The American Bird Conservancy, which has long complained about the number of birds that free-roaming cats kill, released statistics that may give cat owners a reason besides bird kills to keep their cats indoors. Coyotes, which have moved into most areas of the US, have developed a taste for cats.
The Conservancy cites an article that was just published in the spring edition of the The Wildlife Professional that references coyotes moving into urban and suburban New York City. According to the article, coyotes in the eastern US are larger than their western counterparts. This is likely due to coyotes interbreeding with wolves as they moved south from eastern Canada. This is not good news for any cat that is allowed outside. In talking about instances of coyote attacks on humans, which are rare, the article states: ‘Where such attacks have been studied, there is a correlation between high percentages of anthropogenic food sources – such as dog food, trash, and domestic cats – in coyote diets.’ Yes, where coyotes are concerned, cats are definitely on the menu. The article goes on to say that as coyotes move in to more urban areas, incidents involving humans are likely to increase and we may need to take measures to minimize contact with them: ‘This might mean removing all exterior food sources such as trash, bird feeders, free-roaming cats, or tethered dogs.’ Keeping your cat indoors may become more than a measure for the cat’s own safety. It may be necessary in order to discourage coyotes from getting too comfortable in our backyards and becoming dangerous to humans.
Where there are free-roaming cats and coyotes, an alarming proportion of the diet of these suburban and urban coyotes consists of domestic cats. A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, ‘Observations of Coyote-Cat Interactions’ by Shannon Grubbs of the University of Arizona and Paul Krausman of the University of Montana chronicled coyote-cat encounters near Tuscon, Arizona. Of the 36 interactions they witnessed, 19 ended with the coyote killing the cat. Most of these incidents occurred at night, and it didn’t take a pack of coyotes to get a cat, just one was enough. The study indicated that 42% of the meals the coyotes were observed eating were cats.
The Bird Conservancy may get their wish that more people keep their cats indoors, and they may have the coyote to thank for it.
Keeping your cat indoors will keep him safe from coyotes and also prevent him from hunting birds or other prey. Your cat can still get the benefits of eating foods that are natural for him and mimic the nutritional profile of his natural prey through the feeding of raw meat diets. You can learn more about bio-appropriate feeding for cats from the Feline Nutrition Education Society at http://feline-nutrition.org.