A raccoon in a dumpster outside.

Everybody hates when they step outside and see that their trash can has been raided or knocked over by a wild animal. Unfortunately, this is a pretty common occurrence for most homeowners. Pests making their way onto your property to rummage through the garbage can leads to them making a new home out of your garage, basement, or shed. Dealing with animals getting into your trash can be a pain to deal with, but there are some tried and true methods that humanely keep uninvited guests out without use of harmful chemicals or poisons.


Tips for Keeping Animals Out of the Trash


1. Properly Dispose of Garbage

Wild animals like raccoons, rats, or opossums usually end up on your property because they’re searching for food. Often, they’re tipped off by the smell of leftovers in your garbage cans. Minimizing the amount (or at least the odor) of leftover food in your trash will prevent animals from “finding” your house. Rinse any wrappers, containers, or cans in your waste or recycling bin so no food remnants are left behind. If you need to throw food away, try placing it at the bottom of the can and piling all the other garbage on top of it so that animals won’t have easy access. Some people even choose to start composting their leftover fruits, vegetables, starches, and coffee grounds to keep the majority of foods out of their garbage cans altogether.


2. Keep Garbage Can Lid Securely Closed

Be sure to cover garbage cans tightly and securely–don’t let them overflow or leave objects hanging out. Some companies have created screw-on lids that can help ensure that it stays in place and make it trickier for animals to break in. However, there are several “do it yourself” tactics you can try instead if you’d rather not have to buy a specialty item. Placing a heavy object like a cinder block on top of the trash can to keep it closed and bar animals from lifting the top. This method is best for smaller pests like rats, as raccoons are still sometimes strong enough to push the can over. Looping bungee cords through the top and side handles of the garbage can and lid is a very effective solution for keeping out all types of critters. This securely fastens the lid in place and animals will have a tough time undoing the knots.


3. Consider Buying a Metal Trash Can

Animals, especially rodents, can gnaw through plastic rather easily, but metal trash cans are almost impossible for them to damage. Another advantage is that metal doesn’t absorb odors over time. Plastic will eventually begin to smell like the trash it has been holding, even after the container has been emptied. Experiment with switching to a metal can to see if this alleviates the problem. This is a small and easy change that can make a big difference and save you from another headache when you’re picking up after an unwanted visitor!


4. Move Garbage Indoors If Possible

If you’ve tried everything else and nothing seems to work, consider moving your garbage to a properly enclosed area that animals can’t access rather than keeping it outside the garage door, in your alleyway, or on the back deck. Locked garages and sheds can be a good alternative. Only move garbage outside shortly before pick up. If you can’t bring the trash inside without making your home smell bad, one way to put your trash “indoors” while keeping it outside is by building a wooden box around it. This keeps the trash out of view, inhibits animals in accessing it, and also prevents the can from being knocked over.



Wild animals end up invading your garbage and even your home because they are looking for food and shelter. They are typically not out to attack anyone or purposefully cause you trouble; they’re simply looking for a means of survival. Remember this when you’re considering methods of animal removal. There are plenty of effective and humane methods for resolving this issue. A great way to deal with unwanted animals on your property is by preventing their entry to begin with! Keeping pests away from the trash can, in effect, keeps them away from your home. If you try all of the above and still have animals ripping apart your trash, don’t be afraid to call a professional for some additional help and advice.