top of page

My Pet Coati

When I was 13 years old, my parents sold the family farm in Oregon and drove our family of seven, in a red jeep pulling a small house trailer that was loaded to the gills, over 3000 miles to Chiapas, Mexico, to be self-supporting missionaries there. As you may very well expect, our life there was entirely different in just about every imaginable way.

Over the three and a half years that we lived in Chiapas, we accumulated many "pets". At times, our back porch looked like a petting zoo!

One day, a local man brought a tiny ball of fur to Daddy and asked if he wanted this little creature. None of us has ever seen what he told us was a Coatimundi. I fell in love with this little creature and took it upon myself to feed it - first with an eyedropper filled with milk and gruel, and soon after with fruit. The little guy was very attached to me and would curl up in my lap whenever I was sitting and or at my feet when I was in bed.

This is what Wikipedia says about Coatis:

"Adult coatis measure 33 to 69 cm (13 to 27 in) from head to the base of the tail, which can be as long as their bodies. Coatis are about 30 cm (12 in) tall at the shoulder and weigh between 2 and 8 kg (4.4 and 17.6 lb), about the size of a large house cat. Males can become almost twice as large as females and have large, sharp canine teeth. The measurements above relate to the white-nosed and South America coatis. The two mountain coatis are smaller.[7]

All coatis share a slender head with an elongated, flexible, slightly upturned nose, small ears, dark feet, and a long non-prehensile tail used for balance and signaling.

Ring-tailed coatis have either a light brown or black coat, with a lighter underpart and a white-ringed tail in most cases. Coatis have a long brown tail with rings on it which are anywhere from starkly defined like a raccoon's to very faint. Like raccoons and unlike ring-tailed cats and cacomistles, the rings go completely around the tail. Coatis often hold the tail erect; it is used as such to keep troops of coatis together in tall vegetation. The tip of the tail can be moved slightly on its own, as is the case with cats, but it is not prehensile as is that of the kinkajou, another procyonid."

Of course, in 1970 we did not have the lovely access to the internet that is available nowadays. I don't even know if anyone on the compound had a set of encyclopedias. Daddy may very well have questioned some of the locals about the habits or eating patterns of coatis. Under any circumstance, the little guy flourished and lived happily as a house pet for some time.

One day, he disappeared! I was just heartbroken. We looked absolutely everywhere and questioned everyone, to no avail. I eventually gave up and figured he had either wandered off or been stolen. A couple of months went by...

One morning, Mama, called to me. I found her with her head in one of our storage closets, rummaging through a box of winter clothing. "Look what I found", she told me. And there in the box, snuggled into her winter coat with a fur collar, was my little Coati, sound asleep! None of us knew that coatis hibernated! (And how in the world would a person know when a hibernation period for an animal would be due, considering that in Chiapas the median temperature was 70 degrees --year around??)

Our mission was located in a pine forest locale, and as Coati grew up, I took him more and more often to hunt for bugs and grubs on the forest floor. I remember how excited he would get when he was after something...he would make a funny little squeaking sound and dig furiously in the dirt or decaying matter of fallen logs. Grubs seemed to be his favorite thing to eat, although he was happy eating fruit and would dig through the kitchen compost as well.

Eventually, we allowed him to just wander in and out of our lives, his time away becoming longer and longer. One day, he just stopped coming home. But I was ok with that. He had filled a spot in my heart that needed a friend. I have never forgotten him.

10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page