How to keep your cats safe from coyotes 



If you live in the country, you may feel that your cats are safe from some of the things that are the greatest threats to cats, such as moving cars. Country life, however, has its own set of “pet threats”—including wild animals. And clashes between wildlife and pets often end in heartache for the pet owner.


Coyotes (more common in the Western US) are becoming alarmingly unafraid of humans, with daytime sightings becoming more frequent. The consolation—if there is any—is that, compared to a car accident, dog attack, or abduction by a person with evil intentions, death by coyote is quick and, as far as we know, relatively suffering-free. Coyotes kill to eat, and they do it efficiently.


Still, it is heartbreaking to lose a cherished pet, and it is our responsibility to take care of them.


Coyotes are difficult to eradicate. Trapping and relocating coyotes is not as good an idea as it may sound, as any young coyotes orphaned by this process will seek easy prey—e.g., our pets. They can be frightened, however, so if you see one, try shaking a noisemaker (like a can full of hardware) or throwing things at it. Fire a Super Soaker (high-powered toy water gun) filled with water or vinegar.


More often, though, we don’t see them lurking around our property, as they are naturally nocturnal. The key to keeping coyotes away from your home (and your pets, your children, and you) is to eliminate all that attracts coyotes—mainly food. Coyotes are generalists, meaning they’ll eat just about anything.


With that in mind:

  • Keep your cats (and small dogs) indoors at night. If you have medium and large dogs, keep them in too. Coyotes hunting in packs can take down a fairly big animal. And although is a site devoted to cats, I’m going to tell you that rabbits, chickens, etc. that are kept outdoors also need protection: strong fencing with a top, and/or a small enclosure inside it that they can hide in.
  • Don’t let your pets’ food become coyote bait. Cats are best fed indoors, and dogs should be fed only what they will eat all at once, with no leftovers.
  • Be careful with your birdfeeders. Place them close to your house, and clean up spills. Do not feed squirrels, deer, or other wildlife. Any naturalist will tell you that birds are the only wild critters we should feed.
  • Put garden compost in enclosed bins, and gather your ripe fruits and vegetables immediately.
  • If  your cats wear bells on their collars, take them off. The same bells that supposedly alert birds to your cats’ presence also betray their whereabouts to coyotes. (Once you’ve cleaned up the birdseed, you’ll have fewer birds within your cats’ reach, anyway.) One final consideration: cats who wear bells learn to be stealthier hunters, which leaves us with no reason that cats should ever wear bells.
  • Besides food, coyotes are attracted to potential partners. An unneutered male dog will be attracted to a female coyote; a male coyote will be attracted to an unspayed female dog; both scenarios spell trouble. Spay and neuter your pets.
  • Mothballs and ammonia around your property may repel coyotes, as will a motion-sensitive light.
  • Consider a fence. The type of fencing will need to be one that deters climbing and is in accordance with any CC&Rs that apply to your neighborhood; at least six feet tall and extending six inches below ground. Some clever person has invented a “roll fence”; it has a rolling piece at the top, which keeps your cats from climbing out, or any uninvited guests from climbing in. As they try to grasp the top bar, it rolls. Wild critters stay out, tame ones in, and you and your pets live happily ever after.

If you enjoy life in a rural environment, good for you. But you need to be aware of the reality that wild critters want to make an easy meal of your pets. If you live in coyote country, your best bet is to make them feel so unwelcome in civilization that they’ll pack up their families and move back to the wilderness.


©Lisa J. Lehr