Advice about Raccoons

Archived Responses: 

Raccoon Removal Services

Dec 2013

We have raccoons in our backyard that are terrorizing us. We laid down sod and they roll it up on almost a nightly bases. I've searched the old database and have tried it all. We've tried bird netting with landscape staples, cayenne powder, sprinklers, ultrasonic sound wave machine and my husband's peed outside in place of the recommended coyote urine. We've reached the point where we are looking for some service that will trap the raccoons and remove them from our yard. Please let me know some service you've used and would recommend. Thanks. Anon

Call the folks at Critters Humane Trapping at 510-333-0236 and they will take care of the raccoons for you. Roger

How to discourage raccoons from pulling up new sod?

Sept 2010

We recently bought a house that has new sod in the backyard. Some surly neighborhood raccoon (or 2?) comes every night and pulls back the corner of the sod to dig for worms or something. It also poops. We try staking the sod down so it won't come up but it just finds other corners to pull up. The grass is starting to die. Any tips for discouraging raccoons from coming in our yard? Once my husband caught it with the hose and once I sprinkeled red pepper in the area generously, but it's still coming round. annoyed

Hi - we dealt with this same problem a few years when we had our lawn installed. I would suggest a two-pronged approach. The first is, believe it or not, coyote urine. You can get it at Ace Garden/hardware and probably other places also. You soak little cotton-ball like things in it and place them around your lawn. Supposedly the raccoons smell it and stay away. It did seem to work pretty well. Where it didn't work, I took a piece of chicken wire and landscape staples and used the staples to hold the chicken wire down over the sod. PUsh them down so that the chicken wire is really flat against the dirt. That worked great - they could not pull the sod up. Years later it is still there and the grass just grew up around it and we can't see it at all. Good luck! Racoon warrior
Hi, I discovered Organicbugspray, that worked with rats and raccoons . What I like about it is that it is not a harmful chemical but the raccoons don't like it. Especially if they are in your garbage or garden.I ordered some at or if your local you can email for it. organicbugspray [at] I used it for aphids and it ended up deterring the raccoons. arden
The best way to deter raccoons from being where you don't want them is so simple: get a radio- old funky one that you don't care about- tune in a talk radio station like public radio/NPR, and put it where ever the raccoons are hanging out. The volume can be very low, does not have to be loud at all. The raccoons will avoid the area, they think people are there. Usually this technique is used when they are nesting under a house, in the walls, or attic- not sure if it will be as effective where they are foraging, but it is worth a try! humane pest controler
We had the same problem when we moved into a new house with new sod. Every night the sod would be rolled up by the raccoons. The only thing we found that worked, was to buy rolls of chicken wire fencing. Every night, we would lay out it out and stake it down. Yes, it was a total pain to do...but we only had to do it for a couple weeks until the sod had taken root enough to stay put. Eventually Smarter Than A Raccoon
We had the same problem and were able to stop the raccoons from rolling up our grass by covering the whole lawn area with black plastic bird netting. Leave the netting in place until the sod takes root & then you can take it off. I think we left it on for about four weeks. stopped those rollin' raccoons
A neighbor of mine used motion controlled sprayers, I think from Ace on San Pablo, and that seemed to deter the raccoons. Also, I just saw in the Contra Costa Times (August 7) a piece about pests in the garden and they gave an e- mail address for one of their columnists, Gary Bogue. If you write to him, he'll send you a 7 page document on controlling raccoons. E-mail: gbogue [at] Jenny
Our friends ended up covering their entire newly-sodded lawn with that netting you put over trees to keep the birds from eating the fruit, staked down well around the edges. This allowed the sod to root so that when they eventually removed the netting, the raccoons couldn't just peel up the sod anymore. Might be worth a try. Given up on grass, myself
Nov 2007

We just moved into our house in Piedmont and we've had frequent visits from raccoons which live in the neighborhood. They roll up our newly laid sod and look for ''food''. Anyone has experience in getting rid of them? What can I do to the new sod to keep it down? anon

Wow -- for two years the raccoons came into our water garden and trashed everything. Just made a complete mess (even when we had no fish).

We tried everything!

1) Chasing the raccoons with brooms & rakes (they'd amble away & return in an hour)

2) Squirting 'em with water (the daddy raccoon climbed a tree and licked his privates and occasionally looked down at us)

3) Bowls of red-hot Jamacian habenero pepper sauce (all four bowls were emptied the next morning)

4) Catching 'em in a Havahart trap using an egg as bait. (Next morning you have a snarling, stinking, angry raccoon in a cage, and no place to take it ... the rangers in Tilden Park will give you ticket if you take 'em up to the hills! Or worse - a baby raccoon gets caught the trap, and it crys all night for its mother. Meanwhile mama raccoon paces around the cage, making heartbreaking weeble sounds.) Despite this, we caught (and moved) over a dozen raccoons in 2 months.

We finally put a high voltage wire around the water garden. It goes on at dark, off in the morning. Every few months a family of raccoons comes by, get stung, and tells its family to stay out of the pond. Now, they just dig up our vegetable garden. *sigh* Learning to accomodate 'em

Two options I used several years ago when racoons were pulling up our new sod. Go to Grand Lake Ace Garden store in Piedmont and get some coyote urine - yep - you read right. Follow the directions using the stuff around the perimeter of your yard. I also, in a couple of really bad places, laid a piece of chicken wire over the sod, pinned it into the ground with those giant hairpin-like pins used for landscape fabric. The racoons could not pull the sod up and in a very short time the grass completely enveloped the wire and it is not visible. Good luck! Anon
We had the same problem when we put down sod. We ended up putting chicken wire over the ends they would roll back and staking the wire down until roots were established. The grass got water and survived just fine. Hope that helps
Nov 2006

We recently laid rolled sod in our small backyard so the kids would have somewhere to play. Unfortunately, some animal(s) has been coming at night and unrolling the sod--different pieces every night--and it is ultimately going to damage the sod as parts of it have been unable to take root. We called vector control and they said that we should spray an unscented dish washer soap on the lawn to help reduce the grubs in the sod, which is probably what the animals are after. It isn't working, and we are very frustrated with this persistent problem. Any advice?

Raccoons are digging up your sod. Go to the hardware store and buy a ''Scarecrow'' - it's a contraption with a motion detector that you attach to your hose facing the area being dug. Turn the water on at dusk and any time the scarecrow detects motion overnight it will create a sudden jet of water in an arc (you set the width of the arc)and scare the critters away. It works! I have a gardening biz and have used this several times for raccoons digging up sod (a common problem). You should make sure, however, that you have a fairly durable hose. Joan
We had this problem last year, when a raccoon would roll up our newly laid sod each night. We tried several ''all natural'' products (garlic spray, coyote urine, etc.), all of which were a complete waste of time and money, and smelled so bad that they kept us out of the backyard! The raccoon did so much damage that part of the lawn had to be re-sodded. At the recommendation of the man who laid the sod, we bought a couple of large pieces of bird netting (fine, plastic netting intended for placement over a garden to keep the birds away). We rolled it out over the grass and tacked it down with pieces of wire hangers pushed into the sod/dirt. Although it was not much fun to roll up and later re-position each time we wanted to use the yard, it definitely did the trick. We left it on every night for a couple of months, after which the sod had rooted and the raccoon apparently could no longer roll it up. The raccoon later raided our garden, but I put the netting over our vegetables for a week or so and it eventually stopped visiting us. Good luck! I know how frustrating this can be Amy
We had this problem in spades several years ago and tried *everything*. The only thing that worked was to buy this plastic netting stuff - similar to deer netting, but stronger. The stuff we bought was basically a grid design, with the spaces about 3/4 of an inch or so apart. You roll it out on the lawn, then secure it with those arched metal things that you use to hold down landscaping cloth. We left ours on until the sod had taken root Been there/Done that
We had the same problems when we layed sod. It was raccoons that were rolling it up. My husband solved the problem by buying some green chicken wire rolls at home depot (perhaps it was originally for fencing?) and staking it down flat over the ground with tent pegs. At first I was against the plan because I thought it would look horrible, but you actually couldn't see it against the grass. The only pain was that we had to roll up the wire again everytime we mowed but that was a small price to pay. It totally worked and it was only necessary until the sod took root Amy
Raccoons and new sod... ah, yes. Let me tell you my story.

First, upon the advice of the landscaper who'd just laid down a big back yard's worth of new sod, we sprinkled the area liberally with mothballs. Next morning, all over the yard the ends of our beautiful, expensive, sod squares are turned neatly up. Were we too stingy with the mothballs? We go to Ace Hardware, buy out their entire mothball supply. Plaster the yard with the smelly marbles. Listen carefully for the raccoons from our bedroom. What do we hear? A whole passel of the varmints, snickering and playing ping-pong with the mothballs before finally getting down to the business of pulling back the sod and digging up the grubs. They seemed to enjoy the challenge, 'cause they pulled up much more of the sod than before.

We'd always thought the raccoons were cute, but, you know, like teenagers: ill-behaved and a little pesky. After the mothball incident, though, we realized we were faced with a formidable, tenacious, albeit cute, foe.

So back to the hardware store to buy a Scarecrow, a device that attaches to a hose, and sprays water in an arc around the yard when its motion sensor is triggered. That worked pretty well for a couple of nights. But then, the varmints figured out that the sprayer paused for 8 seconds before spraying again, so the next night we heard a lot of giggling and snorting while those brats put their heads down to avoid the spray, then scrambled to get their digging done before putting their heads for the next round.

The raccoons by now had my full respect and admiration - they'd make fantastic show business agents, I thought - but I still wanted to save my new grass, so I decided to play dirty: bought a back yard's worth of chicken wire, and rolled it out over the new sod. Pinned it into place with metal hoops that I think are used when planting tomatoes.

Those boys tried and tried to get up that chicken wire, but were finally stymied. After a few days of determined effort, they abandoned my yard, and my lovely grass was able to take root and thrive.

I pulled up the chicken wire after the grass seemed secure, although in a few places the grass had grown over the wire, and I just left it.

Best of luck, and don't worry: you WILL win in the end! molly

August 2000

We recently had a new (sod) lawn put in our back yard. The racoons are having the time of their life pulling back the sod and eatting I-don't-know-what every single night for weeks now. It isn't helping the lawn at all. Someone suggested a chemical repellent, but that doesn't sound too good for our dog or toddler. Has anyone else had the problem and how did you solve it? Thank you. Ferences

First, I sprinkled tons of cayenne pepper around the edges of the lawn. Worked a little, but not good if you have small children. Then we sprinkled about 12 boxes of moth balls around the edges of our lawn. We also have set up two 500 watt flood lights. It helps somewhat, they aren't doing as much damage (although I did see a raccoon sitting in the middle of the yard last night about 10pm). I'm afraid the moth balls might be killing the lawn however - can't tell if the brown edges are from the moth balls or from previous raccoon damage. Can't find the sonar device on the web that was mentioned in the archived lists. Wondering if it would hurt our cats? Same with the traps - we have two cats ourselves plus many more in the neighborhood. I'd hate to trap a kitty. Guys at the hardware store recommended motion controlled sprinklers. Don't know where to find them. I think the are expensive. (I must admit I feel better knowing other people have this problem.) Jane

I strongly believe that placing that many mothballs on your lawn could endanger your children (or trespassing children) and may get into the groundwater when you water your lawn. A good site to read is http// which has links to sites that describe the health effects and regulations about the components of moth balls. I pasted in one paragraph below about the regulations concerning legal reporting requirements for a release of only one pound of one of the components of moth balls. Yikes! anon

Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, releases of more than one pound of 1,4-dichlorobenzene into the air, water, or land must be reported annually and entered into the National Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data base.
We put in a new small lawn (12 x 15 ft.) in our back yard some months back, and had the same problem. Flowerland, on Solano Ave. (in Albany) recommended using bird netting (black plastic netting--I think it cost around $7 for ours) to cover the new sod for a week or so. This solved it! Cheap, no poisons--we secured it with bricks every few feet, and the raccoons left it alone after a week. You can water right through it, and sunlight also passes through. I didn't think it would work, but it did. The man at Flowerland said that the raccoons don't want to walk on it; they think it's going to shift under them. I've since used the netting for the veg. garden, and to keep cats out of new plantings. SHELLY

You can buy netting in the garden section of Home Depot or East Bay Nursery. You can then bend wire (coat hangers will do) into u shapes and push them down around the perimeter of the netting. I suppose you could also buy something commercially. This will keep the racoons from being able to dig it up. Good luck! D. Banks/ R. Porter

Nov 2000

We had a new lawn put in in June and it is suffering badly. The worst insult to it all has been our on going war with the racoons. I've tried just about everything that people have recommend, to no avail. The netting that I put over the lawn seemed to be working, but, I swear to God, the racoons are getting stronger and smarter and manage to pull the netting, bricks and all, up now. I'm about ready to just give up unless someone can highly recommend a lawn savior. And no, I didn't try to trap them because I just can't picture me, my toddler, and an angry racoon getting in the car to go for a ride together. Thanks to anyone who responds! Catherine

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Scarecrow we purchased to ward off raccoons will keep on working. It is a motion sensitive sprinkler. Easy to install because you just hook it up to your hose and put it on your lawn, it will send out a jet of water when motion is detected. We put it in a week ago and, fingers crossed again, haven't had a problem with the raccoons since. We had also tried that netting, and that didn't work. We bought it at Ace Hardware, and it really is called Scarecrow. You could also install a motion detector into your existing sprinkler system, but that seemed to be more work for us. Good luck. Suzanne
Try putting bird netting on the lawn and anchoring it in place with stakes used for drip irrigation tubes. Keep it in place until the turf is well rooted and less tempting to the grub-hunting racoons. Suzanne
We put a new lawn in this Spring and have had raccoons digging up the sod. On the recommendation of Flowerland, we put netting down but it did not help. We are using the motion detector sprinkler (For got name but has Scarecrow graphics). It definitely works. However, it has to be on every night and sometimes leaks. Available at Pastime Hardware in El Cerrito. Tom
Nov 2001

Racoons are a very popular topic at the moment. This is due to the fact that they are typically most active in the fall when their babies have become very adventurous teenagers and they all go out as one big happy family terrorizing the neighborhood. A few years ago we had a new lawn put in during late summer. That fall the raccoons were pulling up the edges of the lawn driving us absolutely crazy. Our landscaper had recommended heavy duty netting. We basically ended up netting the whole entire lawn. The only way to keep the netting down was to stake it really well. Unfortunately we had to remove the netting each time we had to mow the lawn. It was a heck of a lot of work at first, but by the time the following summer rolled around the lawn was well established and netting free. Of course then we started having problems with moles! One important thing that our landscaper told us was to never water the lawn late in the day or in the evening because that is when worms and grubs become active and all the watering at night makes them crawl up to the surface encouraging raccoons, possums, skunks, and moles to seek out easy target food. Also, watering frequently and lightly encourages more pests in the surface of the soil which in turn encourages the animals. The key: water less often and for longer periods of time, and, only do it in the mornings. Laurey

Raccoons in the attic

March 2008

There is a raccoon living in my attic. He gets in from the roof top through a small hole where two sections of the roof meet. Someone from the Alameda County Vector Control paid a visit and recommended that we trim the trees at least three feet back from the roof (which we've done). He stated that even if we covered the hole, raccoons are persistent and would follow the smell back to our attic. Has any one had this same problem? Any recommendations on companies who handle problems like this that you've worked with? Or how we could handle this problem ourselves? THANK YOU!
Help!! There's a raccoon pee spot on my ceiling!

We had the EXACT same problem and were told the exact same thing. We tried soaking mothballs in ammonia (a friend's suggestion), which did not work. Eventually we called a service to remove them, as it is illegal in California to do it yourself (and who would want to try?). The raccoon, and its babies in our attic, were all removed, taken ''away'' and we have not had a problem since. That was 2 years ago. I don't remember who we called, but I just searched on the internet for 'raccoon removal'. It might have been Animal Damage Control, but I cannot remember. Good luck!! - happy to be raccoon free
Try calling Brent Tolliver of B Trapping. He may be able to help you. (510) 867 1918 Anon
I've been plagued by raccoons in my ceiling in the past. I've done both of the following: 1) Douse a lot of old rags with ammonia and place them inside the attic/space. Replace them regularly. When you know the raccoon(s) are gone (even for a few hours) get up there and repair/close the hole(s) they use for an entrance! 2) Get a humane trap, put some tuna fish in it, and find them a new home. Good luck. No More Raccoons
I had the same problem right down to the pee spot, plus 5 babies in my attic and they killed our cat. The most helpful contact I found was the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. They instructed us to put a loudish radio out on the roof and bright lights pointing into the hole at night. This eventually drove the mother to take her youngsters to a new spot. We spread white lime on the roof so we could track the footprints to tell when the mother was gone and then hired a roofer to block the hole. We kept lime on the roof for a while to be sure she had not returned. I also hired rat patrol to inspect my home and block off all critters, large and small from gaining access to any little spaces. I have to say all the vector control contractors, trappers, etc I hired before speaking with Lindsay were unable to rid us of the raccoons. Its been two years and so far they are not back. Good luck. jmz

Raccoons coming in through the cat door

Jan 2008

Raccoons have been invading our basement, coming through our simple cat door w/ flap and eating all their food. We decided to take action. After some online research, we installed a magnetic cat door by Cat Mate and our cats wear magnetic key collars which ''unlock'' the door. Problem is these pesky (and very smart) raccoons have a lot of dexterity with those little hands and have figured out how to lift the door toward them and go in rather than pushing it in. Has anyone else had this problem and/or know of a solution? They come every night, it's disgusting and dirty and they clear out all the food and water. If we lock our cats in at night they get very upset and go #2 on the floor instead of box. alexandra

I have absolutely had that problem, and not only can they lift the door to get in, they can't just run right back out again when they're caught, so they freak out and run into different parts of the house. Once I had one sit on my pillow ON MY BED and hiss at me, while drooling.

Try putting a radio, tuned to talk radio right next to the door. They'll think somebody is in there and not want to come in. This may or may not work, we started doing it this summer but then suddenly they all disappeared from the neighborhood, so I can't be 100% sure that it was our fix. Otherwise, get a dog. Seriously. With a dog on the other side of that door, no raccoon will want to come through it. Unfortunately those are your only options. We've been dealing with this for the 7+ years we've lived in this house and I've never found a solution that I know works. Sorry.... Jill

Racoons are aggressive and territorial and carry rabies. Even ones that do not could injure your cats. You should either put up with the whining cats at night, locked inside, or lock down the cat door at night, and put your own cats outside. I suspect that the outside of your cats and house will seem much less interesting to the racoons if no food is available.

Unless you get the racoons out of your house, by any means necessary, you will end up with a horrible emergency vet appointment sometime soon. I had this problem and my vet told me in no unclear terms to take this as a very serious danger to my cats. Anon

After having many racoon ''break ins'' over the years with my family and my clients, I have devised a way to keep those guys out of the building: Racoons cannot leap, they can only climb. Cats, on the other hand can leap quite high. By placing the cat door above the reach of the racoons and giving your cats a platform to land on in front of the raised cat door, you have solved the problem! It also keeps skunks at bay. It takes a bit of time for the cats to figure out the new set up but most of the time they get it pretty quickly. I have installed this arrangement several times with great success. If you're interested in more details, let me know. Erich Hayner handyworks [at]
How about locking the cats outside with a safe box of some kind to sleep in? OR not leaving any food out for them during the night inside (wherever the raccoons are coming in). They certainly won't starve from 8 hours without food. I know how awful this is, raccoons are scary and WAY too smart. Not a fan of raccoons
My magnetic cat door worked like a charm for years, but all of a sudden, I'm in the same boat you are. Some day, I'll get around to buying the really expensive ($350?), truly raccoon- proof door previously recommended by many parents in this newsletter. Until I do, though, I've found an easy way to keep the raccoons out -- just take the cat food and water bowls away at night. I put them in another room right before I go to bed. Once the raccoons figured out that there's no food there at night, they stopped coming in. Our cat somehow survives without food until dawn. When I wake up, I present the food and water to a very appreciative cat. Janet
We used to have the same problem. We had to close the cat door and let the cats in thru the doorway for a while. We had a baby possum living in the garage for a little while before I discovered a really wierd looking poop (and discovered where the smell was coming from)

Now we have 3 dogs...I never see raccoons, possums, skunks, far. I say, close the kitty door for a while. anon

We had a similar problem in the Thousand Oaks area. The raccoons just busted through the magnetic cat door. After many nights screaming down the hall after them with a broom (they actually started coming up into our bedroom area where the kids were...eek!), I set up a Hava Heart trap baited with peanut butter. The first night they pulled out the peanut butter without setting off the trap, but the next night I got one and that was the last they came back. Now, the question becomes ''what to do with a very angry, growling, stinking raccoon. Animal Control would not take it and said that law prohibits release farther than 1 mile from the capture site. (So of course, it will find its way back). I couldn't bear to ''off'' it, didn't want it to come back, and did the no- no....released it in Tilden. That's why I am signed as... Anon.
We have had the same problem with several raccoons. The link to the BPN website section on this issue has a ton of really good suggestions. Here's an additional one that wasn't mentioned: Consider setting your cat door to out-only at night, if your door has such a setting. Ours does and basically our cat has learned that if she wants to take off in the middle of the night, she's not getting back in until we wake up. On our magnetic lock cat door the out-only setting raises a tall, immobile latch up on the inner part of the door. It's not possible for the racoons to pick the magnetic lock with this additional ''deadbolt'' in place. Another technique is to humane trap and relocate the raccoon. We've done this twice. More come to take their place, but it gives you some relief. Raccoon Catcher
We had this exact problem a few years back and found a solution that the raccoons did not defeat. (We had some clever raccoons, too - they defeated the magnetic cat door on the first night!) We put the cat door about four feet off the ground and put a small shelf on either side. Our cat could jump up to the platform, go through the cat door to the other platform, then jump down. Apparently raccoons don't like to jump. Pamela
Years, ago had the same problem of raccoons coming in through our dog door in the evening (having dogs doesn't get rid of raccoon invasions). After doing an on-line search and posting on BPN, we decided to try the advice one BPN member suggested, which was to install a radio by the dog door and tune it to a talk radio station. We were a bit skeptical, but it works great! The only times we've had raccoon invasions is when we have forgotten to turn on the clock-radio for an extended period of time.

We also replaced our dog door with one that can lock when we're out of town. This has also been a great raccoon deterrant. We tried the magnetic locking dog door, but our dogs kept losing the ''key.''

Good luck! jewelzie

Was awakened at 5:00 this morning by those pretty little gurgling sounds that raccoons make except that one of two raccoons was in the kitchen eating the cat food - had gotten in through the cat door - another one was waiting (to come in?) outside the kitchen door. I don't want to close off the cat door at night. Would it be enough to lock up the cat food at night or are they now going to be coming in and trying to get into the cabinets? Help! I'm sure there are plenty of folks who have dealt with this around here so would appreciate any suggestions. Joan
Lock your cat door! we have had this problem in SF and Oakland. They will keep coming inside even if you put the cat food away. Sometimes they're looking for water. Sometimes, who knows what they're looking for. If you lock you cat door at night for a few months, they'll give up and move on...but another family might come so I would recommend locking it every night. It has worked for us. Hope that helps. Molly
We would get raccoons coming in our kitty door into the garage/office to eat the cat food. They're very brazen. We started keeping our cat in at night and closing off the cat door. It worked. The cat quickly learned he couldn't go out at night. There were never any accidents. We now have 2, 8 month old kittens and when we started letting them out and took away the cat box we did the same thing because the raccoon started coming in again if we left the kitty door open. Unfortunately I don't think putting the food away will do the trick. Also if your cat/s get into a tussle with the raccoons it's a pretty sure bet the raccoon will win. You might reconsider your wanting to keep the kitty door open all night. Good luck. June
Raccoons appear cute but the reality is they can harbor some pretty bad diseases and can tear a pet to shreds or bite you or your child very badly. Raccoons rely on garbage and pet food much as rats do. We have had awful problems in my area for years because people don't control garbage well. Raccoons will rip apart a garden, cracking branches and tearing up and breaking everything while looking for grubs, also.

If I were you, I would for sure close the pet door (get your cats an indoor litter box for a while) until the raccoons lose interest and you are rid of them. And then don't leave pet food, or any food, out overnight, even inside. If the problems persists you may be able to get help from the city vector control. Christine

We have had really bad experiences with Raccoons in our house. They started coming in the dog door and ended up tearing the shingles off of the sides of our house in several places and nesting and having babies in our attic. We eventually had to pay to have someone get rid of them and hire a carpenter to repair the house. So... my advice to you is lock up the kitchen and leave the cats in for a while until the Raccoons find somewhere else to get their dinner. They are incredibly clever, strong and can be aggressive. Don't encourage them. Unfortunately, urban life has robbed them of their native habitat. Ellen
This is a reply to the writer with raccoons in the kitchen. We also had raccoons who came in through the cat door. Not only did they eat the cats' food, but they played with our son's stuffed animals. We didn't know why the stuffed animals started losing noses and ears until the middle of one night when we were awakened to the sound of Tickle Me Elmo laughing his little head off. Upon investigating we found Elmo stuck in the cat door unable to stop laughing and vibrating. The raccoons had abandoned him when they couldn't squeeze him through the door. Elmo's mishap started explaining a lot of strange toy problems in our house. The only thing that worked for us was to get a locking cat door, and lock it at night. Locking up the food, or moving it away from the door just encouraged the raccoons to explore further into the house.

At another house where neighborhood cats made unwelcome forays through our cat door, we installed a cat door that responded to electronic sensors on the cats' collars. This was a great solution in that it let in wanted pets and kept out unwelcome critters, except that one of our three cats could not adjust to using the high tech approach. If your cats are young, I'd recommend trying it. Good luck. Claudia

Regarding the problem with racoons - my parents had this problem and tried everything, including the electronic cat door that opened with a signal from the cats' collars. Unfortunately, their racoons were able to push through the door! What they finally did was to put a small battery-operated radio near the cat door, tuned to an all-talk station. The racoons hear the voices and think there are people around. It worked! Kathy
We have occasional raccoon visits too. A friend with a perennial problem of the raccoons getting in the cat door even during the day said it helped to put a radio tuned to a talk station near the cat door -- the raccoons thought people were in the house and didn't come in. I have the kind of cat door that opens with magnets the cats wear on their collars. Really aggressive raccoons can still pick the door open with their claws, but it does deter them, and when they occasionally try to come in at night, they make such a racket I can get up and shine flashlights at them (not to mention shouting and throwing things!).
I'm writing to reinforce the comments of some other responses to this question. Do not allow wild animals to get into your house. They are destructive, they carry diseases and (especially raccoons) can injure and even kill small pets (like your cats). Also, they can be incredibly nasty if you have to confront one to get it out of your house. Raccoons are awfully cute at a distance, and vicious close up. Imagine trying to get an enormous, angry, feral cat out of your house--that's almost how scary a raccoon would be. Keep your pets in at night if raccoons are in your neighborhood and lock that cat door. Louise
We have struggled with generations of raccoons coming in our cat door. Our house is along side a creek and our raccoons are very, very smart. They have figured out everything from how to open a smart pet door (with magnetic lock) to opening the refrigerator and taking out a ten pound sack of potatoes and then proceeding to open the bag and take the potatoes out the cat door one at a time.

Having tried many different deterrents over the years to no avail, I have recently discovered a miracle (for me.) -- Citrus orange spray -- I spray around the cat door and on the doorway and steps leading to the cat door. The raccoons hate the smell of it, but the cats don't mind it at all. It is also just natural orange oils and non-toxic. I haven't had one raccoon come inside since I started doing this (spraying about every three or four days seems to work.)

Hope this might help someone. Wish I'd figured it out thirty years ago. Bree

Oct 2001

Since there seems to be a lot of raccoon postings of late, I have a query of my own. As an alternative to Ferberizing our cat, we got one of those magnetic collar cat doors -- kitty wears a collar with a magnet, which activates the latch on the cat door, so that only he can go in or out through the door. Unfortunately the raccoons, crafty little buggers, have figured out how to get in anyway, just by reaching their claws through the weatherproofing and depressing the latch. After many exciting nightime raccoon visits, we're locking the cat door at night and once again being woken up by kitty at night. My question -- is there any solution? Any cat door that is raccoon proof? Help! DS

I can't offer any long term solutions since those raccoons seem to be able to figure it all out. One thing that did work for us for several months though was to put a radio near the pet door (on the inside) that played talk radio. We also have a motion-activated light near the door. These two things together worked for several months and then the raccoons figured it out again :-( Im hoping someone has a good sol'n! Lisa
We had this problem periodically and have one of those clear soft plastic cat doors. We solved the problem by putting away the cat food at night and making sure that there was nothing out in the kitchen that the raccoons could smell. We keep the cat food bags far away from the kitchen where they can't smell them either. Their olfactory sense is amazing!!! The few times we forgot to put the food away, they were right back in there. Otherwise, if they don't smell anything, they don't bother to come in, even though I know they've been visiting the backyard as evidenced by digging and dirty water dishes. Putting away all food was a very simple and effective solution for us.
Our solution was to put kitty out at night and lock the kitty door. One kitty likes to sleep inside and doesn't bug us to go out at 2 AM. The other one always wants to go out at some unGodly hour so we just put him out when we go to bed... like it or not!! Those raccoons are very crafty and clever. They have to be to live in a world with humans. Good luck. June
To give the kitty in/out access and keep the raccoons out, put the cat door at a higher level. I used a ramp (wide enough for kitty but too narrow for the coons) to a back hall window which was 4 to 5 feet above the ground. The kitty came and went freely and no more raccoons! Ana
I just want to add to the racoon discussion. We live in Menlo Park and have racoon problems like you Berkeley people do.

First, thanks for the info about how to deter racoons from tearing up sod. Your discussion has saved me a lot of work. I searched with Google for nightime sod digging and came right to your discussion. Mystery solved - it must be racoon(s) and now we have a few options.

Second, another reason to lock the cat door at night to discourage racoons from entering your house is to give your cat peace of mind. Our cat is a calico who is easily startled. When we started locking the cat door the cat became more much more relaxed. I had no idea of the psychological damage the invading racoons were doing to the cat. We let the cat out in the daytime and she usually comes in when we call around 9pm. It seems better for her, too because she would get into fights at night, and that has stopped. Thanks again! Ann (Sept 2004)

Raccoons on the Roof

Feb 2007

We've got a problem with 2-3 good sized raccoons hanging out in our yard, on our shed, and most notably wrestling on our balcony and roof. Any experiences or good ideas about how to keep them away without harming them (or us) would be appreciated. Thanks.

We had raccoons that came into our house through the cat door to get cat food. I don't mind that so much as they usually do that in the late summer when water is scarce. We put away the cat food and water at night and they stop coming. Well, an injured raccoon started coming in and searching our house for food (our toddler's dropped cheerios, etc.) and even came into our bedroom at night! That had to stop. We called B Trapping 510- 867 1918. (Check the number and make sure you reached B & sometimes gets mixed up with another trappers number in the phone listings.) The nice man in charge (forgot his name) is licensed to trap wild animals and relocate them. He uses a have- a-heart trap which doesn't hurt the animals. He'll put the baited traps near your house daily until the raccoons are trapped and then he'll release them in the hills by a watershed. (Raccoons have to be released more than 10 miles away or they can come back.) If a raccoon has babies and is nursing, he will release the raccoon immediately and then re- trap it later after the babies are weaned. It's very humane. Good luck! Andi
You should check out Gary Bogue, the animals and pets columnist for the Contra Costa Times. He has a Raccoon Fact Sheet that covers almost every potential raccoon problem. You can e-mail him at garybug [at] and ask for a copy of his Raccoon Fact Sheet. (You should also give him a brief description of your raccoon problem in case he has specific advice.) We had problems with raccoons digging up our front yard. We tried Gary's tips and the raccoons have moved on. Good luck. Raccoon-free
Hi, we had the same problem with raccoons and I can't remember who we called (we were in SF) but we found someone who gave us phone advice. The raccoons were using our roof to go to the bathroom, since they don't just do it any ol' where. We were instructed to soak a couple of rags in ammonia and put them up there. It worked and the raccoons went away. We also had someone come and build up a sort of fence right at the corner of our roofline and that may have helped, too. Good luck! namastesf
We had racoons nesting in our roof! After googling for solutions I purchased dried cayote urine from Orchard Hardware. The cayote is a natural predator in the wild. You take old knee highs or cut up pantyhose and put dollops of this reeking powder in the foot, tie it up and throw it in into the space they are invading. We also sprinkled it liberally along the route they had to take to get into the roof. Also blasted heavy metal music at them full volume when the neighbors were out. They left. gfynn
I used to have a problem with a family of raccoons gathering on my roof. I tried repeatedly shining lights on them and staring at them, whenever they made disturbing noise. After about a couple of weeks of this, they went away, and they haven't come around again for several months. Marylena
I had a family of 6 racoons (mom and 5 babies) in my ceiling. I tried several pest control companies without success and finally got help from the Lindsay Museum. They advised making their night life as unpleasant as possible. We put out floodlights and radios at night during the times the raccoons came around. After weeks of putting up with them while various and expensive trappers were unsuccessful, the raccoons left in about three days. I then had Rat Patrol rodent proof the house. Costly, but comes with a five year warranty against entering creatures and the service was willing to come back often before I finally drove the raccoons away. I understand that Alameda County Vector Control will help too, except if you live anywhere in Alameda but Berkeley. anonymous

Repelling raccoons

Dec 1999

We need some advice. Last week, two huge raccoons decided to duke it out on our back patio, leaving many bloodstains and a dying raccoon on our step. (we live in the densely populated North Berkeley). Even our motion spotlight and our frantic tapping on the patio door did nothing to dissuade them from the fighting. (they have no fear...) Now, since then, we have noticed many new raccoon mud prints around. We have two young children, 1.5 and 3. We definitely don't want them around. Any suggestions on how to dissuade them? A high pitched noise sensor? Natural chemicals? Thanks in advance.

Raccoons. My parents had very brazen raccoons coming in their house through a cat door (that supposedly could only be activated by a signal from the cats' collars). They tried a motion-sensitive outdoor light to no avail. What finally did the trick was to put a small radio tuned to a 24-hour news station outside the back door. Apparently, they can't stand Rush Limbaugh!
Pastime Hardware in El Cerrito has two different kinds of deterrents for raccoons. While I was looking at them a man told me that he had the kind that you hook up to your hose and when they come near or into your yard the water comes on and scares them away. He thought it was great. The Pastime folks told me they had sold allot of the other kind, which emits a high pitched noise that raccoons don't like. I opted for that one. It has a 2 year money back guarantee,but I think it takes longer to really work. After hooking it up and seeing that the raccoons still showed up I phoned the company. I was told that the reason for the two year guarantee was that raccoons, in particular, have a harder time changing their behavior and habits, and particularly in our case because we have a pond (with fish). In the beginning we were told to keep our device on at all times (not using the motion sensor). We have to switch it off when we go into the yard though because it hurts my ears and our daughter's--my husband doesn't hear it at all. (Raccoons' hearing range is similar to that of human's. This may not be a good idea if you have a dog or cat because it also hurts their ears.) I am hopeful that this will work and think that I do not see them as often. As a side note, raccoons also hate the smell of ammonia and soaking rags in it and putting them around has also worked for us. (sorry this is so long)
I hope someone else has an idea for repellants for you, because I don't. We had a terrible time with raccoons after we installed sod in our West Berkeley home some years back (they roll the sod up and eat the grubs underneath, destroying the sod). The only thing that worked for us was trapping them and having animal control take them away. We eventually bought our own trap (the ones they have cost a small amount to rent each time). They used to re-release them in Tilden, but I think they were forced to stop this practice and started euthanizing them instead. Eventually we got all the local raccoons out of the area, or they figured out it was a bad yard to come into, one or the other. I sympathize greatly.
Just a word of caution. A local animal lover was just telling me that there is a kind of trap used that kills the raccoons but the specialists called in to get rid of the animals don't necessarily tell the residents that. So if you pay someone else to take care of the problem, make sure you ask questions about how it will be done.
Get rid of those racoons with a slingshot, pepper spray, flamethrower, Christmas carol tape loop, whatever it takes. Then saute with garlic and paprika in your cooking oil of choice. Good luck!
Nov 1999

Does anyone have any ideas on how to repel raccoons? We have a creek which runs through our backyard and there are a number of raccoons living there. They appear to have decided that my daughter's tree fort is a perfect latrine. I have heard that, in addition to being gross (according to my 7-year-old), their feces carries ringworm. Someone suggested wolf urine as a repellant, but I have no idea where you would locate such a thing.

We had the same problem and found a sonar device at Costco Santa Rosa for approx. $50? (prob. could get on-line Costco website). It lets out a piercing noise to raccoons. We have it under the house where they lived and can barely hear it. It appears to have worked.
Re: wolf urine to repel racoons: I've seen something like that at Berkeley Horticulture Nursery.

Raccoons knocking over the garbage cans

Oct 2001

I have been having a problem of raccoons coming over in the middle of the night, knocking down my garbage can and leaving an awful mess. These critters are really bold. I caught a gang of them at the scene and spotting a flashlight did nothing to interfere with their meal. I already have one of those plastic locking cans from Home Depot, but somehow, those raccoons still seem to get into it. I considered buying a little shed that encloses the garbage can, but I still have to leave the garbage can out in the open the night before since the sanitation people seem to come at different times in the morning, sometimes too early for me to put it out at that time. Does anyone have an idea for how to raccoon-proof a garbage can? Or does anyone know of a really hard to open style and where to buy? Thanks for your help. Liz

In response to Remedy For Raccoons Knocking Over Garbage Can: Raccoons can be a real problem. Where I live they have learned to 'open' bungie cords. This will work if you have a can that has a lid that only opens on one side and a cross bar lower down (the kind of can alot of garbage companies use). What you need to do is attach two bungie cords permanent to the top of the can (lid) by drilling holes, inserting the 'hook' of the cord into it, then squeeze the hook closed, the other part of the bungie cords are hooked into the lower cross bar. (It may be hard to get just the right size of bungie cord, so adjustable cords may the project alot easier.) The result is easy to use and quite successful in foiling the racoons. (If you can not get hold of this kind of can, perhaps wrapping a bungie around the middle of the can, to act as a cross bar, then attach 3 or 4 bungies to the lid, in the same manner. That might be worth a try.) -Heather
Raccoons are the most irritating and challenging urban pests I've ever dealt with. The second most irritating would be deer. There are ways to discourage raccoons, though nothing is ever completely full proof as long as we have them around. They are very smart and very adaptable to change. I would go ahead and put the trash can inside some kind of little shed or barrier, that way the raccoons won't have access to it on a nightly basis. Then, when you do need to put it out, I've seen a lot of people use bungie (sp?) chords to strap down the lids to the cans hooking the chords on the handles. I think garbage collectors are use to seeing this, and can remove them easily. However, I don't know how often they get lost. At least you will have solved the problem most of the time. And the raccoons will not come around as often if there is nothing for them to eat every night. The other thing you might consider is reducing the amount of smelly attractive garbage by double bagging, composting, and using your garbage disposal more often. Sometimes when I have some old meat that I know is going to be in the trash for a week, I bag it up real well and store it in the freezer till the night before trash pick-up. You may want to label it so you don't forget and leave it in your freezer. If you have pets, never leave their food outdoors. And if you have any kind of fish pond or water garden, this will attract them as well. Raccoons LOVE to play in water, as well as hunt for snails and sometimes fish. An electric fence (Fido Shock) works really well around ponds, though it is no fun to look at. You may also want to talk to neighbors. The raccoons could still come around on a regular basis if neighbors are leaving pet food out or not tying their trash cans down. I knew a neighbor once who was deliberately feeding them because she thought they were so cute. All of this can contribute to a wider neighborhood pest problem. Goodluck! I would love to find out how it goes. - Laurey
I would buy the biggest, heaviest cart style can I could find and then lash the lid tightly with bungee cords. Our cans in Berkeley are city owned and tall have a fairly heavy lid that opens on one side. We have regular backyard-visiting racoons but they've never managed to get in the can, or knock it over. Racoons are very smart, persistent creatures and you'll have to work to outwit them. -Nuckypuff
When I was a child we had a terrible problem with raccoons. We had the old metal trash cans. My parents used bungee cords to keep the little buggers out. They attached one from one can handle, through the lid handle to the other can handle. Then, they used another around the can, through the handles, to attach the can to our railing (we lived in one of those Montclair houses with the driveway at the top and the house down the hill and so we had a railing along the driveway.) -Lisa
We found a simple solution that works great. We put the lid on, then hook a bungie cord under the lip that the lid snaps into, then run it over to the other side. Diagonally works best. -mack
A bungie cord works perfectly. Our garbage can has a plastic handle on the top lid and a metal rod near the bottom. Everyone in our neighborhood uses one on their garbage can. -Annie
Our neighbors gave us a simple rubber band with cloth on the outside, with black metal hooks on the ends. I've seen people use them for securing things on bike racks. What are they called? We use them to keep the lids closed. -Susan

And the winner is.....bungee cords!
I am the person who requested and received a good number of responses to my problem with raccoons attacking my garbage cans. The overwhelming solution was bungee cording my garbage can and I want to say that this worked like a dream. Sure, those coons toppled it over a couple of times, but haven't gotten into the trash. I thought that I needed to build or buy some sort of hut for my garbage can, but my problem was solved by a couple of bucks. Thanks so much for a low cost and very effective solution! Liz