Coyotes and cats are both predators. Coyotes are masters of stealth, remaining invisible in plain sight, agile and innovative hunters.
Cats can be voracious predators but are also beloved, darling pets who are fiercely defended by their owners.
What happens when their paths cross, when their hunting grounds overlap? Coyotes have size on their side and could easily kill a cat, but cats are agile and can climb, so do they succumb to the larger predators?
Coyotes are opportunistic hunters that will kill a cat without hesitation. Cats are much smaller than coyotes, and although cats are able to climb better than coyotes, they are less likely to outrun a coyote, which is also a fast, agile hunter with surprising jumping abilities.
Coyotes will often hunt in pairs or packs and develop hunting strategies adapted for specific prey such as cats.
If you are a concerned cat owner worried that your cat will fall prey to coyotes, there are many aspects on both sides to be considered in this conflict.
How many cats do coyotes kill? Are there factors that will put your cat more at risk? Can you protect your cat in any way?
How do you minimize the contact between cats and coyotes? Where and when do most of the attacks on cats happen?
We will give you some answers to these questions and more in the following article, and you may be somewhat surprised by some of the unexpected information.
The Region Makes A Difference
A surprising fact for many city dwellers is that large numbers of coyotes are living in most of the major cities across the United States and have been doing so since the early 1900s.
As cities have spread and the natural habitats of coyotes were destroyed, the coyotes showed their astounding adaptability by simply moving into the cities and finding ways to survive.
Coyotes are much smarter than the cartoon roadrunner would have you believe!
These members of the dog family can legitimately don the mantle “shadow ghosts of the city” since many people who live in the cities do not even know that the coyotes are there.
They are primarily nocturnal animals and are absolute masters at evading observation if they wish.
They move like wraiths in the undergrowth of parks and gardens, easily jumping six-foot walls and fences.
Humanity has shown a persistent wholescale disruption of ecosystems resulting in the endangerment, extinction, and population explosion of various species, including coyotes.
The Human Influence
People have hunted and severely decreased the occurrence of the apex predators such as wolves, mountain lions, and lynx, which kept the numbers of coyotes under control.
This has resulted in an increased population of coyotes, that in order to find territories, have become unknown neighbors to city dwelling people.
The majority of municipalities have adopted a mutual co-existence policy when it comes to urban coyotes. They don’t interfere with the coyotes unless there is a threat to human life.
While cat owners may view coyotes as an unwanted neighborhood menace, the coyotes can and do serve a vital function in city wide pest control.
Many cities encourage coyotes as a means of controlling rodent and feral cat populations.
Cats On The Coyote Menu
While beneficial to the city, coyotes do not distinguish between feral cats and beloved pets.
Several studies have found varying results that show that cats constitute 20% to 42% of urban coyotes diets; a worrying statistic for cat owners worried about Fluffy finding his way into a predator’s diet.
The differences in the related percentage of cats included in a coyote’s diet may be explained by the fact that different groups of coyotes in different cities may learn and adapt their hunting practices to killing cats.
This is especially true if other prey is unavailable or in short supply.
Coyotes do not exclusively hunt for food in cities but also obtain their food supply from human trash and waste. Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and will basically take the easy menu options.
If edible trash is readily available, it will be consumed before a coyote has to choose a meal option that requires them to expend more energy and effort.
If the coyote comes across a cat, the cat will just as easily go onto the menu, especially if there are no other easier food options around.
Contrary to what most people expect, the further people and their pet cats reside from the city center; the less likely their cat will become a snack for a hungry coyote.
In suburban areas, cats constitute only approximately 4% of a coyote’s diet, which drops ‘to less than 2% in rural, agricultural areas.
Cat owners who live in agricultural areas often own other livestock and are used to protecting their animals from predation by coyotes.
Coyotes living in agricultural areas have more available natural prey and so are also less prone to coming close to homes and, therefore, to the pets.
How Do I Protect My Cat And Minimize Interactions With Coyotes?
It should be obvious to any responsible person that coyotes should never be fed by humans as this encourages coyotes seeking out human interaction as a source of food.
Unfortunately, some people have become so enthusiastic about urban coyotes that they feed them, and this allows the coyotes to lose their fear of people, and therefore, they are more likely to invade gardens and homes.
Obviously, the safest and easiest way to protect your cat is to keep them indoors or build enclosed outdoor areas for your cats.
These are commonly known as catios or cat patios, and many of them can become quite elaborate with aerial walkways that join different locations in the home.
Some people object to this confinement of cats and feel that their cats cannot be truly happy unless they are free to roam where they will.
If you subscribe to this belief, then one of your options is to build a six-foot-plus fence to enclose your garden.
It needs to be higher than six feet as coyotes are adept at jumping and clamoring over fences. Roll bars can be installed on the top of fences.
This is a loose cylindrical bar that covers the top of the fence, and if the coyotes attempt to use the top of the fence in an effort to scale the wall, it will roll and dump the coyote back on the ground.
Of course, it has a similar effect with cats, which could be problematic if your cat is attempting to escape from a coyote. Some people use this as a means of trying to contain their cats in their gardens.
A helpful escape route for cats is to provide elevated cat platforms or walkways in the garden so that cats spend limited time on the ground, and should they encounter a predator such as a coyote, they can escape to the safety of the platform.
This is not foolproof, however, as cats may choose to go down to ground level in order to hunt lizards and insects and may not get up to the platforms or walkways in time to escape the coyotes.
Don’t Attract Coyotes
Additionally, cat owners should make sure that all trash is secured in a sealable trash can and is removed regularly in order to minimize the attraction for coyotes.
Similarly, compost heaps should not contain food items, and pet food must not be left outside.
Pets should be fed inside the house, or if they are fed outside, then food bowls should be collected and stored inside after giving the pet a short period to finish their food.
Coyotes are omnivorous and are often attracted to gardens where there is edible or ornamental fruit and vegetables. Rather remove ornamental fruiting plants and ensure you collect any fruit from edible fruit trees that may drop fruit.
Water sources may also be an attraction to coyotes, so water supplies for pets should preferably be left inside the home with pet doors allowing the pet access to the house.
Some pet owners have invested in larger size dogs to deter the coyotes from entering the gardens.
This will usually deter single coyotes or pairs but is not always effective against a pack that has been known to engage with a large size dog and chase and intimidate them.
Cat owners in rural, agricultural areas may run packs of large dogs, which would be more than a match for a pack of coyotes, especially if the dogs are livestock guardians.
Coyotes may also be discouraged from entering properties by having movement sensors that activate flashing lights or noisemakers. This may, however, make you very unpopular with your neighbors.
Coyotes are often more aggressive in their search for food in spring as they may have cubs at this time. Some owners keep their pets indoors for this period and try to increase anti-coyote measures at this time.
As coyotes are nocturnal, some owners opt for keeping their cats inside from dusk until dawn.
Coyotes And Feral Cats
Urban coyotes are a significant threat to feral cat populations, and in fact, some cities encourage the coyotes in order to control feral cat populations.
This causes major conflict with cat rescue groups who have feeding schemes and capture, sterilize, and release programs for feral cats.
The majority of cats consumed by urban coyotes tend to be from the feral cat population.
Cat rescue groups who are concerned about the predation of feral cats need to implement strategies to minimize the exposure of the cats to coyotes.
This includes establishing feeding stations on high platforms where the coyotes cannot reach or feeding at set times and then removing the food after the feral cats have eaten.
Most feral cat groups argue that it is not feasible to remove the food after the cats have eaten.
It causes logistical problems in that they do not visit the cat feeding stations every day, and not all feral cats can be trained to come at set times to eat.
There is also a sense of outrage that is felt when the cats have been caught, sterilized, and released only to become breakfast for a hungry coyote, and the rescuers feel that their efforts to improve the lives of the feral cats are nullified.
Disease, Coyotes, And Cats
One of the concerns that cat owners have is that coyotes may transmit disease to their pets. This is of particular concern when considering a disease such as rabies, which is transmissible to humans.
Coyotes may easily come into contact with the rabies virus through their prey – especially animals such as rats and bats.
It, therefore, becomes vitally important for owners to ensure that their cats have current rabies immunization.
Owners should note that if their cat is attacked by a coyote, they should not clean wounds without protective gloves as it is possible to contract rabies from the saliva on the surface of the wounds.
Coyotes may also be responsible for spreading tularemia, which is a bacterial infection (Francisella tularensis) which cats are particularly susceptible to and which may also be spread to humans.
Initial symptoms include high fever, swollen glands, inappetence, and lethargy. Tularemia is an acute disease that may result in the death of a cat in a few hours or days.
This unpleasant disease affects the major systems in the body and results in multiple organ failure.
It can, however, be successfully treated with antibiotics if it is discovered in its early stages, but treatment must continue for a lengthy period and may be quite costly.
Spreading Of Parasites
Transmission of parasites is another source of concern, especially in urban coyote populations where pets and coyotes share common living spaces. This includes mange mites, ticks, fleas, worms, and flukes.
Although there are preventative measures for many of these parasites, it becomes an expensive exercise when this must be repeated more often for pets because of the high risk of contracting the parasites due to the presence of the coyotes.
Of particular concern is the risk of cats becoming infected with tapeworm. Tapeworm is transmissible to humans and may be of particular concern in children.
Although there is medication to treat tapeworm in both cats and humans, it needs to be catered specifically to eliminating tapeworm, and many owners overlook the necessity of deworming themselves and their families.
Cats Versus Coyotes
There are heated debates and high emotions in conflicts between those who support the presence of urban coyotes and cat lovers who feel their pets and feral cats are at risk from the coyotes.
The coyote supporters argue that coyotes in cities assist in the control of pest populations and that removing coyotes will only create a vacuum into which new coyotes will move.
Many of them cannot see that removing coyotes from urban areas would be feasible and may result in more problems.
There is also the argument that people have destroyed the coyote’s natural habitat, and therefore they should be allowed the leeway to live and survive wherever they can.
Cat lovers understandably become emotional over the loss or potential loss of pets.
It is reasonable that a pet owner watching their beloved cat being killed and eaten by a coyote would be traumatized and heartbroken.
Numerous cat owners would like to see coyotes removed completely from cities, but few of them have ideas on how to prevent coyotes from returning to the cities.
We can conclude that coyotes will definitely kill cats due to their opportunistic predatory hunting instincts.
Surprisingly this is more likely to happen in cities than in agricultural, rural areas. It is also more likely to occur in spring when the coyotes have pups, and the demand for food is high.
Not only do the coyotes pose a risk to a cat’s life through hunting, but also through the transmission of diseases and parasites, which can endanger a cat’s life.
The safest method of protecting your cat is to limit contact by keeping your cat indoors or building a secure cat enclosure. There are other methods of discouraging coyotes and trying to keep your cat safe, but none of these are foolproof.
The heated debate and conflict between cat lovers and those who promote the co-existence of humans and coyotes in cities is bound to continue and does not appear to have any easy solution.