The Curious Behavior: Why Do Raccoons Rub Their Hands?

Raccoons, with their distinctive masked faces and dexterous paws, are known for their intriguing behaviors. Among these behaviors is the peculiar habit of rubbing their hands together. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons behind why raccoons exhibit this hand-rubbing behavior and delve into the theories that shed light on its purpose.

Tactile Sensation and Exploration

image source: skedaddlewildlife

One theory suggests that raccoons rub their hands together as a way to experience tactile sensations and explore their environment. Raccoon paws are highly sensitive and equipped with a large number of sensory receptors, allowing them to gather information about objects through touch. By rubbing their hands, raccoons may enhance their sensory experience and gain valuable insights about the objects they encounter.

Scent-Marking and Territory

Another theory proposes that raccoons rub their hands to spread their scent as a form of communication and territorial marking. Raccoons have scent glands located on their paws, particularly around the wrist area. Rubbing their hands against objects, such as trees or surfaces in their territory, may serve to leave behind their scent and communicate their presence to other raccoons in the area.

Behavioral Display and Communication


Hand-rubbing behavior in raccoons could also be a form of behavioral display and communication. When raccoons engage in this behavior, it often coincides with other behaviors, such as standing on hind legs or vocalizing. These combined actions may serve as a visual and auditory signal to other raccoons, indicating their readiness, assertiveness, or territorial claims.

Preparing Food and Manipulating Objects

Raccoons are highly skilled at manipulating objects with their paws. Rubbing their hands together could be a preparatory action, aiding in food manipulation and preparation. Raccoons are known to wash their food in water before consuming it, and rubbing their hands together may be a precursor to that behavior, facilitating the cleaning and softening of their paws for efficient food handling.

Self-Grooming and Maintaining Paw Hygiene

Raccoons are meticulous groomers, often spending considerable time cleaning themselves. Rubbing their hands together could be a form of self-grooming, aiding in the removal of dirt, debris, or potential irritants from their paws. This behavior may contribute to maintaining paw hygiene and overall cleanliness.


The hand-rubbing behavior exhibited by raccoons is a fascinating aspect of their repertoire of behaviors. While the exact reasons behind this behavior are not yet fully understood, theories suggest that it could serve multiple purposes, including tactile exploration, scent-marking, behavioral communication, food preparation, and self-grooming. Further research and observation are necessary to unravel the precise motivations behind raccoons' hand-rubbing behavior. In the meantime, this intriguing behavior adds to the allure and mystique of these resourceful and adaptable creatures that share our environments.

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