racoons in a zoo

If you’ve ever seen raccoons in the wild, you may think they’re cat-like in some ways. After all, raccoons are active at night like cats, and they resemble felines, especially Maine Coon cats. But raccoons and cats are not related, as they’re two separate species. In fact, raccoons are far more different from cats than they are alike.

They’re Classified Differently in the Animal World

While raccoons and cats are both mammals, raccoons belong to the Procyon genus of nocturnal animals. Numerous studies tell us that the closest relatives to raccoons are ring-tailed cats. A ring-tailed cat is not actually a cat. Rather, it’s a small, large-eyed, wild animal with a long, ringed tail that’s nocturnal like a raccoon. You can find ring-tailed cats living in arid regions of the southern portion of the United States and Mexico.

Domesticated cats belong to the Felis genus of animals. The most distinguishing feature of this genus is that none of its members can roar like larger cats, including lions and tigers.

Raccoons Often Interact With Outdoor Cats

It’s not unusual for raccoons to mingle with outdoor cats. Both raccoons and cats are curious creatures that will carefully scope each other out when they cross paths.

It’s common for raccoons to wander into backyards where they find things to eat like spilled bird seed, leftover bits of grilled food, garbage, and pet food left out by humans.

Many pet owners in the United States have seen their cats and raccoons eating out of the same food dish. A cat will generally tolerate a raccoon that approaches it with care, and they typically won’t mind if the raccoon eats some of their food, depending on the temperament of the cat. But again, just because some raccoons interact with outdoor cats doesn’t mean it is safe or recommended. It also doesn’t mean that the two are related.

cat looking at racoon outside
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Why Raccoons Don’t Make Good Pets

While raccoons are cute with those masked faces and ringed, bushy tails, they’re wild animals best left in the outdoors. Maybe you have a raccoon or two on your property that you’re considering taming because you think they’re adorable. The truth is that raccoons don’t make good pets because they’re unpredictable, wild animals that can scratch or bite you.

Even if you think you’ve tamed a wild raccoon by getting it to eat out of your hand, that animal can turn on you when you least expect it. Raccoons are temperamental animals that can get skittish and aggressive at the drop of a hat.

A raccoon can also give you rabies if you get bit by one. You could also get salmonella from a raccoon, as well as fleas, ticks, and roundworms. The next time you’re tempted to make friends with a raccoon, back off instead and admire the animal from afar—for your sake and the sake of the cute raccoon!


Raccoons and cats are not related even though they’re both small animals that roam around at night. Unlike cats, raccoons don’t make good pets since they’re unpredictable animals that might attack. If you’re lucky enough to spot a raccoon when you’re out and about, admire that creature from afar and respect the fact that it’s a wild animal not meant to be a pet. Pamper your cat instead and buy them a new cat toy that the two of you can enjoy playing with.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay