The Raccoons on My Porch

by J.D. Roth on 07 September 2010 · 20 comments

in Administration

My cat Toto is aging, and as she ages, her body is failing her. Mentally, she seems sharp, but after sixteen years, Toto’s hips are causing her obvious trouble. In fact, they make it so that she can’t use a litterbox effectively. She tries to squat, but mostly she just pisses out the back end of the box.

I spent the summer working with my vet to find things to help Toto, but nothing works. Since we can’t stand the smell of cat urine in the house, two weeks ago I took drastic measures. I banished Toto outside. (She gets to come in while I work, but I put her out for 80% of the day and night.)

Because Toto now lives outside, she eats and drinks outside. I’ve set up a heating pad on the porch, and given her own food and water area nearby. She seems perfectly content with this arrangement except when:

  • She’s out of food, or
  • She wants to be petted.

Strangely enough, she’s been out of food a lot lately. “I think another cat is eating Toto’s food,” I told Kris when I first noticed how quickly she was going through her bowl.

“Actually,” I said a couple of days later, “maybe it’s a dog. Whoever is eating Toto’s food keeps knocking the bowl over.”

But a few days after that, I realized that the food thief probably wasn’t even a dog. Whatever the critter was, it was messy. Every morning, Toto’s water dish was filled with mud. The food bowl was tipped over and the porch scattered with mud and debris.

“I’ll bet it’s a coon,” I told Kris. Though we live in a residential neighborhood not far from Portland, we’ve seen plenty of raccoons in the six years since we moved in.

Today I got to see the cat-food thievery first-hand. Turns out it’s not a raccoon — it’s a family of four. I was lucky enough to have my camera handy as they performed their daring raid:

My favorite part of this video is how Toto simply sits on her heating pad and watches the raccoons filch her food. She isn’t bothered at all. (After I stopped filming, one of the raccoons stepped on her, which caused her to hiss and swat, but the coon didn’t care.)

Now I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do. I’m well aware that feeding raccoons can cause woe. Next time, for example, the raccoon might swat Toto back. Or they could become aggressive with our three other cats.

I know that I want to feed Toto outside, but I have to find a way to do that without feeding the wildlife.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Al Cordle 09 September 2010 (15) at 3:08 pm

There are plenty of raccoons in Portland city limits too! I like the one who stands on hind legs.

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Cheryl Batton 09 September 2010 (15) at 3:32 pm

I suggest you name them. I think they just might become part of the family.

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Tyler Tervooren 09 September 2010 (15) at 3:45 pm

JD, I see them all the time even here in one of the busiest spots of SE Portland. I even saw them a lot when I lived downtown. Together with the squirrels, they rule this city by night and early morning.

Oh, and fantastic choice with the music. I chuckled.

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Laura 09 September 2010 (16) at 4:16 pm

Maybe this is a “duh” comment, but you have tried using a covered litter box? I suppose if she hits the plastic it would still smell, but it shouldn’t spread outside the box unless she happens to aim right out the opening. That’s such a shame that she’s having trouble, poor thing!

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henrik lundqvist blog 09 September 2010 (17) at 5:02 pm

They are very well mannered aren’t they? So cute scooping up the cat food and eating it out of their hands. So, you live in Rosings Park from Pride & Prejudice?

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Paul Williams 09 September 2010 (19) at 7:28 pm

J.D., you have a very generous cat! It’s funny how Toto just doesn’t seem to care that they’re eating her food.

I also think that one raccoon (that kept standing on its hind legs) was the designated look-out for this little escapade. Thanks for sharing!

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Kelly 09 September 2010 (03) at 3:10 am

When Toto is so close to the end of her life why are you banishing her outside for 80% of the time? She would be helpless if some animal tried to attack her. Other cats may have claimed your yard as “theirs”. Use a covered litter box. One of my cats sprays in her litter box but hardly smells at all and I wash the litter box out every few weeks. In addition it’s probably not that Toto is “very generous” but rather, is she really going to try to fight 2 wild raccoons when her hips are bad? I think not! Keep your poor cat inside.

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Pamela 09 September 2010 (05) at 5:02 am

Two suggestions: if you want to try to have Toto inside, why not line the area around her litter box with easily cleaned piddle pads that absorb and can be tossed?

Or if you’re set on having her outside, would she take to being fed at specific times instead of keeping the food out all day?

You definitely want to discourage the raccoons. If they decide to find a way into your house, you’ll experience a world of hurt.

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J.D. Roth 09 September 2010 (11) at 11:29 am

Last night, the raccoons broke the glass water bowl that was on the porch. That was the last straw. So, following your suggestions, we’ve come up with some alternatives.

First, we’re going to try feeding Toto inside. There’s still a water bowl outside that all of the cats use, but if she wants to eat, she’ll have to ask to be let in. That should work fine. If it doesn’t we’ll try something else.

Thanks for the words of warning!

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Jet 09 September 2010 (22) at 10:10 pm

My last kitty was also my last indoor/outdoor kitty- she passed away at a young 13 years old due in part to complications from an abscess she ended up with thanks to a bite from a raccoon. Your kitty is likely tolerating those raccoons out of necessity- the swat and hiss could have easily escalated into something she shouldn’t have to deal with in the first place given her failing health. Now more than any other time in her life she should be kept safe and comfortable inside. Really, what’s more important- her comfort and wellbeing or you not having to deal with an aging cat having understandable litterbox difficulties? I hope you either reconsider your decision, or find a suitable, loving home where she can have the safety and comfort she deserves.

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Genavieve 09 September 2010 (13) at 1:40 pm

Speaking as a former Animal Control Officer, I have to tell you that putting cat food outside is just asking for trouble. More importantly, relegating Toto to the outdoors at 16 years of age is cruel. She has NO idea why she can’t be in, and with her body beginning to fail her, it’s callous to put her out. Yes, you’ve decided to change the feeding plan, but you’re not recognizing that a 16 year old cat can be killed by an angry raccoon. Call your vet and see if Toto doesn’t have some other health issues goings on; change your litter box to a covered one; using clumping litter and scoop daily. Stop by the local animal shelter and see if they have any advice on how to deal with these issues AND ask your vet. Punishing the cat in this way is not your best course of action.

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Tiger 09 September 2010 (17) at 5:22 pm

Your cat is old & probably suffering from painful joints &/or any of the other problems the elderly face.
Do not keep her outside. It is cruel at her age.
As others have suggested, buy a covered litter tray, put some pads around it, feed her inside.
She has given you 16 years of affection & loyalty — don’t you think you owe her a bit of reasonable comfort in her old age?
Also — your other three cats…Are they living comfortably inside while Toto is isolated & alone outside?

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Amanda 09 September 2010 (12) at 12:21 pm

Several people beat me to the suggestion but it honestly kept me up over the weekend thinking about poor Toto. The covered litter box is great alternative and they sell the quite large. I didn’t think about the piddle pads but my Mischka, as she was dying from fatty liver disease also had this issue and the piddle pads were wonderful.

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Willow 09 September 2010 (07) at 7:51 am

Hi JD,

I agree with others about this being a bad and sad decision. I have been in your shoes with elderly cats and litter box troubles and there are humane ways to deal with it. There is a wonderful product called the Easy Access Litter Box, designed for elderly cats who can’t climb over the high rim of a standard litter box. Have you taken Toto to a vet to rule out a treatable/manageable medical problem? Unfortunately, failure of litter box training due to various age-related health problems is very common in senior cats. When it becomes an unmanageable quality of life issue for the cat and family then for me that brings me to the point where I consider euthanasia. And I must say that a kind and loving euthanasia is more humane than banishing a good old cat to be killed by wild animals.

Good luck. Please bring Toto back inside. It is going to be a nasty winter if she gets to see it.

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connie 09 September 2010 (15) at 3:35 pm

I too want to add that it is very risky for Toto to remain outside. I’m sure the poor kitty has no idea what happened and why you no longer want her to share your life.

There are options. Larger litter boxes, litter boxes with higher sides, arthritis medications and supplements, different litters, etc. So many different options. I personally had a cat stop peeing in the litter box and we put puppy pee pads (and later human incontance bed pads because they are the same thing but cheaper) down near the box and she used those.

If you are unwilling to help Toto, you might want to consider end of life options. I know it sounds cruel, but leaving her outside to fend for herself and fight off wild animals (you already have raccoons who knows what is next) or risk something worse – well honestly how nice is that? She has shown you she is in pain by not being able to use the litter box properly (you do know that isn’t her option right? Cats are very clean animals and do not like not being able to properly take care of their waste). Quality of life takes many forms. If her’s is lacking, then it is not unkind to help her move on.

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calvin 09 September 2010 (19) at 7:45 pm

make a cat door. I’ve used one for years. it spares the litter box problem and the cat can go in and out. cat’s can use a very small door, not much bigger than their heads. too small for a raccoon, except for the babies… which I experienced once… but never again… poor scared cute raccoons.

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Debbie 12 December 2010 (21) at 9:27 pm

I set up a “shower curtain” around my litter boxes with a small section open where they come/go. I use adjustable rods. Cut the curtains so they can fit just inside the boxes. Use painters tape to hold the corners inside. That way when the cat hits the wall, it flows back into the box. You can use wipes to clean the curtains. I did that with my oldest cat (lived to 19 years, 10 months and 1 days). My 14 year old and 2 year old cats still use it that way.

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Liz 12 December 2010 (12) at 12:21 pm

I wanted to share a story that happened to one of my clients after a large snowstorm last year. I believe food must have been scarce due to the snowstorm and the racoon hungry for this to have occurred. My client went outside to walk his yorkie, when a racoon came running up and grabbed the yorkie and tried to take off with it. My client had a coat in his hand and was able to fend off the racoon by hitting it with hit tail.
Just wanted to let you know that even thought they look harmless, they might not be. I know you are dealing with a challenging situation and wish you the best. I am sorry that your cat is having health issues. Thanks for sharing your video.

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