It was past midnight when a 99-year-old woman woke up, feeling heavy pressure on her chest. She looked blearily at what she at first thought might be a cat—but as she got a better look at its strange face, she screamed.
Spooked, the animal jumped and ran away up to her attic to hide.
Now she was stuck in the dark, alone except for her caregiver in a house with a strange, 2-foot animal.
“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,” said Carlos Aguaras, the elderly woman’s son-in-law. She had called her daughter’s house, and Aguaras and her daughter rushed over along with a family friend, Cathy Moghari.
As it turned out, Moghari had experience with exotic animals, and out of everyone there was able to identify the animal as a kinkajou.
Kinkajous look a bit like monkeys or lemurs but are actually closer to a raccoon, according to veterinarian Don Harris, though it spends most of its time hanging in trees (often by their tails) rather than on the ground. They are nocturnal like raccoons, and typically docile—unless cornered. And if you get bitten by a kinkajou, you better get it treated, lest you risk losing a limb to infection, Harris told CBS in 2016.
So Moghari started thinking, “How are we going to get this animal out?”
Moghari ended up googling kinkajou sounds and was able to find some videos of the animal. Holding the computer speakers up toward the ceiling, the animal came out—and Moghari was able to lure the critter into a cage with some cherries.
They brought the animal to the local vet, and Harris at the South Dade Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Center was able to look her over.
“I had to tranquilize her,” said Harris. “Because this animal was scared and could have struck back with a bad bite.”
But he also realized something else about the creature when he learned the story.
“No undomesticated wild animal like this would curl up on a woman’s chest to go to sleep,” Dr. Harris explained. This kinkajou was healthy and had to be someone’s pet.
They put out the word and was able to get the animal, named Bananas, back to her owner Ray Fernandez the next day.
Fernandez was having work done to his house and left Bananas with some relatives, but she escaped from her new environment and had been out for about a week.
“I left food out and a trap but I never found her,” he told WPLG. “She was pretty far from where she escaped.”