Another Cat Scares Off a Coyote

coyote sniffs something interesting under a bush

Within seconds, a cat jumps out of the bush and chases the coyote away

The coyote flees for protection to behind a guard-rail. The cat keeps an eye on her.

Months ago I watched a cat take a walk with its owner. I had never seen a cat do this, but was told that this cat walked regularly like this, and for some distance. Sounds like a uniquely special cat to me. So I alerted the owner that a coyote hung around the area. Yes, the owner knew about the coyote: it turned out that the coyote and the cat had a special, mutually respectful relationship. Yes, I thought, it was a very special cat — or the coyote was a very special coyote.

So a few days ago I watched this coyote sniffing for something under the bushes. I wondered what she was sniffing for, until the cat popped out and scared the coyote away. Yes, scared the coyote away. The coyote ran off and found protection behind a guardrail where she waited for that cat to go, but the cat took his time, possibly testing his power over the coyote. He was smart enough not to turn his back on the coyote, but remained facing her.

I caught several shots of the coyote’s very worried expression. She looked ready to flee if that cat came towards her.

The coyote even gestures with her tongue, “Peace, please?”

Eventually the cat took off and the coyote, then, proceeded again to sniff for whatever was under the bush. Obviously it hadn’t been the cat the coyote was sniffing out because the cat had gone.  This time she came out with something. It was a dead bird, which probably had been left by the cat. The coyote ate it: coyotes are opportunistic eaters and can eat anything lying around.

Finally, the cat gives up first

Coyote goes back for what she had wanted in the first place — it was not the cat, but something left by the cat.

So this turned out to be an interesting little triangle: cat, coyote, bird. The cat caught the bird but left it probably because of the coyote’s presence in the bush — even this brave cat appears to know not to get itself too close to the snout of a coyote! Neither animal felt at-ease enough to hunt while the other animal was so close. By the way, many of the animals that coyotes eat are carrion: they were killed by cars or another animal and then found by the coyote. And yes, as you can see, coyotes eat birds.

Again, as I’ve stated before, please do not allow your cats to roam free. Coyotes are uniquely individual, each with it’s own unique personality, temperament, habits and even family culture, and you won’t know how a coyote will react to a cat until after the fact. Most coyotes will opportunistically grab a cat if it appears within sight, not run from it! And most cats, left to roam free, will snag little birds.

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]