Published on January 31, 2022
Last Updated on October 11, 2023
The raccoon is often affectionately referred to as the trash panda, as we often only come into contact with raccoons as they are excitedly rummaging through our garbage cans. However, this isn’t because they want to eat garbage, but rather, because they are searching for any food left in our garbage.
Knowing what raccoons eat can be important in deterring them from rummaging through your garbage and gardens, especially if you have other pets in the home that like to be outdoors. Preventing exposure to raccoons’ favorite foods can prevent them from hanging out too long, potentially attacking you or your animals.
However, it’s important to note that raccoons tend not to attack unless they are feeling provoked or threatened, or have contracted rabies and have become aggressive due to deterioration.
What Do Raccoons Eat?
Table of Contents
- 1 What Do Raccoons Eat?
- 2 Are Raccoons Herbivores, Carnivores, or Omnivores?
- 3 What Is A Raccoon’s Favorite Food?
- 4 What Kind of Food Do Raccoons Seek Out In The Wild?
- 5 Do Raccoons Really Wash Their Food?
- 6 Is It True That You Should Avoid Feeding Raccoons?
- 7 Do Raccoons Finish Their Meal Including Egg Shells, Bones, and Intestines?
- 8 Are There Things That Raccoons Cannot Eat?
- 9 Do Raccoons Avoid Spicy Food?
- 10 Do Raccoons Eat All Sorts of Fruit?
- 11 Will Raccoons Eat Vegetables From Your Garden?
- 12 Do Raccoons Eat Nuts?
- 13 Do Raccoons Eat Pet Food?
- 14 Will Raccoons Eat Processed Human Foods?
- 15 Avoid Raccoons In Your Trash
- 16 What Sort Of Animals Do Raccoons Prey On?
- 17 Author
Raccoons do not discriminate against potential food sources. They are perfectly happy to eat anything they find that is edible. They are considered scavengers, so they will often rely on another animal hunting their food and will take advantage of any scraps left over to get their next meal.
Raccoons are able to discern potential food sources within their current environment, and will often stay anywhere where they know they’ll be able to find food easily and through expending as little effort as possible.
Thus, a raccoon’s diet can include multiple sources of meat, insects, plants, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and anything else they can get their little paws on.
Are Raccoons Herbivores, Carnivores, or Omnivores?
Raccoons are omnivorous creatures, so they eat a combination of plant foods and animals. They tend to only eat smaller animals, and this is only if necessary. They are not hunters by nature, so they will often either feast on dead animals or smaller creatures that are easier to catch.
Raccoons are one of the very few animals that are able to eat such a wide variety of foods. We can imagine they never get bored with their endless options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What Is A Raccoon’s Favorite Food?
While some might argue that a raccoon’s favorite food is whatever is in front of them, the truth is they tend to gravitate towards nuts, seeds, and berries. They are nutritionally dense foods for them, but they are also easy to gather and find in large quantities in their preferred habitats.
Raccoons will also eat any kind of insect that is nearby, and may also grab up some eggs from nearby nests if they are left unattended.
What Kind of Food Do Raccoons Seek Out In The Wild?
Raccoons usually like to live in areas that have a water source nearby, and are filled with trees and forestry. This is so they have ample food sources to choose from. They will typically forage for any kind of seeds and berries they can find in their natural habitat.
Being near water, they will also opt for eating fish, frogs, snails, and other small creatures they are able to easily catch in the water. If necessary, they will attempt to hunt for smaller rodents like mice or squirrels, but they will only use these rodents as a last resort.
Do Raccoons Really Wash Their Food?
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to watch a raccoon eat something around a water source, you’ve probably noticed that they will often dunk their food into the water, rub the water around the food, and then eat it. It looks like the raccoon is washing their food, but they actually aren’t.
What the raccoon is doing is trying to make the food a suitable texture for their very sensitive hands. Their hands are made to be able to get a sense of what they are holding. Their paws are able to easily discern whether or not what they’ve found is edible much better than their other senses, including their eyes.
They have a lot of nerve endings within their hands, and if something is too hot or too rough, they will attempt to cool off their food or change the texture of their food so it’s easier for them to hold it.
Is It True That You Should Avoid Feeding Raccoons?
While it can be really difficult to say no to a cute, begging raccoon, you should avoid feeding them, especially near your home. Raccoons will revisit areas where they know they will be able to find food, meaning they’ll keep coming back to your property for more.
They tend to only come near homes when they aren’t able to find food elsewhere, which will typically be in colder months. They will hang around more permanently if they know you’re going to feed them.
Similarly, if you start feeding them near your home and then decide to stop, they might decide to find their way into your home since they know that food is in there. They can cause a lot of damage to your property if they do get inside, and they can also spread diseases and infections throughout your home.
Do Raccoons Become Dependent On You If You Feed Them?
Raccoons do become dependent on humans that have fed them. If they know they are going to be able to find food from you, they won’t be as inclined to search for food on their own. This dependence can be detrimental to their health, as if you decide to stop feeding them suddenly, they’ll forget their natural instincts for foraging and scavenging.
While you might be worried about raccoons finding enough food, especially in bad weather, rest easy knowing they are incredibly smart and adaptable creatures. A raccoon will rarely find themselves in a situation where they can starve, given how diverse their diet is.
Do Raccoons Finish Their Meal Including Egg Shells, Bones, and Intestines?
Some raccoons will eat eggshells, as they are fairly easy to chew. They will clean off the meat from a bone but they won’t usually eat the bone, as it can be a choking hazard. If they are able to sense that eating something isn’t going to make them ill, then there’s a good chance they’ll eat it.
Thus, if they catch an animal or stumble upon another animal’s leftovers, they will eat pretty much anything except for the bones and the feathers or fur.
Are There Things That Raccoons Cannot Eat?
Much like your household pets, raccoons cannot tolerate eating cocoa or chocolate. The same chemical in chocolate that will make your puppy or your cat sick will also make a raccoon sick. Raccoons also cannot tolerate caffeine consumption very well.
Similar to your beloved pet, raccoons will also avoid onions and garlic, as these foods aren’t good for a raccoon to eat. There are chemical components in these two flavorful foods that can harm a raccoon, and could potentially be dangerous.
Another food that a raccoon should not eat is avocado. Avocados can actually be poisonous for raccoons because they contain persin, which can cause a raccoon to get very ill.
Other kinds of food that are bad for raccoons are raisins and macadamia nuts. Eating these can make the raccoon sick.
Raccoons also shouldn’t be fed a lot of bread. They will eat it if it’s there, but if they eat too much, it could give them an upset stomach. That being said, it isn’t inherently harmful to a raccoon to eat bread.
Why Raccoons Cannot Eat Chocolate
Under absolutely no circumstances should a raccoon be eating chocolate. It is dangerous to them. This is due to a compound in chocolate known as theobromine. This leads to a condition known as theobromine poisoning.
Now, in theory, humans could also suffer from theobromine poisoning. We would have to consume a lot of chocolate due to the speed at which our body metabolizes theobromine, but it is possible, albeit very rare.
Raccoons do not benefit from the same fast processing of the theobromine when they eat chocolate. While very little research has been carried out on raccoons and theobromine, we do know it will impact them the same way that it impacts cats and dogs.
Because the theobromine will be broken down so slowly by the raccoon’s system, it will slowly start to poison them. All it takes is a small amount of chocolate to cause this. Even a few grams could be potentially deadly.
The problem is that raccoons do not seem to know that chocolate is going to be bad for them. They also love the sweetness of it. This means that they will eat more and more chocolate, not knowing that they are poisoning themselves. Because the theobromine takes so long to break down, a raccoon eating small amounts of chocolate on separate days could have a major impact.
Long story short, raccoons cannot eat chocolate. They shouldn’t be going near the stuff, but they do.
Do Raccoons Avoid Spicy Food?
Raccoons will avoid spicy foods as much as they can, as the fragrance and the heat from spicy foods disrupts their senses. This includes pungent or hot spices, as well as hot sauces or hot peppers. A raccoon will usually avoid or throw away a piece of spicy food if they are even able to tolerate going near a food source that is contaminated by something spicy.
Do Raccoons Eat All Sorts of Fruit?
Raccoons enjoy fruits, especially berries. Since they are really good at climbing, they are content climbing up a fruit tree that they stumble upon and plucking fresh, juicy fruits off the branches. There aren’t many fruits that a raccoon doesn’t like, and they can be seen enjoying apples, pears, grapes, tomatoes, and much more.
Raccoons also gladly eat bananas, and the yellow fruit, although not native to the raccoons’ habitat, is a delicious treat for a raccoon. While raccoons eat almost everything, they much prefer an easy meal that can’t run away, and bananas are great for this since they’re rich in calories.
While raccoons are able to eat grapes, they aren’t able to eat raisins. Raisins can make a raccoon very sick.
Will Raccoons Eat Vegetables From Your Garden?
Despite popular belief, raccoons would prefer not to have to come near your home to find food. They would much rather remain in solitude in the forest and eat what they can find. However, depending on where they are, they might have no choice but to travel outside of their habitat to find food.
Thus, if they happen to stumble upon your garden, they will help themselves to any kind of vegetable they are able to find. It’s possible that they’ll continue to come back since they will associate your garden with a constant source of fresh, healthy food.
It’s best to find a way to keep your garden as concealed as possible to avoid having raccoons feast on whatever you’re growing.
How Can I Know For Sure, A Racoon Is Eating My Vegetables?
The raccoon has the reputation of being something of a criminal, but you shouldn’t be too quick in accusing the coons of helping themselves to your fruit and veggies.
You first need to look for the signs. Here are some indicators that the culprit might be a raccoon:
- It leaves behind distinct 5-finger paw-tracks.
- They leave their droppings around and don’t bury them as cats would. Raccoon droppings look like little piles of cylinder-shaped turds that are sharply cut-off in the ends.
- Raccoons might also dig for grubs in your yard, where they’ll leave the grass rolled-over in a peculiar way.
- Finally, raccoons, also known as trash-pandas, are known for knocking over trash-cans and going through their contents.
So if you see one or more of the above, it’s likely that raccoons are visiting your garden during the night.
How to be completely sure? Consider putting up a motion-triggered wildlife camera in your yard. These gadgets are not only extremely effective in figuring out what goes on in your yard at night, but they can also be great fun, and might take photos of all kinds of interesting creatures roaming your property!
Do Raccoons Eat Nuts?
Raccoons are happy gnawing on some nuts that they are able to find in the wild. While many types of nuts might not be readily available for a raccoon to find in the wild, they will grab up anything they are able to find.
The only nuts that raccoons can’t eat are macadamia nuts, as they can cause a raccoon to get sick.
Do Raccoons Eat Pet Food?
Raccoons will eat any pet food they find outside, whether it be kibble for your cats or dogs or seeds and hay that are out for other animals. They have no problem climbing up to bird feeders either.
Raccoons will gladly eat cat food. They’re omnivores, meaning that they eat almost everything, and their favorite food is whatever is easy to get. This means that raccoons are more likely to eat fruit, nuts, eggs, and insects than bigger animals that can run away. Cat-food is a meat-based food source that raccoons can even digest. Even low-grade cat food with added plant fibers, which isn’t great for cats are fine for raccoons because they’ve adapted to a much more varied diet.
If you have an outdoor pet and you leave food out for them when they are outside, you should bring that food inside at night. Given that raccoons like to roam around at night, they will easily discover your pet’s kibble and gnaw away. They are likely to continue coming back each night, as well, on the off-chance there is fresh kibble out.
Will Raccoons Eat Processed Human Foods?
Raccoons cannot tell the difference between processed and unprocessed foods. A raccoon is happy to eat up any leftovers from your own meals that you throw into the garbage. Even though raccoons don’t necessarily prefer food they find in the trash or food left outside, they will happily eat it and come back to the same area. The less work a raccoon has to do for food, the better.
One interesting thing to note about raccoons is just how intelligent they are. If there are some yucky bits on the food they are about to eat, they’ll simply just pull off that part and throw it away.
That all being said, it isn’t healthy for a raccoon to eat processed foods. The fat, sugars, and high calories can affect a raccoon much faster than it affects humans.
Avoid Raccoons In Your Trash
In order to deter raccoons from getting into your trash, you want to ensure that any food waste is sealed very well, and is disposed of in a container that is made of thick material and closes completely.
It is fairly easy to find trash cans or compost bins that are made to stand up against pests who might try to gnaw their way into a container to get any scraps they can find.
What Sort Of Animals Do Raccoons Prey On?
Raccoons do not naturally prey on animals. They are perfectly happy eating whatever they are able to get their little hands on. However, a raccoon is not afraid to go after a small rodent or fish if they are not able to find another source for sustenance.
Some of their favorite prey could be said to be frogs, snakes, crabs, or crayfish since they are small and easy to catch. A raccoon will basically eat any small critter they find living in or near water. While not super common, they are known for going after small birds if that’s all they are able to find to eat.