Talk about a rude awakening.
On Monday night, a 99-year-old woman was sleeping in her Miami home when she was reportedly awoken by something “caressing her face.” Opening her eyes, the woman was shocked to find a bizarre-looking animal sitting on her chest.
“I was awakened by a phone call at 2 a.m., which is never good news, and it was from my terrified mother-in-law,” Carlos Aguaras told WTVJ-TV.
Aguaras said he immediately rushed over to his mother-in-law’s home, and found the animal in the attic. With the help of a family friend who had also come over to lend a hand, Aguaras managed to lure the strange, 2-foot-long creature out of its hiding place and into a cage.
The next morning, the animal was transported to the South Dade Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Center and was examined by a veterinarian.
The creature, the vet confirmed, was a kinkajou.
According to National Geographic, kinkajous are nocturnal tree-dwelling mammals typically found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. Related to the raccoon, the animals have “incredible” prehensile tails that they use “much like another arm.” Kinkajous are also “able to turn their feet backwards to run easily in either direction along branches or up and down trunks.”
Kinkajous are sometimes kept in homes as exotic pets -- which, it turns out, was the case in this situation.
Ray Fernandez, the trespassing kinkajou's owner, contacted the vet and was reunited with the animal on Wednesday morning, KTLA-TV reported. Fernandez said he'd figured out where his pet, named Banana, was located after news about her antics in the nonagenarian's home made headlines.
Fernandez said he'd left Banana in the care of relatives while his home was being renovated, but the animal somehow managed to escape from her temporary cage.
“I left food out and a trap but I never found her,” Fernandez told KTLA-TV. “She was pretty far from where she escaped.”
The vet who examined Banana said he'd guessed that she wasn’t a wild animal based on her behavior in the woman’s home.
“No undomesticated wild animal like this would curl up on a woman's chest to go to sleep,” Dr. Don J. Harris told WTVJ-TV.
Harris gave Banana a clean bill of health.
While keeping wild animals like kinkajous as pets can be legal as long as you have a special permit, animal welfare experts generally don't recommend the practice. Kinkajous in particular may pose a health risk to their human owners as the animals have been known to scratch and bite. Adequately replicating a rainforest habitat for a kinkajou is also difficult, thus compromising the animal’s quality of life.
“Having any animal as a pet means being responsible for providing appropriate and humane care. Where wild animals are concerned, meeting this responsibility is usually impossible. People, animals and the environment suffer the consequences,” warns the Humane Society.
Also on HuffPost: