Coatimundi (Coati): Species Profile

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

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. 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, a curious streak, 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.

Species Overview

Common Name(s): Coatimundi, coati, hog-nosed coon

Scientific Name(s): Nasua narica, Nasua nasua

Adult Size: Up to 18 pounds

Life Expectancy: About 14 years

Coatimundi Behavior and Temperament

South American raccoons are unlike North American raccoons; they are diurnal and are active during the day. Males are solitary in the wild and are usually larger than females, which tend to live in groups.

Do not allow children to play with coatis as they can and do bite. In general, this type of animal is not considered the right pet for most people.

Male coatis can become very aggressive once they are sexually mature. Neutering is recommended before 6 months of age to curb some of the aggression. Females can become aggressive when they are in heat; for a more even-tempered coati, spay it.

Owning a coatimundi is something like caring for a permanent toddler with sharp claws and teeth that has a fantastic 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. Whenever handling one, you will need to wear thick, protective gloves to prevent scratches from a fidgeting or scurrying 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 can't handle the sharp teeth and claws of a coati, then you should not have one as a pet.

To increase your chances of having a loving and enjoyable pet, provide your coati with plenty of enrichment, exercise, and attention.

Housing the Coatimundi

Coatis are high-energy animals that need a lot of space, especially at a young age. Even with appropriate housing, some coatis can become stressed; the result can be poor health and low energy.

Ideally, coatis should have a large indoor and outdoor enclosure that should be at least 10-foot, cubed. Equip the cages with toys and challenging climbing areas to keep your pet engaged and active. Another good enclosure option is repurposing a walk-in aviary (formerly used for parrots, wild birds, or small flocks).

Coatis are intelligent animals. With training and patience, they can be litter trained. Some owners do put their coatis on leashes and take them outdoors, though this can be tricky if the coati becomes stubborn and refuses to comply with commands.

It's not advisable to keep a coati loose indoors. It will damage your home and may injure itself.

Food and Water

Pet coatis abide by a strict diet. Your pet will require measured dietary ratios of fruits to vegetables to proteins and carbohydrates:

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

Treats can include gut-loaded crickets and mealworms, cereal, or crackers. Coatis favor prickly pear fruits; they are a great option as a training reward.

Avoid overly sweet or salty foods when giving your coati treats. Diseases related to poor diets, food aggression, or picky eating can develop if you spoil your coati with these foods.

When feeding coatis, scatter food about their enclosure and hide it inside and under objects to encourage natural foraging behavior. Feed at least twice a day and add a third feeding if it appears to continue to forage for food.

Use heavy bowls made from metal or a sturdy, non-chewable plastic for water and wet foods. Small pools with running water work well as a watering hole. Clean and disinfect all food and water containers daily. 

Common Health Problems

Your coati will need an experienced exotics veterinarian for annual checkups. Coatis rarely have medical issues, although they are prone to getting a rectal prolapse from straining to defecate due to parasites or diarrhea.

An improper diet will likely cause malnutrition. And, if you house multiple coatis together, fighting can cause injuries. There are no licensed vaccines for coatis but many veterinarians will use dog or cat vaccines.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Coatimundi?

As with other exotic pets, coatimundis are regulated by law. Because this species has caused injury to humans and can transmit diseases, many places outlaw them. States and counties have laws and regulations regarding coatimundis, and you need to know what the law is where you plan to live with your pet. In addition to knowing whether coati ownership is legal, it's also essential to ascertain whether you will need a permit.

Purchasing Your Coatimundi

Never adopt pet coatimundis from the wild; this can be dangerous to both you and your pet. It is also illegal in many places. You will not be able to find coatimundis in pet stores, but you can find breeders. They can cost $500 to $1,500.

If you buy from a breeder, carefully research their reputation. Know where your pet is coming from and how old it is. Ideally, a pet coatimundi should be born in captivity and should be comfortable interacting with human beings. When visiting the breeder, spend some time with the coati. Check to see that it appears healthy and has 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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