Dear PoPville – Dealing with Raccoons?

Photo by Flickr user smohundro

“Dear PoPville,

I let my cat, Fritz, out onto my back deck (and therefore the house’s backyard) a few times a week. (He is two years old, loves exploring outside, has all his claws, and is neutered.) Normally I worry that he’ll bring back a rat or some other nastiness, but so far he hasn’t had any encounters with other wildlife.

Until last week, when a huge raccoon came out from under our (second story) deck and backed Fritz into a corner. This guy was HUGE. Luckily, I was able to get my scared kitty back into the apartment and shoo off the raccoon with out any issues. We live two blocks south of the Columbia Heights metro, so I think he might have wandered over from Rock Creek Park. Have you seen any raccoons around? Am I supposed to do anything when I see Rocky again? Hopefully he’ll find his way back to the trees…”

Ah, the age old raccoon query has been plaguing PoPville since Apr. ’08. For those with pets – should the reader above be concerned?

59 Comment

  • Racoons in this town don’t need Rock Creek Park; there’s good living and eating in populated areas.

    I wouldnt’ be so confident about your cat’s chances against the rats, either.

  • Or even squirrels, for that matter. Straight up gangsta.

  • so timely! We saw a raccoon run down a little alley next to our house on Harvard yesterday and try to scamper up a tree like a squirrel. I had no idea that there were raccoon in the city!

    • If you’re a homeowner and see a racoon going up a tree, you should try to track where it ends up. They’re masters at house squatting and usually get in through gaps at the roofline. Not the surprise you want to get the next time you’re in your attic.

      And once they get in to storage space, they’re going to look for or create a way to get into living space.

  • We got some monster coons on Illinois Ave, huge beasts all over the rooftops and crossing streets at all hours of the day.

    My friend had a raccoon kill his pet rabbit. 🙁

  • This summer I watched a raccoon scale a neighbors house. Last year I watched him go through an open basement door of the same house – and they have a cat. Another neighbor has had them come through her doggie door. They love living in (and defacating) in houses. Make sure you don’t have holes in your walls/siding!

  • Cats are domesticated animals and for their own health and safety, should really be kept indoors at all times. Yes, they love exploring, laying out in the sun, etc. But they did not grow up learning to defend themselves and can easily be killed or injured by any number of animals or run over by a car. It also exposes them to additional disease and infections, even if they have all their shots. If you have a way to let the cat be outside in an enclosure of some sort then that is the best solution, otherwise, I urge you not to let your cat outside.

    • in before the cat crazies come after this guy.

    • +1. Plus, outdoor cats kill birds. It’s worth keeping them inside for their own safety and that of the local wildlife.

      And a raccoon most definitely can and will kill a cat. I don’t know if it’s common for them to do that, but I grew up in the rural South where people let their pets out all the time, and I came across the aftermath of a raccoon/cat encounter once when I was a kid. It was pretty horrible. If I were the OP, I’d keep Fritz in an enclosed area from now on, or at the very least be sure I could keep an eye on him when he’s outside.

    • claire

      Well put. I’ve had people try to tell me that cats are wild creatures which is just complete garbage. My cat stays inside (except for occasional jaunts outside on a leash).

    • I simply cannot keep this puma inside all the time. However, my puma does not seem to have any problems with raccoons.

  • If you’re a home owner and see one going up a tree, I would try and track where it ends up. They’re masters at house squatting and usually get in through gaps at your roofline. Not the surprise you want to get the next time you’re up in your attic.

  • A good sized racoon could hurt your cat pretty badly, or even kill him. I would keep the cat to the deck only, or try and be outside with him.

    Also, it’s not just Rock Creek, they’re well adapted to living right near people and are all over the City.

  • I saw a big one in my alley around 18th and U on Sunday night. I’ve lived in that apartment for several years now, and that was my first raccoon I’ve seen. I thought it was especially weird because he was going up and down my neighbors’ spiral staircases.

  • Raccoons have more manual dexterity than cats, but other than that they can climb and get into stuff with about the same skill. I’d say that if raccoons are getting into a space where you’re letting your cat roam, you have some holes that need plugging with chicken wire or some such.

  • A few years ago, I was living on Fairmont St. One evening I was sitting on the back porch reading, with my legs propped up on the rail. There was a bunch of noise below the porch, but I ignored it, thinking it was a feral cat. Imagine my surprise when a racoon poked his head up over the edge, right below me. We both shrieked and went in opposite directions. Good times 🙂

  • I’ve been seeing raccons quite frequently in the early morning hours in Columbia Heights when I’m walking my dog. I think they are living happily right in the neighborhood.

  • I saw a family of them walking in a line through a parking lot behind Webster and 14th. Neighbor friend says they live behind one of the houses with tons of clutter in the yard.

  • Raccoons live all over the city, even in very developed areas without natural spaces. They can live in the park or in your neighbors attic or in the vacant house on the block.
    Raccoons are pretty much harmless. They are more scared of you than you of them. However, as with any wild animal you should not approach them.
    Check to see if your yard is empty of raccoons (or feral cats or stray dogs) before you let your pet out, and watch your pet while it is out.
    If you think the raccoon is living under your deck you can seal it off. Secure your garbage can lids with bungee cords or heavy bricks, and dont leave garbage out. If your cans are broken request a new one from
    Many DC residents feel fortunate to live in a city with many forested parks and wild animals. If you ever see an anmimal that is injured or sick you can call the DC dept of Animal Control (202)576-6664, 24hrs/day. Raccoons are cool animals and fun to watch!

  • So timely – I saw two big raccoons this morning on my run. Thankfully I haven’t seen the 4-legged Glover Park cougar.

  • Have you thought about converting the deck into a screened-in porch? If giving your kitty time outdoors appeals to you, a screened in porch would allow the cat to have unsupervised time “outdoors”.

  • ledroittiger

    One in my backyard the week before last – ran up a tree when my dog started barking and stayed up there for hours.

  • Make sure your pets have all their vaccinations if they are wandering outside. Raccoons can carry rabies (amongst other diseases like distemper). I think there was a small outbreak of rabies in cats back in 2010 in NE DC, if I remember correctly. Fairly recently, anyway.

    • I second what X wrote, I don’t know if it is still ongoing, but there was also a huge rabies outbreak in racoons in MD a few years back. Sometimes people don’t vaccinate their cats when they are generally indoor, but I would even on the off chance of the cat getting outside sometime.

  • A raccoon can severely injure or kill a cat. Our neighbor’s unfortunate cat was bitten by one and had to go stay at the vet’s for a week to the tune of thousands of dollars, and is still not 100% back to normal. If you’re concerned about your kitties, keep them indoors. You can control where your cats go, but have no control over raccoons outside.

  • This story is about a friend of mine:

    Nasty animals that almost all carry rabies from what I understand. Regardless of the other virtues of letting your pets outside, I wouldn’t even want to risk a bite.

  • Try these folks. They deal with this kind of issue all the time and they are pros.

    • Oh, and yes, cats should not be allowed outside unsupervised or in a controlled space. Neither of the local shelters (WHS, WARL) will adopt you a cat without you sign and agreement to keep the cat indoors at all times. It’s dangerous, especially in a city.

  • Ditto on the previous advice to keep trash cans firmly secured. This is also the best method for reducing rat abundance.
    As a general rule, raccoon densities tend to be really high in areas where they can access human food/refuse. Normally, this wouldn’t be a major problem, but as noted above, raccoons can carry rabies, distemper, and other nasty stuff. Some scientists think that there is increasing risk for rabies and other diseases to be transferred to humans via raccoons->domestic cats->humans. Keeping cats indoors would help in this regard.

  • I always thought it was a huge red flag to see a raccoon in the daytime. They’re nocturnal and if they’re out and about in the daytime that can signal them being sick (rabies or whatever). I don’t know if that’s an old wives’ tail or what but… there has been some chatter about raccoons on the Shaw listserve lately and someone has been taking pictures of the ‘super cute’ raccoons. Please people, don’t get close to a raccoon.

    • Yes and no…. Raccoons are mostly nocturnal, but like many animals, there is substantial behavioral variation. It is not uncommon for ‘normal, wild’ raccoons to be a bit active during the day. That being said, frequent diurnal behavior is likely a sign of something odd such as really high population density (which is likely caused by human food) and in rarer cases, rabies.

  • Ditto to the statements above about keeping your cat away from the raccoon. FYI, Animal Control won’t come and remove a raccoon unless it is showing signs of being rabid.

    If the raccoon is invading your deck/roofline/attic I’d call Adcocks ( They do great work. Do not board up holes yourself unless you are absolutely, positively sure that the raccoons are out of your house. They will destroy their way out.

    • Second the recommendation for Adcock’s – they got a raccoon out of my crawl space and sealed it off.

      Also, if you have persistent rat problems they can do a smoke test that your typical exterminator won’t do and finally find the entry/exit point and seal it off.

    • So true… Had a huge raccoon problem in NE several years ago. Normally, raccoons are more afraid of you than you are of them, but these were impossible to chase away. We called animal control and explained the situation, and they told us that these are “urban raccoons” so they aren’t afraid of people.

      We ended up FINALLY getting the landlord to install traps.

  • A raccoon got in, cornered and killed my sister’s cat in our garage. Not sure what the beef was about but a bowl of cat food was kept in there. My brother got in a tug of war with one over a chicken leg and lost. He thought it was a cute idea to feed it chicken bones until it decided it wanted the whole bucket.

  • When I lived in Center City many years ago, a coon would visit my trash can periodically until I began feeding it. It would climb down my neighbors fire escape and then onto the garage roof then shimmy down a small tree. My other neighbor had noticed a few of her pond fish were missing during this time. I think the coon lived in some old man apartment (he was kind of out of it).

  • Just make sure they don’t get in your house. Once they’re in the walls it’s an absolute disaster. If they get into your home they will scent mark it and come back again and again so have them trapped and relocated. I had to have them pulled out of the furnace flue pipe then I capped the chimney. Two years later when the maintenance guys came to check the cap they found blood and raccoon fur and teeth where the beasts tried to chew and claw their way back into the house. Disgusting.

  • We have a family of five raccoons living in the second floor of our neighbor’s house (she doesn’t get up to the second floor, which is another story altogether). The babies have grown up through the summer and are now have their own teen-‘coon Alvin, Simon, and Theodore personalities. Ah, city living!

  • What happened in the film Grey Gardens?

    • They had racoons in the attic and bats in the belfry (get it?)

    • Also, Little Edie would climb the attic stairs in her high heels and feed them an entire loaf of wonder bread thinking that if they weren’t hungry they wouldn’t bother her or her mother. But the holes in the walls kept getting bigger and bigger…….

  • When raccoons enter your attic, Mayhem will surely ensue:

  • I saw one raccoon’s fuzzy grey butt lumbering across GAve just the other night. Even the really big ones can fit through a cat door. If it’s a screen door, they’ll just open it with those little people hands of theirs….because, like the honey badger, they really don’t give a [email protected]
    One used to get into the screen porch at my inlaws, chill out on the couch in there, and eat their garbage. We suspect he may have beat up the cat once.

  • I’ve seen several raccoons in Petworth over the years, but none of them bothered me as much as the one big ass ugly possum that was in our backyard shortly after we moved in. Creepy. I haven’t seen him since.

    • I think your possum has been visiting my garbage can over the last few weeks. It’s sealed up with a cinder block on top, but by the amount of droppings, he seems to be sitting in front of it for hours scheming on how to get in!

  • Unless it seems rabid I wouldn’t worry about it hurting the kitty though.

    I grew up in very woodsy areas and our cats were fine around them. Just make sure that you keep trash and food contained so they aren’t tempted.

    I had some break into my apt. a couple of times…paw prints everywhere and they washed their paws in my toilet after tearing apart the toilet paper!

    At least they try to be clean (:

    I say live and let live…

  • I’ve seen racoons going up the alley 15th and Euclid. Those little monsters didn’t even stop for traffic – almost got run over and didn’t blink. I’ve also had possums in the recycle bin on my front porch (removed it after that one incident). Racoons are all over northwest – especially the closer you get to Rock Creek Park.

  • My neighbor shot 2 possums when I lived in Ledroit last year.

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