Raccoons May Wash Food Before Eating

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Raccoons May Wash Food Before Eating

Just because raccoons get their food from the garbage doesn't mean they won't "wash" it before eating.

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If your trash cans are regularly raided by these urban scavengers, you probably find this crazy fact especially hard to believe. But raccoons, at least those living in captivity, do wash their food every chance they get – though probably to a different end than when we do [source: Welshans].

With access to a water source, a raccoon will practice a dunking ritual that removes a lot of the filth from their meal. Holding, say, a half-eaten apple in its dexterous front paws, it will repeatedly and vigorously dunk it in the water, rotating the apple as it does so, before dining [source: Welshans].

This likely doesn't mean what we think it does, though. Yes, they are cleaning their food, but that might just be a side effect of the action. Researchers have found that raccoons will "dunk" their food in the air, too, if there's no water around. Why dunk at all, then, if cleanliness isn't the goal? No one is sure, but it's possible it intensifies the tactile aspects of a meal. Raccoons have especially sensitive fingers, and they may just enjoy the feeling of the ritual [source: Welshans].

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