Coati Pet Care Guide
Experienced wildlife handler and author, Alan Graham, explains best practices for looking after your pet coati. Lots of fun, loads of photos/videos and tons of information about the natural history of coatimundis.
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Alan has been soft releasing coatis and other exotic wildlife in the rainforests of Belize for over 12 years, his experience with looking after coatimundis is local legend. Caring for new arrivals at his wildlife sanctuary is the first step towards successful rehabilitation before release back into the wild.
He now has a band of over 80 coatis roaming free, many born naturally in the wild from mothers whom Alan had cared for as orphaned youngsters. He can walk among them — he is one of the band. They are accepting of his presence and all know him as family, allowing him to study their behaviour and watch over them in the wild.
Find out here in this Coati Pet Care Guide everything you need to know about taking good care of them.
Feel free to post questions to our Author Page on Facebook and send Alan a message.
What is covered in this Coati Pet Care Guide:
Differences Between Male and Female Coatis
Differences between Male and Female Coatis
Well, gosh! They all look the same. Yup, especially when young. Adult males can be identified from behind, like dogs, but identifying youngsters and infants? Its how far from the anus their openings are — boys are much lower.
Coatis are adorable when young but can become quite a handful upon reaching adulthood. Take extra care with the males if not neutered, their urges to become alpha male are deep rooted in wild genes. They may not be able to control their aggressive tendencies during mating season (see below) and could cause you harm with those big teeth and claws, worse still if you have children.
That said, adult males love cuddles because they are solitary by nature in the wild and so instinctively need more attention, whereas the girls live in bands of upto 50 or more and grooming is a normal practice for both young and old. However, if coatis of either sex are abused or ignored they may self-harm by gnawing at themselves for lack of attention.
Mating season is late winter-early spring, Jan-Feb, unless a female loses her litter of kittens in which case she may become receptive again during the summer months. Babies are carried for 100 days, after which they are born in a simple nest and kept isolated for six weeks by the mother. Her infant coatis are then introduced to the band in June.
Pet females are usually more laid back than males, they tend to be more tactile while the boys have endless energy and are more inclined to want to investigate stuff. Adult males in good condition are slightly heavier set, by a good 5lbs. In the wild they are often darker than females, almost black except for the white bib and forearms, but it seems captive breeding has diminished that variance in pet populations.
Is it Coati or Coatimundi?. Because adult males are solitary and don't hang out with bands in the wild, they were once thought of as a seperate species. The suffix "Mundi", meaning alone, was mistakenly added by the first European explorers who encountered males. Coati was for the rest of them, derived from the local, indigenous name meaning, "strap nose".
So, by all means call your pet male a coatimundi if you wish, but reserve "coati" for the species as a whole.
Have fun with all the local names as well: Chulo; Pisote; Quash; Tejon; Ring-tail and Hog-nosed Raccoon.
Coatis, especially the young ones, can dehydrate rapidly if they get diarrhea, this is because these animals don't sweat like we do to stay cool, they conserve their moisture. So check their stool regularly in case it's runny. Make sure they have a shallow paddling pool to drink from and also to wade in — they keep cool by wetting their paws and love to stand in puddles on hot summer days... especially the moms when pregnant.
Most large towns in the US and Europe have exotic pet veterinary clinics and coatimundis are not dissimilar to raccoons or badgers, so no worries there.
Why do coatis walk backwards..? Answer: To ask for forgiveness, which could mean they want to apologize for something they did earlier, or equally something they are about to do — like steal your food.
Do coatis raise their ringed tails when eating? At times, but this is not a possessive reaction as is frequently suggested. It is a personality trait that has more to do with how they feel. A raised tail shows healthy curiosity and esteem more so than anything.
How many babies do coatis have in the wild? Mothers have six teats and as any vet will tell you litters usually run at two less than teats. Indeed, coatis in the wild have no more than four kittens, first timers sometimes three.
Why do coatis cover their noses? Well, it looks like a sign of submissiveness when they are being groomed. But actually it is a conditioned reflex which stems from play-fighting. They protect their noses from scraps and from biting insects while lying down. Their eye-sight is poor, their whole life revolves around their ability to smell, so they protect their most important asset: The nose. It's a comfort thing... like Linus with his blanket.
What is the average lifespan of a coati? Mortality rates in the wild are very high. 50% of babies die before reaching 6 months old, and adults will be lucky to make it beyond three years of age. But wait! Pet coatis living in the lap of luxury with good health care and exercise are known to live well beyond twelve years.
Where Do Coatis Come From?
All coatis should be taken care of in the same manner, as described here. The sub-species are very similar.
The white-nosed coati (Nasua narica) has a white band around his snout and comes from Central America, all the way up into Arizona and New Mexico. They are thought to have been introduced into the United States. If you want to know more about this incredible journey you can download Alan's natural history book Coati Kingdom absolutely free from this site. Here's a link to the Non-Fiction page for a preview.
The southern (SA) coati (Nasua nasua) has an all brown snout and has a huge range from northern Argentina all the way up through the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil to Venezuela. And the third in the family is the mountain coati (Nasua nasuella) a smaller, darker fellow who aptly lives in the lower levels of the Andes Mountains to the west from Columbia to Peru.
Their diets and activities are the same, being diurnal, sleeping in trees or high caves at night and foraging on the ground for bugs, small lizards and spiders by day. To supplement their diet and to satisfy that sweet tooth they seek out fruit trees and berries, which also gives them moisture. So there is our first clue as to what to feed them — more on this later.
How To House and Care For Your Coati:
Youngsters have long claws for digging and climbing, but their huge incisors do not fully grow in until their second year. Like cats, Coatis should not be de-clawed nor de-fanged. It is an extremely unfair practise because their livelihood and welfare depends upon digging up bugs, scraping out fruit and climbing trees. Without claws they lose their identities and their characters — they become zombies.
These gorgeous creatures are inquisitive and restless, always searching for food, which means they are not suited to living in doors with us. Naturally they will tear up your house, figure out how to open the fridge, pee everywhere, disembowel your settee cushions and pop the keys off your laptop.
Coatis are amazing escape artists, too. They are worse than monkeys and very disobedient.
Sad but true, the best place for a coati is in a nice big enclosure (at least 8ft by 8ft, and 8ft high) with a floor of leaf-litter, straw or dirt for digging in, lots of sticks, posts and ropes to climb and a bedroom den up in the rafters for them to sleep in. If that all sounds too much for your living room then your coati will have to be relegated to the backyard. However, coatis are tropical creatures, if they get wet during a cold snap they can easily die of hypothermia — even in the tropics. If you live in a temperate zone their enclosure must be heated.
Coatimundis don't care for toys, especially not the plastic kind like balls and rings. They like things that have your smell on them — so, bye bye slippers. They like teddy bears and other soft friends, they like things that crack when they chew them like pens and credit cards, things that whiz and whir (bug like), but what they love most of all is a rotten log full of millipedes and maggots.
Physical activity means healthy. Coatis are always on the move in the wild, they range over one square mile a day. So if you can get a harness on them and take them for long walks you will have a good tempered and well balanced coati for a pet. They like woodland best, they like the cover of trees above them and the opportunity to climb when there is danger — it's in their nature. Open areas are not their cup of tea but the chance to dig, even in a field, makes for a very happy chappy.
What To feed and What Not To Feed Your Coati
Hmmm... Well, they are omnivores, like us, which is helpful. Unfortunately, like us they crave comfort foods rich in fat and sugar. If brought up on human snacks like cookies, muffins and pretzels you may find it impossible to wean them off and they will quickly become over-weight. Added to which such foods are not good for them and could cause internal irritation or skin problems. Young coatis learn what's good to eat from elders by smelling their breaths, so it is no wonder that some pets have taken a liking to our tv snacks.
Dried dog chow is great as a staple if you can't find a merchant who supplies crickets or maggots from bait and tackle stores. Any worms in your garden? If not pet supplies often have meal worms... and to a coati, wriggly, crawly, living things are totally awesome. If it hops, even better. Making a coati pet happy should be your goal. Nuts and grains are good for them but unfortunately most ignore them.
Just avoid processed human foods that come in jars, cans or pots. The excessive amounts of added sugar and salt are a health risk for such a small creature. Canned dog or cat food can be offered at a pinch but don't make a habit of it, it's not natural and can give coatis the runs. Likewise, cow's milk.
Fresh fruit? They love pretty much everything, although some are just "silly picky". Grapes they all adore, bananas too, mangoes are a favorite and you can't go wrong with watermelon. No fruit is bad for them, though dried fruit should be given in moderation. Coconut water and the fresh meat will go down well, but don't over do it on their little tummies, coconuts while excellent can upset.
Noses are rarely turned up at raw eggs — they raid birds nests in the wild — shrimps and little chicken livers are also ways to supplement their protein intake if they're not getting enough bugs, its hit and miss. Remember, they are omnivores, they must have both meaty and fruity.
Once you have got your little munchkin hooked on some of these delicacies then it's all about balance, a bit of everything twice a day, and for weaned infants, small portions four times a day. You should leave their food for them, do not be in a hurry to clear away left-overs, they are grazers and eat a little often.
An adult who is not foraging on his own and who relies solely on your offerings will need 4lb of food a day — if well exercised. A lot of that weight is water carried in the fruit you supply. They drink only if they have to. A big tray is your best bet for dishing up, they will scoop things out of bowls with their claws and, or, spill the lot... a tray is also easy to clean. If they live in a large enclosure, hide food around the place — make eating fun.
Do not attempt to feed an unweaned infant, the formula required is difficult to make and even more difficult to administer, unless you are a vet or a zoologist.
Do Coatis Make Good Pets?
Although beautiful, cute and cuddly... No! They do not make good pets. Certainly not house pets, and even less so as they grow older. For the first four months they are manageable but beyond that age they become holy terrors. They are clingy and hate being alone, which in the first instance makes them adorable pets until you look at the state of your wardrobe after a couple of weeks.
Keeping a youngster outside in a cage by himself is cruel. They are tactile, social creatures that live in family groups (bands) and they crave companionship. Their favourite place to be is on your shoulder. Yes, coatis humanize easily so you may become mom or dad to them, but if they only see you twice a day it will cause them considerable psychological damage which may manifest itself as something very difficult to manage in adulthood.
Best case is to have a pair so they have company, a sibling to play, groom and sleep with. If you must then spay or neuter to reduce adult tendencies, though it is not a guarantee of tranquility.
Can a coati be house trained? Umm... No, not exactly. Thankfully their poops don't smell too bad (with a proper diet) but it's their pee that reeks (highly concentrated). They tend to poop in specific, customary places like corners or shelves (but never litter-trays). Annoyingly, they will pee everywhere, especially if they are standing on hard, plastic or linoleum surfaces like kitchen floors, tables and countertops — or laptops.
Coatis have not had thousands of years of breeding like cats and dogs to conform to our way of life. They are still very much wild animals even though your pet coati was probably born in captivity. Designer Pets are unfortunately part of our "must-have" culture these days, respect for wildlife on the ebe. The decision will not doubt come down to: "Do I need this animal and all the baggage that comes with it or should I just get a cat?"
If coatis grow up in a loving, caring and smothering family atmosphere with plenty of activity and peaceful surroundings then you will be rewarded by a very happy creature... god bless. However, if you live next to a freeway or there are noisy dogs next door then perhaps you should consider a different type of pet. Dogs are the mortal enemy of our little coatis and they know it.
You are the best judge of whether to have a coati as a pet. Good luck. They are truly loving creatures who must be loved back, requiring heaps of your time and patience. Are you that person..?
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