Do Raccoons Wash Their Food?

Raccoons have a number of interesting traits and quirks that make them fun to watch. They often can be spotted in human habitats because they aren’t afraid of humans, and they can often find easy food sources in trash cans and dumpsters. However, in the wild they have different eating habits that have been spotted, such as them appearing to dip their food in water. This causes some people to ask the question of whether Fort Myers raccoons actually wash their food before eating it. It would seem odd that a Florida animal that would eat food out of a dumpster would be concerned with cleanliness, but let’s explore this question further.

There is a myth that says that Florida raccoons actually wash their food. Raccoons do repeatedly dip and roll their food in water. The behavior has led to a belief that raccoons wash their food before eating so as to soften it. The behavior isn’t for washing the food but is due to a constant need for the Fort Myers raccoons to use their hands to sense the world.

While in the wild, Fort Myers raccoons constantly dab within water to search for food in the nooks and crannies, and when they are in captivity, the behavior can be described as feeling rather than washing. This description seems to be correct since the raccoons roll and rub food even when they are within dry enclosures. Raccoons are in a constant state of foraging while in the wild in water. Florida raccoons don’t have a good grip due to the lack of thumbs that are opposable, and so they will hold items using two hands and may roll them in the hands very frequently. If the behavior takes place near water, it most definitely looks as though they are washing the food.

It is easy to understand how the Florida raccoon’s mealtime habits could be misinterpreted as it washing its food, but as mentioned above this is not the case. The way it splashes in water and handles its food has more to do with how Fort Myers raccoons use their sense of touch than the cleanliness or softness of the food they eat. Raccoons are interesting creatures to watch, so many of their curious behaviors have been observed in the wild and in human habitats. As evidenced by this myth, it is not always so easy to interpret their actions or the motivations behind them.

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