It's never a good thing when something wakes you up in the middle of the night: a phone call, a stomachache, a loud noise in a dark house. But being woken up by a napping kinkajou -- an exotic raccoon-like animal -- isn't something anyone would expect, especially not a 99-year-old Florida woman.
Luckily for everyone, the kinkajou was a relatively docile pet named Banana, didn't harm the sleeping woman, and has since been happily reunited with her owner.
The incident happened Monday night when the woman was sleeping soundly in her Miami-area home, her live-in caregiver her only roommate. Then, something suddenly made her wake up, WISN reported.
It was a kinkajou, curled up on her chest, a deft little hand gently caressing her face. As cute and harmless as this sounds, this isn't the way anyone wants to wake up. And the poor woman screamed her head off, scaring her away, said family friend Cathy Moghari.
"I don't know, I guess her first impression was it might be a cat, but when they both got a look at each other, they both freaked out. The lady screamed, the kinkajou went into her attic," the vet who eventually treated the scared kinkajou, Don Harris, told CBS Miami.
The woman called two people for help -- Moghari and her son-in-law Carlos Aguaras. He told NBC Miami that the call from his "terrified mother-in-law" came in about 2 a.m. Both rushed to her house to try to find the two-foot-long creature; after the sudden wake-up call, she had fled into the attic.
Cathy, who knew a little about the kinkajou, and Carlos were then tasked with trying to figure out how to catch it. So, of course, Cathy turned to Google and found a YouTube video that offered some help. She played some kinkajou sounds through a speaker she held up to the ceiling, which caught it's curiosity. Then they lured it into a cage with cherries.It was then taken to see Dr. Harris at the South Dade Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Center. The kinkajou was so scared from the 2 a.m. wake-up call that it had to be tranquilized to prevent it from reacting with a bad bite. Banana was declared healthy and fed some --- bananas.
But then came the mystery of where the exotic creature came from. Harris only sees a couple of them a year in his clinic, but they are kept as pets if the owner can get a special permit. The vet immediately assumed that it belonged to someone.
"No undomesticated wild animal like this would curl up on a woman's chest to go to sleep. Some people keep them as pets, but I don't know really how often they make really good pets. It's not the kind of animal that you can safely cuddle up with."
Native to South and Central America, kinkajous aren't known for wake-up calls. They're nocturnal, spend a lot of time in trees, and are generally pretty timid. Sometimes called "honey bears" for their habit of eating honey straight from the hive, they look like a cross between a raccoon and monkey.
And though they're generally docile bug and fruit-eaters, their teeth can be dangerous -- especially if they're scared.
"If the old (woman) had grabbed the kinkajou and (it) had bitten her, it could have been a serious injury."The mystery was soon solved after the story of the elderly woman's 2 a.m. wake-up by Banana aired on local news stations. Raymond Fernandez, who lives quite a distance away, recognized his pet and called the vet right away.
He'd been looking for Banana for a week, he told Local 10 News. Raymond said his house had to be tented while work was being done, and he'd boarded his pet with family. Somehow the animal had escaped its cage ("she's got really good hands") and he tried to find her, but she was nowhere to be found.
"I got my baby back," Fernandez said after the reunion. "I can't believe it. I thought she was lost forever."
In the next few days, he hopes to reunite Banana with the woman she woke up, but he'll visit during the day -- not in the middle of the night.
[Image via Caunt/Shutterstock]