A recent USA cat news story should make any reasonable American cat owner think about the danger of coyote attacks on cats. However, there is little hard information on the extent of the danger posed by coyotes to indoor/outdoor cats. It may be larger than people believe. Sometimes outdoor cats just disappear so the owner doesn’t know what happened. On my estimation, traumas, meaning being killed by traffic, accidents or predators is the third most likely reason for the death of a cat in the USA. What percentage of cats in this bracket are killed by coyotes?
We know that coyotes occupy all of the USA except Hawaii and continue to expand their distribution indicating how resourceful and adaptable they are. The coyote is said to be abundant throughout their range. In Texas there are more than 2 coyotes for each square kilometer of the state during summer.
They are smart and athletic and often habituated to people so they wander through urban areas. The coyote is an opportunistic, generalist predator (eat anything whenever they can). Surely in some areas they are a top threat to cat safety on a par to traffic?
A 2009 study of coyotes inhabiting Tucson, USA reported in the Journal of Wildlife Management that cats made up 42% of a coyote’s diet. Also the coyote’s success rate in killing cats as prey is very high at more than 50%. Of course many will be feral and stray cats but you have to include indoor/outdoor cats.
The domestic cat allowed to go out in Tucson area of America has become the hunted in stark contrast to the conventional view that cats are efficient predators of native species. People who dislike cats want the coyote to thrive so that it can kill cats.
In a news story of today’s date from Bend, Oregon, on the KTVZ website a video shows a sign on a post reading: Coyotes killing cats in the neighborhood!
Leila Thompson lost her cat Ellie to a coyote. She found her remains; very distressing.
Worryingly, her neighbors were missing their cats as well. Thompson is new to the area and was unaware of the danger coyotes posed to outside cats in the area.
In a neighboring area, Awbrey Butte, there has been an increase in coyote numbers.
Everyone who does not have a cat would say that cat owners should remove the coyote threat by keeping their cat indoors permanently perhaps combining that with a catio for some safe outdoor space.
Other things to consider as preventative measure are:
- Don’t let your cat out at night when coyotes are foraging. Unfortunately this is the time cats like to be out too. You can see why coyotes are out at the same time.
- Be very aware of a greater threat in spring when pups need feeding but coyotes in fact can breed up to 6x annually.
- Consider erecting a coyote-proof fence where allowed and where practical. These are specialist fences with a special bar on top because coyotes can jump very well. Also they need to prevent crawling underneath.
- Install motion-sensitive lighting.
- Install camera traps to assess threat?
- Remove hiding places in your garden.
- Remove bird feeders.
- Pick up fallen fruit.
- Ensure trash bins are coyote-proof.
- Keep cat water and food bowls inside the home.
- Supervise outside excursions of your cat.
- Don’t place a collar and bell on your cat.
- Don’t feed wildlife (a shame).
When meeting with a coyote treating your cat it is possible to scare them off by waving arms and making a noise and if necessary to throw something. Coyotes, like all predators will back off because they need to be fit to survive and if there is doubt they back off.
The advice from Rory Aikens (public information officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department) is not to grab your cat because:
- you lose focus on the coyote and
- your cat will be scared anyway and may jump out of your grasp and/or scratch you while jeopardizing his/her life
- if you encounter your cat being attacked by a coyote the advice is to hit the coyote with a baseball bat! That takes some control and care of course.
One last valid point: all animals deserve our respect even coyotes. We shouldn’t needlessly hurt them.