Coyote Attacks on Cats: Assessment and Prevention

Urban coyote a threat to outside domestic cats
Urban coyote a threat to outside domestic cats. Photo: blackhawke32
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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Be very aware of a greater threat in spring when pups need feeding but coyotes in fact can breed up to 6x annually.
  3. 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.
  4. Install motion-sensitive lighting.
  5. Install camera traps to assess threat?
  6. Remove hiding places in your garden.
  7. Remove bird feeders.
  8. Pick up fallen fruit.
  9. Ensure trash bins are coyote-proof.
  10. Keep cat water and food bowls inside the home.
  11. Supervise outside excursions of your cat.
  12. Don’t place a collar and bell on your cat.
  13. 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.

21 thoughts on “Coyote Attacks on Cats: Assessment and Prevention”

  1. I know that you in England and other countries (i have friends in Germany who let cats out ) in Europe take good care of your cats and you can let them out but here in the states we have coyotes so we can’t. I wish i could let her out in the yard.They especially like to kill cats and small dogs. Next best thing is if we have a patio closed in ( i do ) we can let them out there to see nature and get stimulation from watching lizards, birds and other insects and animals.

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  2. We have a fenced yard and Monty does not go out of it. However, our fences are not coyote proof. I’ve never seen coyotes near our house but I guess some live near the railroad tracks two blocks to the north. Monty is not allowed out when it’s dark outside. I know he’s not 100% safe as the situation now stands, but I do let him play outside. Usually I’m out there with him but not always.

    We have talked about changes to the back porch that would allow us to confine Monty to that area, keeping him closer to the house during times I am not able to be out with him. Even with those changes the porch enclosure would not be 100% coyote proof.

    Jeff doesn’t think coyotes in our yard to be very likely. There are places in the city with a lot of coyotes around, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case here. I know there is risk, but I hate to keep Monty inside all the time. He has a much greater quality of life enjoying his back yard kingdom. Even were there no coyotes there is a risk in that he climbs very high in trees and could fall. A large bird of prey could swoop in– unlikely, but not impossible. He could even tangle with another cat or another animal like a possum or raccoon. Even so, I don’t want to take away his access to the outdoors.

    Risk is part of life and not one of can ensure 100% safety. In attempting to attain it we could take everything out of life that makes it worth living. The Wisconsin River is the second most deadly in the world. But I love canoeing and swimming in it. Could it at some point kill me? Absolutely. Maybe because I never forget that it could, it won’t happen, but maybe not. I love hiking the Baraboo bluffs, but I could easily slip and fall or have a heart attack pushing my couch potato middle aged body to make the hike up there.

    Unless I’m willing to stop doing the risky things I love I have no right to take away Monty’s outdoor playground. Risk vs. reward I think he is safe enough out there during the day, with me here. Night time or when I’m gone would be pushing it. But he deserves a chance to live as a cat should live. Not everyone can give their cat that chance, but I feel that I can do that for Monty.

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      • I wholeheartedly agree, it’s all about risk assessment and cats with the chance to have some freedom in any suitable form should not be denied it.

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        • Jeff said that since the coyotes are actually a few blocks to the east as well as north there is no reason any would come near us. Too many streets in between and no place to hide from humans and there is a large feral cat colony up that way. They live under the porch of a house. Sad, but they are the easier prey and closer to the coyotes. Jeff also feels the many neighbors with large dogs out in their yards further discourages coyotes coming around here. He really has given this question some thought and would never allow Monty out if he felt he were not safe. He loves Monty, even though he won’t admit it. He agrees that Monty can’t be out at night.

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          • Your comment gave me a real “on the spot” insight into the thinking of Americans about the danger of coyotes attacking the domestic cat. It is certainly a real and present danger to use political language. I like your assessment. We in the UK are oblivious to this sort of hazard. It is just does not exist. It is like declawing which does not exist either.

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    • I think some people think we in England just let our cats out and forget about them, but we don’t! Responsible cat caretakers like we are, make our homes and gardens cat friendly so they don’t go far away. We keep an eye out when they are out and we keep our cats in after dark and when no one is going to be home. They clock in regularly to a huge welcome every time, so home is a happy place to be. Why should we in our country deny our cats the fulfilment of freedom if it’s safe for them to have some?

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  3. There was a time when most coyotes were pretty much confined to the west here. But, now, they have gravitated to, at least, the northern parts of Florida, thousands of miles away.

    I know that Americans come under the gun for trying to keep cats inside and safe; but, this sort of danger is horrible.

    A safe, secure and large enough cattery is very expensive to build or have built here. My guess would be around $10,000. I base this on just what the cost of wood and materials would cost for my deck today. Fifteen years ago, the cost was $6000.00.

    This is the major reason why I go gently on folks who have indoor only cats. It’s heartbreaking, for sure. But, it has to be sometimes.
    I think coyotes are beautiful animals, even raccoons, but they are deadly for cats.

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    • Yes, money is everything. I think you’ll find the future is cat enclosures because they tick all the boxes from both sides – cat lovers concerned with welfare and cat haters concerned with protecting native species etc..

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      • Sorry, but no, money isn’t everything.
        If cats must be in catteries, why shouldn’t birds be kept in aviaries, dogs confined to caged kennels, rats, mice, snakes, frogs, lizards in glass enclosures, coyotes, oppossums, and raccoons corralled and fenced in, children leashed…on and on?

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        • What I mean is that money helps a person buy a house with a good garden and erect a good enclosure. Also cats are predators that are difficult to leash train. Dogs are predators but go out on a lead. Birds are prey not predators. Cats are domestic animals while the other animals mentioned are wild.

          There has to be a balance I agree between letting a cat behave naturally and at the same time meeting the demands of neighbours and conservationists etc. I have always supported good sized enclosures but they are a sad compromise but that is the nature of the modern world.

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    • Coyotes introduce an entirely new problem into cat caretaking. If lived in the US I’d have a large enclosure (maybe 60 feet square) and that would be the safe outside space for my cat(s). There seems to be too many neighbours who don’t like cats plus the coyotes.

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      • Yes I’d do the same Michael, a huge enclosure with grass and trees and high perches and get cats used to going into it from being kittens.

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        • Absolutely. Sounds good. I wonder why this sort of enclosure is so rare in a country famous for its space. Prices compared to the UK are cheap and in the suburbs houses have nice gardens (backyards). They should be used to better effect.

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  4. I believe, all animals are property of the STATE and it is STATE’s responsibility to protect every and each animal with any S.O.P.(Standard Operating Procedure).

    I believe in human/animal welfare through a systematic way, it should be but unfortunately, our interest are selfish IDEAS and harsh throughout any aspect.

    Coyotes, snakes, dogs, gakoes, Comodo dragons, cats, or any free roaming animals are the wealth / property of the state and until they don’t become thread to the human population they may be allowed in a limited jungles to free roam. I have given the example of Jurassic Park movie. The Govt. can easily provide such a place for free roamers and set every species a boundary, and let the care for these handle over to the researchers and experts, so that a good improved knowledge can be gained.

    I don’t know how far I am right but this is my idea <3

    Thanks for the article, Michael. You let us inform about events in the world <3

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    • Good idea. The state represents the people and people need to ensure that the welfare of all animals is properly managed but people are a failure in this regard because they are far too selfish and self-centred. It is getting worse too.

      Reply

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