Intrepid Cat vs. Playful Coyote


Addendum: This posting should be a lesson to everyone that cats are not safe unattended out-of-doors. This story has an unexpected twist which is amusing because it is unexpected. Small pets will inevitably encounter other animals, be they coyotes, raccoons or dogs, all of whom have their own agendas which you cannot predict, and they will encounter other dangers, such as traffic which could threaten a pet’s life. Please keep your cats indoors and only let them out if you can supervise them.

Famously Nine-Lived

This cat has lived in the same park as coyotes for several years now. The cat is savvy and quick — and apparently very used to the various wild animals that can be encountered in an urban park, including owls, raccoons and skunks, in addition to off-leash dogs.

Almost all dogs I know love to chase cats. Once that adrenalin kicks in, which is almost instantaneously after a cat is seen, the dog cannot be stopped — there is a strong instinctual pull which prevents the dog from hearing you.  My own dog normally was excellent off leash: he always sat at street corners before crossing without me asking him to do so, he heeled when we passed others on the sidewalk, he came when I called, and he even “stayed” for long periods of time even if he could not see me. However, before I learned about the “critical instant” at which it would become useless to call a dog who had been “snared” by the sight of  a cat, my dog did chase a handful of them and I could not stop him. Then one day one of them stopped and faced him with it’s back arched and hissing. My dog had no idea what to do and just stood there, dumbfounded, before backing up. Most domestic dogs have not been primed to go further than this, though I’m sure some have as attested to by the injuries and cat deaths by dogs.

Coyotes also have this same instinct to go after fast small animals. The difference is that coyotes have a lot of experience with “catching” their prey. This is why it is so important for small pet owners to guard their pets and not let them wander about freely where there are coyotes around.

So, this morning there was a cat/coyote incident, as can be seen from the photos. Two coyotes were trotting close to a thicket area when they spotted the cat sitting on a rock, right on their path and not very well hidden by the tall grass. They saw it immediately and time stood still for that split second when everyone became aware of what was going on. And then, within the blink of an eye, they went for the cat who scrambled to evade them from right underfoot. I’m sure physical contact was made, but the cat got away. The cat made an amazing leap high up into a tree, followed by one of the coyotes, who also made an amazing leap but then remained at the base of the tree. The cat went right to the top, 75 feet high, and stayed there. The coyotes kept looking up and made a few hopeful attempts at jumping before giving up.

And then they went over to the spot where the cat had been sitting before it was seen. They spent a substantial amount of time sniffing out that area. I don’t know what kind of information they were seeking — but they definitely were trying to find out something. Soon, they wandered on. I continued photographing the coyotes, so I don’t know how long the cat remained in the tree. I have seen squirrels remain high in a tree for the good part of an hour after such a chase.

Healthy squirrels and cats can evade coyotes. It is usually the very young or older cats which become prey for them as well as for raccoons and owls. Coyotes have been seen ignoring cats in the vicinity while they ate mulberries, and they have even been known to run away from cats who showed dominance and stalked them! Nonetheless, it is wise to keep pet cats indoors if coyotes live in the area.

Read Melanie Piazza’s WildCare, Summer 2016 article on Reversing the CATastrophy.

[3/2011]