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More Observations on Coyote-Cat Interactions: What Can We Learn?

This post relates to the earlier post “Observations of Coyote Predation on Cats.”  Although it may sound like I’m criticizing Grubbs and Krausman’s (2009) study, I’m not saying that we should disregard the results entirely.  As I said earlier, this is a fascinating research study and the only published study on observations of coyote-cat interactions.  I just think that it should be viewed in the context of observations of coyote-cat behavior in a coyote pack that may specialize in killing cats.  Some of the patterns of behavior observed may be useful when gauging the relative risk of lost or outdoor cats to coyote predation.  For example, Grubbs and Krausman (2009) found that 69% of interactions and 68% of kills occurred during the pup rearing season (May-August).  These results could be due to the increased pressure on the adult coyotes to feed a fast growing litter of hungry pups.  Only 8% of interactions and 5% of kills took place during the breeding season (Jan-Feb).  I’m curious whether the same trends would be observed in an area of the country that experiences harsher winters than Arizona.  They also found that most interactions (86%) and kills (84%) took place between sunrise and sunset.  Jon Way et al. (2004) found that coyotes in suburban Massachusetts showed a preference to be active mostly during dawn, dusk, and especially at night, but that breeding females were active at all hours during the time they were nursing pups (April-June).  In general, this supports the theory that outdoor-access cats that initially go missing during the day are less likely to be the victim of a coyote attack.

Some other results of Grubbs and Krausman’s (2009) study raise more questions than answers.  For example, they found that 18 of 19 killed cats were at least partially consumed.  I would really like to know whether the coyotes consumed the cats at the location of the kill or whether they carried them to a different location or to the den.  This would be useful to help determine the likelihood of finding the remains of a coyote-killed cat within the cat’s home range?  Way et al. (2001) studied characteristics of coyote dens in suburban Massachusetts and found that den sites were devoid of prey remains and adult coyote scat.  However, in late-May to mid-June the pups were moved from the den to a series of rendezvous sites (i.e. a safe location where pups are left while most of the adults are away hunting), and Way et al. (2001) does not mention whether prey remains were present at these sites. (I am going to conduct further research into the characteristics of rendezvous sites.)

Grubbs and Krausman (2009) also found that in 28% of coyote-cat interactions, the coyote chased the cat.  This was the second most common coyote-cat interaction followed by 17% of cats standing their ground or chasing coyotes.  A surprising number of lost outdoor-access cats are found within a mile or two from where they originally went missing and sometimes even years after they went missing (see Lost Cats Found blog for examples).  The general assumption is that most of these cats were displaced from their familiar home range and were then unable to find their way home.  Causes of displacement might be territorial aggression from another cat or being chased by a dog or wild animal.  I would be really curious to find out if they measured how far the cats ran and the behavior of the cat after the chase ended.  I may try and get in touch with Grubbs or Krausman and see if they have additional information that they would be willing to share.

Video of a cat fending off two coyotes and eventually escaping up a tree.  (If your cat is missing, I wouldn’t suggest watching this.  It’s a close call for the brave cat.)

Literature Cited

Grubbs, Shannon E. and Paul R. Krausman.  2009.  Observations of Coyote – Cat Interactions.  Journal of Wildlife Management 73(5): 683-685.

Way, Jonathan G., Issac M. Ortega, and Eric G. Strauss.  2004.  Movement and Activity Patterns of Eastern Coyotes in a Coastal, Suburban  Environment.  Northeastern Naturalist 11(3): 237-254.

Way, Jonathan G., Peter J. Auger, Issac M. Ortega, and Eric G. Strauss.  2001.  Eastern Coyote Denning Behavior in an Anthropogenic Environment.  Northeast Wildlife 56: 18-30.

For anyone who is interested, many of Jonathan Way’s research papers are available from the publications page of his website: Eastern Coyote Research.

8 thoughts on “More Observations on Coyote-Cat Interactions: What Can We Learn?

    1. Perhaps brave isn’t the best word, but I think that this cat actually behaved in a manner that increased his chances of surviving this coyote attack. That is why I picked this particular video off YouTube. Even though the video quality isn’t that great, it shows the largest behavior sequence of a coyote-cat interaction. Ray and Lorna Coppinger (2002) explain in their book, Dogs: a startling new understanding of canine origin, behavior, and evolution, that predators engage in a functional sequence of motor patterns that are genetically hardwired to perform a behavior such as hunting in the most energetically economical way. A hunting behavior pattern appears as follows: orient>eye*stalk>chase>grab*bite>kill*bite>dissect>consume. In some species, the motor patterns are strongly connected to the next in the sequence (i.e. if the prey animal doesn’t run, then the predator doesn’t try and bite it). This is why people are advised not to run from a wild animal such as a bear or mountain lion if they feel they are being threatened. By running, they engage the animal’s predatory sequence and greatly increase their chances of being attacked. Likewise, the reason that this particular cat probably survives this coyote attack is that he persists in standing his ground. Notice in the video that the only times the coyotes attack are when the cat is fleeing (though they may otherwise lunge to test the cat). If you search “cat chase coyote” on YouTube, you’ll find a few other videos of coyote-cat interactions. There is even one funny one where the cat attacks the coyote and actually sends him running off yelping.

  1. So maybe not brave but not stupid – smart!

  2. We are not even allowed to use the term “smart” in teaching K-12 any more – persistent, diligent, and brave. My family is holding out on how resourceful, persistent, diligent, and brave our cat was/is. Never dreamed I’d be thrust into such persistent, and diligent research of coyote, bobcat, and cougar behavior. Certainly the wilderness of Alaska was much safer for our cat than Washington state where the garbage seekers – coyotes have become rampant.

  3. We did find fur,,, there were no bones.
    If a coyote killed our cat then
    what does a coyote do with our
    beautiful cats ( bones ) ?

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss of your cat. Only finding some fur is not uncommon. Coyotes will sometimes eat everything (including the bones) except the fur and intestines when they kill a medium-size animal like a cat or rabbit.

      1. Danielle, did you ever find your cat. Hopefully it was a cat fight and he was just hiding. Im missing my baby now going on 5 days and no trace. Just vanished and I’m becoming doubtful I will ever see her previous face again. I,do,hope you found your baby and if not you found another to love. Thanks again.

        1. We never found our Neko in the wilderness area of Washington state’s Olympic Peninsular. I hiked through a lot of brush and wooded areas and even got chewed out for checking out local vacant barns. For two months I was pretty obsessed and was told it was as likely to be a bobcat or cougar as a coyote that got him. I only found a very slight amount of fur but it was his underbelly fur. He had been a very resourceful cat who came to us as a lost kitten, very independent in Alaska. I have taken in another cat supposedly just temporarily, and he is a very sweet kitty, but nothing like the irreplaceable Maine Coon Neko. 5 days is really not that long for a cat, Neko had gone missing for over a week before but not in that area which was relatively new to him. Wishing you the best in your search and prayers.

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