ringtail cat in a tree

Traditionally, noises like bumps and scratches that come from the ceiling or wall voids are attributed to rats, squirrels, and raccoons. But there is a newcomer to add to the list: the ringtail cat. When I receive a call from someone claiming they’ve seen a lemur on their roof, after first confirming they have not downed a twelve pack of Lone Star, I inform them that they have just captured a rare view of a ringtail cat.

What Is A Ringtail Cat?

The ringtail cat, or Bassariscus astutus, is a mammal within the racoon family. It’s nocturnal and native to arid regions of North America. It’s also known as the miner’s cat or civet cat. Ringtail cats weigh 2-3 lbs on average, with a body length of around a foot. They possess a long banded tail, which is used for balance and distracting predators. They are omnivores, with diets consisting of birds, lizards, insects, and fruit.

Ringtail Cat Demeanor

Like the raccoon, ringtail cats prefer a solitary existence. Male ringtail cat’s territories can range for several miles. The male takes multiple mates and the litters, which are born in the spring, usually have 2-4 young. Ringtail cats are unbelievable climbers. Their agility is attributed to their balancing beam-like tails and unique ankle joints, which are flexible and can rotate 180 degrees.

These animals are also nocturnal, hunting for food and water at night. This should affect your awareness about night time critters running around after sundown. By having bugs or small berries available at night, you are inviting the ringtails to your area. Get rid of those things before the sun goes down and that should stop any ringtail cats from living there.

Ringtail Cat Identification

The ringtail cat can easily be mistaken for a fox, but with a giant ringed tail. Because of their long tail, they are able to use it for precise handling in tricky areas. That’s why you will be able to see ringtail cats climb on cacti, on tight ledges, or on residential walls. They are excellent and versatile climbers that can perform tight turns on a moment’s notice due to their tails.

Ringtail Cat Habitat

Ringtail cats can also be found in rockier climates. If you’re living in a densely wooded area of Texas, these animals will be a bit rarer. However, the more rural and sparse your landscape is, the more likely it is you’ll find ringtail cats. The chances of getting a ringtail cat infestation are higher due to their need for water and resources. In addition to desert landscapes, they also gather closer to sources of water for sustenance.

The ringtail cat’s breeding season takes place in spring. Eliminate any possible attractions for ringtails prior to warmer temperatures beginning. Once they breed, new ringtails can start appearing by May. Between one and four ringtails could be born, creating more of a nuisance in your area.

When I started Critter Ridder in 2001, ringtail cats were not on the Austin radar. I first started encountering them in Dripping Springs and Wimberley. Soon, reports came from Lakeway and Steiner Ranch. Now ringtail cats are commonly seen in Circle C and Northwest Hills.

Ringtail Cat Removal

Entry points into an attic space can be difficult to locate, as the ringtails can access a space as small as a golf or tennis ball. Although not nearly as destructive as a raccoon, their feces are just as dangerous. Both types of droppings host raccoon roundworm, a parasite that is harmful to humans, should they be exposed to it. Should you encounter ringtail or raccoon droppings, consult a professional for remediation advice.

Ringtails tend to live in more rural areas where they can live unnoticed. However, if you happen to have an infestation of ringtail cats in your attic or some other area of your house, don’t worry. We’ve dealt with ringtail cats before, which gives us the advantage that you need to get rid of them. While rare, it still happens. Be prepared and be safe when approaching these animals.