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Caring for your Pet Coatimundi: A Basic Guide

Author:

Kaycee is an exotic pet owner, zoo-lover, and animal welfare advocate.

A white nosed coati relaxing.

A white nosed coati relaxing.

So, you want a pet coatimundi?

With the popularity of exotic pets increasing, despite attacks and criticisms from people pushing for them to become illegal, many exotic mammals are being more commonly seen in the pet trade. The coatimundi is one such animal.

Their charming demeanor, cute noses, and never ending playfulness has attracted many. However, not everything is fun and games when it comes to them. They have many specific care requirements, unique behaviors, and the responsibility you take on when purchasing one is not a light one. They are not like dogs or cats.

As more and more people become interested in owning exotic pets, it becomes necessary for information on their husbandry to become readily available. Education is a must. This article was written by me- a fellow exotic pet enthusiast, and owner of a coatimundi myself.

This article is meant to be a starter guide, a primer if you will, to owning coatimundi as pets. It is not meant to be the ultimate guide, or the only guide you should read about coatimundi if you are truly interested in owning one.

What is a coatimundi?

First and foremost, what is a coatimundi?

The coatimundi, also known as coati, pizote, and hog-nosed coon, is a medium sized member of the procyonidae family, or raccoon family. They sport an elongated nose, dense fur, long claws, and a very long, well furred tail. They are plantigrade, which means they walk on the soles of their feet instead of on digits, just like bears and humans. They have very long, strong, and sharp front claws that are used to aid in climbing and digging- or fending off predators.Their unusually elongated snout is used for rooting around in the soil, much like pigs, and their extremely flexible nose can rotate 60 degrees in every direction. They have unique canine teeth in that they are extremely large relative to their size-- 1 to 2 inches. These canines are almost tusk-like and stick out sideways slightly. They are capable of easily slicing through flesh.

Coatimundi resemble other members of the procyonidae family, although they are the only members of the family that are diurnal, or awake during the day. They are also the only procyonid that is highly social. Coatis may live in matriarchal groups, or 'bands', of up to 40 individuals; although males are exempt from these groups unless it's breeding season and live otherwise solitary lives.

Coatimundi are native to South America, Mexico, and some parts of the United States such as Texas. Each subspecies is unique in appearance and lives in different parts of the world, and each population has a diet that is highly variable. Like their raccoon relatives, coatis are highly adaptable animals.

A white nose coatimundi.

A white nose coatimundi.

Can coatimundi be kept as pets?

Yes, they can.

Coatimundi make exceptional pets for the right people. For people that are dedicated, hardworking, patient, and driven, they can be the pet of your dreams. But on the other hand, for lazy, unmotivated, and careless people not willing to put the necessary effort in... They will be your worst nightmare.

Coatimundi require lots of attention when kept as pets. Your house must also be 'coati-proofed' just like you would for a child. Breakables must be stored away, dangerous items locked up (coatis can open most doors), and anything you don't want destroyed, broken, or rummaged through must be protected or out of reach. They have a body odor akin to that of a ferret, albeit not as strong, and their feces smell much stronger than a dogs. Some report success in litter training, but the large majority do not, and you shouldn't expect your coati to take to litter training either. Coatis also need to be neutered or spayed before they hit 1 year of age, or else they will become aggressive and very hard to handle.

Coatis require a diet with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and insects in order to stay healthy. You cannot simply fill their bowl up with dog food. For people living on a budget, this may present a problem, and the weekly costs added to your shopping list are definitely important to consider.

Lastly and most importantly, coatis need some form of secure enclosure, at least 10'Lx10'Wx6'H for when you cannot supervise them. This enclosure's specifics will be discussed more further along in this article, along with diet, legality, and more. Read on!

A young coatimundi enjoying some attention.

A young coatimundi enjoying some attention.

The enclosure

The enclosure is one of the most important parts of owning a coatimundi. It must be secure, as coatis are escape artists, and large enough for your coatimundi to exhibit his or her natural behaviors.

Ideally, it should be no smaller than 10'Lx10'wx6'H. The larger you can make the enclosure, the better! Keep in mind that coatis love climbing, so a tall enclosure would be appreciated as well.

The fencing should be constructed by hand out of wood and cattle panels, chain link, or a custom made enclosure purchased and built by someone else. Regardless of what you choose, the enclosure will need to abide by some guidelines:

  • A completely enclosed top and bottom, coatis are proficient climbers and diggers.
  • A secure food and water dish, attached to the walls or floor. Coatis will tip over normal dishes in seconds and spill their food everywhere!
  • A nesting box, or some form of place for your coati to sleep sheltered (a dog house works too)
  • Lots and lots of branches, ropes, and platforms to climb on
  • Toys (covered in the "Enrichment" section below)
  • A lock, to protect your coati from intruders. Coatis also can open most doors themselves so this keeps them from escaping.

Viable substrates for the enclosure are gravel, sand, and hay, or concrete paver tiles if you desire easier cleaning. Enclosures will need to be cleaned every day, as coatis poop quite a bit!

If you live in a residential area, make sure your Homeowner's Association or zoning laws allow you to construct whatever you're planning on.

My coatimundi Vega hanging out in his enclosure, wary of the camera.

My coatimundi Vega hanging out in his enclosure, wary of the camera.

Diet & Feeding

The diet for coatis is quite simple, especially when compared to other exotic pets you can own, such as foxes.

Texas Exotic Animals, an experienced USDA licensed breeding facility, describes their diet as the following:

Coatimundi Diet: A good rule of thumb: Diet: 50% protein, 47% fruit and 3% other (veggie matter/roots) in the wild. The protein can be a good brand of dry dog food, mice, chicks, eggs, worms, and chicken. Fruit such as bananas, papaya, mango, cherries, and melons are good, to name a few. As far as veggies, you can make that up by using raw or baked yams, sweet potatoes, carrots,and pumpkin.

Sweet potatoes, cooked eggs, and banana are a particular favorite for my coatimundi. He eats about 2 cups of dry dog food every day (Purina Chicken & Rice) and plentiful amounts of fruit and insects, such as mealworms, hornworms, silkworms, and butterworms. This can get quite pricey, so please keep this in mind if you're considering a coati.

Coatis have a sweet tooth and therefore it may be hard to get them to accept any foods that are not sweet, like carrots or other vegetables, but don't fret. Your coati can still be perfectly healthy without them! Foods to avoid are avocado, chocolate, alcohol, etc. People have reported diarrhea and other health issues with grapes, so it's worth erring to the side of caution with them and feeding sparingly (they're quite sweet anyways).

Remove any food that is not eaten by your coatimundi within an hour to prevent ants from finding it, or food from spoiling. Your coatimundi should always have dry dog food available, but feed fruits, meats, insects, etc. once or twice a day. Too much fruit will give loose stool or diarrhea!

Vega, nomming away at fruits.

Vega, nomming away at fruits.

Behavior

Coatimundi have an assortment of different, unique behaviors!

Vocalizations:

  • High pitched, loud, and ear-grating chirps in rapid succession are a signal of anger or irritation. You can commonly hear these when a coati is protecting his food or a toy- and it's important you listen to this, as it's a sound telling you "Hey, stop that, or I'm going to bite!" just like a rattlesnake rattling.
  • Calmer, louder, single syllable chirps, made once or twice, are contact calls made when a coati is distressed and trying to call you.
  • Rapid, soft little chitters are from excitement! When you open the door to your home and call your coatis name, and he comes running up making little chitters and climbing your legs, for example.
  • Brusque grunting is often heard when two coatis are communicating. It doesn't necessarily mean a good or bad thing. Generally, it seems to simply be vocalization.
  • Huffing is heard during play, accompanied with their fur puffing up. It can signal to you that your coati is getting wound up, and therefore it's time to tone things down.


Body language:

A coatimundi conveys much of how it is feeling through body language, as well. Specifically, their tail and head position.

  • A raised, question mark shaped tail is made by coatis in the wild while foraging, so they can keep track of every member of their troop. As pets, coatis will make this shape with their tail when they feel comfortable and confident while outside.
  • A lowered tail and lowered head, often signals a coati is wary or uncomfortable.
  • A lowered head, fluffed tail, and raised hackles can also be observed when a coati is being aggressive or defensive.
  • Raised hackles are also an indication of fear.
  • Coatis will bare their large canine teeth when they feel threatened, much like canines.
A band of coatis foraging.

A band of coatis foraging.

An especially interesting and somewhat comical behavior coatis exhibit, would be self-annointing, or anting. This is when a coati finds a specific scent or substance it loves, collects it in its paws, and then lathers or rubs it into its fur; usually the tail.

The specific reason for self-anointing in coatis is understudied, but many speculate it either is used for personal hygiene or anti-parasitic reasons, or for social reasons not yet fully understood.

Favorite substances include: perfumes, bug spray, soap, and cologne.

Enrichment

Being the intelligent and curious little animals they are, coatis need a variety of enrichment in their lives to avoid boredom. A bored coatimundi is an aggressive coatimundi.

Care must be taken when choosing toys, as not all are suitable and safe for your coatimundi. Avoid stuffed animals, as these are destroyed within minutes, and toys with small parts that can be ingested. Baby toys work great! Coatis love using their paws to work with puzzles and press buttons, and are intrigued by the noises and flashing lights some toys make.

Coatis also love to swim, just like their raccoon cousins. a kitty pool would be greatly appreciated, and you can even freeze fruit or peas and add them to it so your coati can bob and fish for them.

Coatis are highly food motivated animals. Therefore, you can get creative with your enrichment ideas. Try to incorporate natural foraging behaviors like digging. Rotted logs can be given to your coati for them to rip apart for grubs and termites, or you can even make your own devices by hand!

An example of an enrichment device containing treats.

An example of an enrichment device containing treats.

If you work with your coati from a young age, you can also harness train them, and if brought outside and socialized they can come along on hikes and walks with you. This is an amazing form of enrichment, and your coati will have a blast exploring!

The harness I use and have great success with is the Lupine Pet H-Style harness for cats and rabbits. It is slip proof when put on correctly, and each part is adjustable. They also come in many cute colors and designs, along with matching leashes. Never walk your coati with a collar, as these slip off very easily and can injure your coatis sensitive neck.

Please exhibit responsibility when you take your coatimundi out in public. If your coati so much as scratches or nips someone, they will be euthanized and tested for rabies, regardless of whether or not they've been vaccinated.

Legality

Owning coatimundi as pets is not legal in many states due to laws restricting exotic mammal ownership, usually for erroneous reasons. Before you purchase a coatimundi, it is quintessential to check with your state and city to make sure they are not banned where you live. Failure to do so can result in your animal getting seized and euthanized, and you getting fined.

It is illegal to not purchase your coatimundi from a USDA licensed breeder. Make sure that whoever you are purchasing from is USDA licensed and can provide you the necessary paperwork. Many exotic animal veterinarians will not provide their services to you otherwise, as well.

Many states ban coatimundis as pets because they are scared of the unusual and believe them to be dangerous.

Many states ban coatimundis as pets because they are scared of the unusual and believe them to be dangerous.

And lastly...

After reading this, if you're still interested in owning a coatimundi, make sure you keep researching them. Read more, find every bit of info on them you can, visit them in real life. Talk to owners. A coatimundi is no small responsibility, and as the owner of one you are taking on a 15 years long commitment.

Exotic animals will not conform much to your life. In many ways, you must conform to them.

A decent starting book for prospective owners

© 2018 Kaycee

Comments

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on September 27, 2018:

This article is so good! I have never even heard of these before. They are totally cute, being the animal lover I'm don't know how I went so long without hearing about them! I think your article was really educational and I'm glad you were honest about the pros and cons, so hopefully, people won't impulsively get them and not be prepared.I have lots of animals, the most exotic of which are emus, not very exotic I know! I always dream about being able to have exotic pets though so articles like are awesome to me!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 26, 2018:

Thank you for sharing such a detailed and interesting article. It contains some great advice. I loved looking at the photos of Vega and the other coatis.