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Keep Raccoons from Using Pet Doors

And what to do in case one gets in

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • A motion-sensor camera caught this masked bandit in the act of coming though the cat door. H. Rock Liao

If a raccoon enters a house through a pet door, he might have trouble finding his way back out.

Skunks, opossums, stray cats, and other unwelcome animals may also get in. You can easily prevent this by locking your pet door at night with your pet inside, or installing a pet door that will open only upon receiving a signal from an electronic collar that your own pet will wear.

The art of persuasion

If it’s too late for prevention and you find a masked marauder in your house, follow these steps.

  • Stay calm. A panicked raccoon may run farther inside your house and may cause damage , so you’ll help the situation by keeping cool yourself.
  • Contain pets before dealing with the raccoon. If you have a dog, close him in a room away from the raccoon. Try to move cats away from the raccoon as well. The raccoon is going to be mainly concerned about getting back outside, which is helpful—you just need to show her the way!
  • If you can do so safely, close doors to other parts of the house.
  • Make a trail of marshmallows, cheese bits, or fig bars leading out an open door. Move quietly and slowly and try to nudge her back out the way she came in, by getting behind her then turning on a vacuum cleaner—she’ll run from the noise. Or walk behind her, banging a broom.
  • Open doors that lead outside. You can also open windows, but put a chair under them so the raccoon has something to jump up on.
  • Leave the room, if possible, and wait quietly for the raccoon to escape. To tell if she’s gone, sprinkle a band of flour in front of open doors so that you can see exiting footprints when she  leaves.
  • If the raccoon doesn’t leave after you’ve tried for several hours, call your local animal control officer for assistance. Never try to catch or directly handle a raccoon. A panicked and scared raccoon may be inclined to bite. 


» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 
» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.
» Read Dorcas MacClintock’s Natural History of Raccoons (Blackburn Press, 2003) to learn more. 

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