Can coyotes climb trees to catch cats?

Coyotes kill an awful lot of domestic cats in the US each year but we don’t know how many. They are probably America’s greatest predator of family cats and a reason why many keep them inside permanently. I have seen instances of domestic cats escaping coyotes when they climb a tree and I have seen instances when coyotes have climbed a tree and caught a cat as seen in the screenshot image below.

In this instance there were two coyotes and the leading one climbed about ten feet in hot pursuit of an indoor/outdoor calico cat called Pepper. The couple of coyotes working together caught Pepper and killed her. It was captured on a security camera. The owner ‘lost’ her cat and shockingly discovered what had happened.

It was surprising to me to see a coyote climb a tree so expertly. It was all about the speed of approach to the tree and sheer athleticism which propelled the leading coyote up the tree as there is less grip with their claws as would be the case with the cat.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

If the issue of coyotes preying on domestic cat in American interest you, there are many articles on this website on that topic.

Domestic cats do sometimes fight off coyotes but the coyote is a very resilient and clever predator, obviously much larger than the domestic cat and the typical outcome is the death of the domestic cat.

RELATED: Coyote – the great survivor is expanding in North America and eating cats

Tree climbing abilities

I believe that what we see in this picture is not entirely typical. Although coyotes can climb trees because they are very athletic and they do have effective claws, they are more likely to climb trees with leaning trunks or low hanging branches rather than vertical tree trunks as we see, more or less, in the image on this page.

Predation by coyotes on domestic cats varies in different regions in America. It’s worth noting that the quote is not an arboreal animal meaning then it does not naturally want to climb trees. It’s just an obstacle to surmount in order to get at that tasty domestic cat. Compared to the cat they are clumsy racing up trees but notwithstanding that, they are very impressive.

As mentioned, we don’t have a number on the number of domestic cats killed by coyotes in America every year but I do know from years of working on this website that in certain areas of America, cat owners are very aware of and concerned about coyote predation.

New human settlements

Sometimes the reason is blatantly obvious; a housing estate has been built on a piece of land which the coyotes regarded as theirs. Suddenly they are surrounded by domestic cats and they want to eat them. The building of human settlements within the territories of wild animal species results in the animal-human conflict all the time all over the planet.

Fifty percent kill rate

In one study published in 2010, the scientists tracked eight coyotes from November 2005 to February 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. They saw 36 interactions between coyotes and family cats. In 19 of them, the coyotes killed the cats. Most of these cats were killed between 10 PM and 5 AM the next morning in residential areas and during the pub-rearing season.

In the picture on this page, you see a couple of coyotes successfully killing a cat but single coyotes are as effective as killing cats as groups according to this study.

In a linked matter, a lot of people are concerned about domestic cat predation on wildlife. This is another reason why families are encouraged to keep their cats indoors by conservationists.

A consequence of coyote predation on domestic cats is that they are kept indoors. And where there is a coyote population, there are less cats outdoors.


One study – “Cats are rare where coyotes roam” – found that “the ecological impact of free-ranging cats in the region is concentrated in urban areas or other sites, such as islands, with few coyotes.”

In other words, housing density (i.e. the amount of urbanisation) and coyote activity are a predictor of outdoor domestic cat activity and therefore predation on wildlife.

Increasing suburban problem

In 2004, a further study – “Coyote Attacks: An Increasing Suburban Problem* – found that coyote attacks on people and pets was an increasing suburban problem. There was an increase in attacks over the previous five years to 2004 in California.

Most of the attacks took place in Southern California near the “suburban-wildland interface”. This would be the edge of suburbanisation and where it meets the countryside.

Coyotes can become habituated to people and therefore lose their fear as they rely on food resources which includes domestic cats and household refuse, thrown out pet food et cetera.

RELATED: How to haze coyotes which is necessary in Florida where they are booming

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