Should You Keep a Coatimundi (Coati) as a Pet?

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Coatimundi raccoon with light brown fur stepping on to long piece of wood

The Spruce / Elizabeth Head

Coatimundi, affectionately known as 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 NAMES: Coatimundi, coati, hog-nosed coon

SCIENTIFIC NAMES: Nasua narica, Nasua nasua

ADULT SIZE: 7 to 14 pounds

LIFESPAN: About 14 years

Coatimundi raccoon resting it's head on a large piece of wood

The Spruce / Elizabeth Head

Black ceramic bowl with fresh fruit and grain-free dog food for coatimundi

The Spruce / Elizabeth Head

Coatimundi raccoons in enclosed habitat with wooden fixtures

The Spruce / Elizabeth Head

Can You Own a Pet Coatimundi?

Legality 

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.

Ethics

Coatis are wild animals that are used to living in the wild, not in enclosures. No matter how much you try to replicate their natural habitat, it will never be the same as the way these animals live when they're not in captivity.

Things to Consider

If you're set on having a coati, you need to be sure you can provide the kind of life it would have in the wild: the right housing, the correct diet, and the time to devote to your new pet. (Hint: coatis are way more work than cats and dogs.)

You cannot 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.

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.

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 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

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; 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. 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.

Specific Substrate Needs

Good substrates are comprised on gravel, sand, or even concrete paver tiles. They will need to be cleaned on a daily basis.

What do Coatimundis Eat and Drink

Pet coatis abide by a strict diet. Your pet will require 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 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.

Exercise

Coatis will need ways to exercise in their enclosure: lots of rope, trees, and platforms to climb on.

Grooming

Coatimundis groom themselves, or each other. Unless yours starts to look unkempt—and that would really be something you should discuss with your vet—then there's nothing for you to do.

Shedding

Like most furry animals, coatis shed. Yours may or may not allow you to gently brush it, but don't count on it (and wear thick, protective, leather gloves if you do).

Bathing/Grooming

You do not need to bathe your coati, it will do this job itself.

Size Information

Full-grown coatis are fully grown at around 15 months, and weigh from seven to 14 pounds. They're 20 to 24 inches long, not including their tails which can be longer than their bodies!

Training Your Coatimundi

Coatis are very smart animals, like their raccoon cousins. The earlier you get them, the easier it will be to train them.

Leash Training 

Coatimundis can be trained to walk on a leash with a harness, if you start doing this with them when they are young.

Potty Training 

With training and patience, they can be litter trained.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Coatimundi as a Pet

Coatis can be fun pets: they're intelligent and affectionate, and will get along with your cats and dogs. They're easily fed and they have no aroma. However, there are downsides: male coatimundis become very aggressive, very early, and must be spayed or neutered early. They have sharp, destructive claws, as well as a mouthful of sharp teeth. They need a good deal of stimulation, and you'll need to baby-proof anywhere these little mongrels hang out.

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.

You must buy from a USDA licensed breeder, it's illegal not to, so 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.

Reproduction/Breeding

The right breeder will give you the information you need to care for your coati, from medical care to social skills. They will also be able to tell you about your future pet's lineage and health history. If you get more than one coati, discussing spaying/neutering with your vet.

Similar Pets to the Coatimundi

If you’re interested in coatimundis, check out:

Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that can be your new pet.

FAQ
  • Can coatis be domesticated?

    Not really. You may be able to walk them on a leash, and spend time petting them and playing, but they remain wild animals.

  • Do coatimundis do better in their natural habitats than in a domesticated one?

    They will have a longer, safer life in captivity, but living in a cage and not being in the wild is a hardship for them.

  • How long are coatis tails?

    Their tails are about 2 feet long!

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