Imagine this — you’re asleep in your, warm, safe bed when all of a sudden you wake up to a strange, two-foot-long furry animal with giant eyes asleep on your chest.
This would give any healthy person a heart attack, so the fact that the 99-year-old woman to whom it actually happened is still breathing is a miracle. According to veterinarian Don J. Harris, the bizarre animal curled up on this elderly woman’s chest was an exotic mammal called a kinkajou. And while the incident took place in the somewhat tropical city of Miami, this creature is definitely not a native resident, which makes his appearance in this bedroom all the more unusual.
According to CNN, the unnamed woman woke up, saw the kinkajou and screamed in terror. The animal apparently screamed, too (after all, it was a scary moment for both parties), and scurried up into the woman’s attic. The woman called her friend Cathy Moghari, who has experience with exotic animals, and Moghari came over right away to hunt for the poor, frightened critter. Since tracking down a kinkajou isn’t exactly second nature to her, she did some research. “I start thinking, How are we going to get this animal out? So I googled ‘kinkajou sounds’ and found a video,” she told CNN. Ah, does anyone remember what we did before Google?
Once they discovered the kinkajou hiding in the attic, Moghari played a few choice sound bites through her speakers, and sure enough, it slowly emerged, and she lured it into a cage using cherries as bait. Needless to say, the creature was pretty shaken up, but once Moghari got him into the experienced hands of Dr. Harris at South Dade Avian & Exotic Animal Medical Center, it started to settle down.
So how did such an exotic animal that’s typically native to Central and South America end up in this Miami woman’s bedroom in the middle of the night? Simple — she’s someone’s wayward pet. After this crazy story started to pick up traction in the local news spheres, the kinkajou’s owner, Ray Fernandez, came forward to claim her. According to Fernandez, her name is Banana, and she was staying with relatives while his own house was being renovated. However, she managed to escape her cage and had been missing for over a week. Thrilled to have his furry friend back, Fernandez was amazed at how far she had traveled from her temporary lodging.
While they are more often found in the wild, kinkajous are sometimes kept as pets, provided their owners acquire special permits. The caveat with domesticating them is they can sometimes turn aggressive as they mature. The animals are nocturnal, so they’re pretty quiet during daylight hours, but sudden noise and/or movement can agitate them to the point where they’ll make a high-pitched screech and sometimes scratch or bite severely. So the elderly woman on whose chest Banana rested should count herself extremely lucky that her frightened response didn’t result in serious injury.
The rain-forest dwellers are more closely related to raccoons than monkeys, even though they somewhat resemble smaller primates. They’re great climbers and often use their tails as a “fifth hand.” One of their coolest attributes is they can turn their feet forward and backward so they can run from predators in either direction.