You may have heard some theories on the habits of raccoons, especially regarding their eating habits. There is a widely circulated “fact” that the masked mammals are extra clean, going so far as to wash their food before eating it. Is this really true?
The answer simply is no. Like many common “facts” about animals, this is just another myth, likely stemming from the fact that raccoons DO seem to dunk their food in water if water is within reach. Raccoons in captivity often dip their food in water before eating it, even when the food is dry and not something typically found in water. This habit resulted in two theories, both of them false. The first was that the animals must be super clean-conscious and that they are dipping the food to wash it off. The second was that they lacked salivary glands and so in order to swallow it, they had to moisten it first.
So why do they sometimes dunk their food in water? They do this because their hands are incredibly sensitive sense organs with many more touch receptors than ours. They collect a lot of information about the thing they are holding with their hands. Much of the things they find to eat are found from searching underwater with their paws for crayfish, clams, fish, frogs and other aquatic creatures. They find these things using their sense of touch.
So in short, raccoons dip things in water before eating them in order to collect information about the object with their sensitive paws, not to clean it or because they lack salivary glands. Another myth, busted!