes to figure out the source of her boldness: a few days earlier, I had (somewhat alarmingly) heard the sound of glass breaking in the middle of the day, but never found the cause. Later, Tom asked, “How did that jar get broken out back?” and he told me how he’d cleaned up a big broken jar at the base of the deck stairs.  Eventually, we put it all together: mid-day open back door, jar of cat food, bold raccoon! (No cat food bits were left amongst the broken glass, Tom reports.) The jar had a lid with a handle, just like the one in the picture below.  Can’t you imagine those bad little paws pulling it along the porch?  Now she was back for the new jar.


She’s a very small raccoon, and a little sweetheart–not much concerned about our presence, but still a little shy, and not at all aggressive. She always leaves when we ask her to. Her enlarged nipples mean she’s got some young stashed away nearby somewhere. I don’t begrudge her the cat food (part of me–the unecological part– would love to feed her and her babies!) but for her own good, I’m making sure she doesn’t get any more.  Raccoons that are accustomed to human food sources  become emboldened, and if they begin visiting households that aren’t as sanguine about raccoons, it can mean a ticket to the animal control death chamber.  This day, I went back to reading Jane Austen, and the raccoon climbed the cherry tree to steal the fruit.  A much better arrangement.

There is a myth that raccoons seen during the day are rabid, but this is untrue.  While most raccoons are more active at night, female raccoons with young, like this little girl in our yard, will be out searching for food anytime of day.  When her young are ready to leave the nest, we may see them during the day as well.

There is a lot more about raccoons–mythology, history, crazy stories, coexistence–in my new book, The Urban Bestiary, out this September (and conveniently available for pre-order now, during baby-raccoon season). It’s the time of year that all manner of babies are emerging from nests, dens, and hollows. What are you seeing in your corner of the urban wild? I’d love to hear your stories.


  1. Mary

    Your raccoon visitor is a pretty girl.

    My backyard is much more entertaining than TV, especially this time of year. I saw two squirrels (young brothers, I’m imagining) playing on a tree in my yard. When they crawled on a thin, lower branch, the branch dumped the squirrels off. The squirrels repeated their play several times. Then I saw one of the squirrels chase a young cottontail in my yard, just because he could, I think. I haven’t seen them in over a week now, but I’ve had a mallard pair visit my backyard feeder occasionally since Easter weekend. I live in an urban area, but there’s a park with a creek nearby. After two years of drought here, I figure there wasn’t much food available for the ducks early in the spring. They found a birdfeeder and liked the grain beneathe the feeder.

    Yes, I am very interested in the topic of your new book and look forward to reading it!

  2. Feral

    I love your photos! What a little sweetie! We just had a raccoon rooting around mid-afternoon a few days ago–we are used to seeing them hanging out at night, which is always such a treat. I am happy to know “our” raccoon was most likely a mama looking for food (not dependent on human food or, worse, rabid).

    I do my best to keep the feral cats’ food dish empty at night (don’t worry, they have been spayed/neutered), but it can be a challenge to maintain homeostasis amongst all of the wonderful wild, feral, and domestic creatures that use/live in our backyard.

    Thanks again for your beautiful post–and great tips. & I have pre-ordered your book–cannot wait!

    PS~I love your water fountain. Any tips, links, or ideas? Thanks!

  3. Hi Lyanda- I CAN NOT wait for your new book- so exciting! I love the cover. Congratulations. I’m also happy to have found your blog. We have a very similar water feature in our backyard and I often see raccoons sitting in it as if they’re in a hot tub! Here’s mystery for you- For the last few weeks I’ve been finding strips of tin foil on our back deck. I know crows like shiny things, but why am I finding the foil in the same place on a regular basis? We don’t uses tin foil, either. Hmmm…….

  4. What a lovely post. I watch raccoons in the parks here in New York City. Urban environments can make for surprisingly terrific wildlife viewing as the animals, like us humans, are squeezed into smaller territories and so are more visible as they go about their lives. Of course, this is only true for those creatures – like raccoons – that can adapt to the rigors of urban life. Sad that rabies needs to be such a concern, but it’s a scourge here on the east coast.

  5. Carol

    I live in urban Orange County, California. We have had raccoons in our garden on and off for several years. Most recently, they managed to fish my 3 gold fish out of our pond. The pond was covered with a heavy wrought iron gate. To my surprise they were able to some how reach through the openings and fish successfully. The fish had cover and a depth of 30″ in some spots of the pond. The water lilies that are in the same pond were shredded in the frenzy it must have been. As sad as I was about losing the fish and the mess the water lilies are in, I love the urban wildlife here in our yard.
    We also have dragonflies in the pond and I’ve seen them through their egg laying, & nymph stages. I recently found a nymph skeleton, gripping a reed. What a miracle. I look forward to seeing a nymph actually crawl out of its larval skin someday.
    Our yard is home to squirrels, birds, and opossum, cool jumping spiders, butterflies, and more.
    I love your blog, Crow Planet, and am looking forward to your new book. Thank you for the writing you do.

  6. Congratulations on the book, Lyanda. I’m looking forward to its release!

    This post struck a chord with me not just because I have deep admiration for raccoons, their intelligence, and their adaptability, but also because when we moved to Seattle a few years ago, we stayed with friends who had plum trees. And in the plum tree one day, I found a mother raccoon sharing her foraging knowledge with three little ones. It was such a privilege to witness the daytime activity of this engaging family.

    I was disappointed that my friends didn’t want to share the plum tree with the raccoons — I tried to change that POV. But they like animals and decided on just a tree baffle while allowing the raccoon family free roam in other parts of the garden.

    I so miss my garden back in Berkeley, but hope to have a wildlife habitat in Seattle soon enough. In the interim, I’m always grateful for the urban wildlife one can help sustain even with just a city balcony garden, a hummingbird feeder and a birdbath.

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