Coatimundi as Pets

What to Expect With a Pet South American Raccoon

Coati on a branch in the jungle
Getty Images/Frans Lanting

Coatimundi, or coatis, are South American raccoons related to both kinkajous and North American raccoons. In English, they are also called hog-nosed coons. There are four breeds of coati, but only two—the white-nosed and South American coatis—are sometimes kept as pets.

Coatis are omnivores with a lot of energy and, just like their North American cousins, they forage for food in the wild. Some people opt to care for them as pets but these wild animals are not ideal for most households.

Breed Overview

Common Name(s): Coatimundi, coati

Scientific Name(s): Nasua narica, Nasua nasua

Adult Size: Up to 18 pounds

Life Expectancy: About 14 years

Difficulty of Care: Advanced

Coatimundi Behavior and Temperament

Known for their inquisitive personalities, these South American raccoons are unique. Unlike North American raccoons, they are diurnal and do their activities during the day. Males are solitary in the wild and are usually larger than females, which live in groups.

Owning a coatimundi is something like caring for a permanent toddler with sharp claws and teeth and an amazing ability to climb, swim, and get into mischief. If coatis aren't bottle raised at a young age and continually socialized, they can become violent and dangerous, much like a pet primate. If you want to increase your chances of having a loving and enjoyable pet, be sure to provide your coati with plenty of enrichment, exercise, and attention.

Children should not be allowed to play with coatis. A coati can bite, especially if they don't want you to do something, so this type of animal is not considered a good pet for most people.

Coatis are high energy animals that need a lot of space, especially when they are young, so you will need a large and secure enclosure to house them. Even with appropriate housing, some coatis can become stressed; the result can be poor health and low energy.

Housing the Coatimundi

It's not possible to keep a coati loose indoors, as it will not only damage your home but may well injure itself. Ideally, coatis should have a large outdoor enclosure as well as an indoor cage that is at least 10 feet by 10 feet, and 10 feet high. The cage should be equipped with toys and interesting climbing areas to keep your pet from getting bored. Another good option for a coati is a walk-in aviary—that is, a large enclosure intended for birds such as parrots.

Coatis are intelligent animals and can be litter trained (with patience). Some owners do put their coatis on leashes and take them outdoors, though this can be tricky. Coatis can be stubborn and may simply refuse to comply with commands.

Food and Water

Pet coati have a strict diet. In order for your coati to stay healthy and live long, you will need to adhere to a steady plan of measured dietary ratios of fruits to vegetables to proteins and carbohydrates:

  • 60 percent high grade, grain free dog food
  • 10 percent fresh fruit
  • 20 percent poultry, beef, or eggs
  • 10 percent vegetables (and more as necessary)

Treats can include insects such as gut-loaded crickets and mealworms, cereal, or crackers. Prickly pear fruits are a favorite of coatis and can be used as a training reward.

Be sure to stay away from sweet or salty foods when treating your coati. Diseases related to poor diets and unwanted behaviors such as food aggression or being picky can develop if you spoil your coati with these foods.

When feeding coatis you should always scatter the food about their enclosure and hide it inside and under objects to encourage a natural foraging behavior.

Common Health Problems

You will need to find an experienced exotics vet to treat your coati. Vets rarely treat coatis, but when they do, common medical complaints are rectal prolapses from straining to defecate due to parasites or diarrhea. Malnutrition is also seen due to an improper diet. And, if multiple coatis are housed together, there may be injuries from fighting. There are no licensed vaccines for coatis but many veterinarians will use dog or cat vaccines.

Male coatis can become very aggressive once they are sexually mature. Neutering can be performed by an exotics veterinarian and is recommended before the coati reaches 6 months of age. Females can become aggressive when they are in heat, so spaying them is recommended for a more even-tempered coati.

Although declawing and tooth removal may seem like good options for safeguarding your family against bites and scratches, it is very unnatural and not appropriate to do to any animal, including a coati. If you are not prepared for the sharp teeth and claws of a coati, then that is a good sign that you should not have one as a pet.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Coatimundi?

As with other exotic pets, coatimundis are regulated by law. States and counties have their own laws and regulations regarding coatimundis, and it is up to you to know what the law says about your pet. In addition to knowing whether coati ownership is legal, it's also important to ascertain whether you will need a permit to keep your pet.

Purchasing Your Coatimundi

Pet coatimundis should never be adopted from the wild; this can be dangerous to both you and your pet; it is also illegal in many locations. Coatimundis cannot be purchased from pet stores, but there are breeders available. If you do buy from a breeder, be sure to carefully research its reputation. Know where your pet is coming from and how old it is; ideally, a pet coatimundi should be born in captivity and should immediately start to interact with human beings.

When you visit the breeder, spend some time with your proposed pet. Check to see that it appears healthy, with bright eyes, a shiny coat, and plenty of energy. Just as importantly, be sure that you are comfortable with the animal you are about to adopt, as you will be spending a great deal of time, money, and energy on your new pet.

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