Are Coyotes Killing Our Cats?

Are Coyotes Killing Our Cats?

If I had a rose for every person who insists that their missing cat — or Pekingese, or miniature schnauzer — was gobbled up by a coyote, I'd have a room full of roses. Did they see a coyote in the act of consuming the irrepressible "Mr. Whiskers"? Of course not, but they are no less certain that Wile E. was the culprit. Indeed, bereft pet owners are quite put out by my line of questioning.

It is enough that coyotes are alleged to be in the neighborhood and that their pet is missing. Case closed. Take the nice family from Colorado who let their indoor cat, Willow, slip out of the house — five years ago. She vanished. They assumed, naturally, that wild and carnivorous canines were lurking nearby, just waiting for their normally sequestered feline to make a break for it — as if predators had nothing better to do than surveil their raised ranch 24/7.

Willow turned up the other week thousands of miles away, in New York City, and has been reunited with her owners thanks to an embedded identity chip. Her Big Apple adventure was not financed by coyotes with credit cards (there's a scary notion), but by New Yorkers who were on a skiing trip to Colorado.

Isn't it funny how many of the things we know for certain turn out to be dead wrong? Or how we arrive at firm conclusions based on the thinest of gruel, and stick to them in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary? So I'm guessing this explanation for missing cats — a couple of Blue-Staters abducted "Garfield" — won't catch on as a blanket explanation for the missing cat phenomenon. It doesn't have the right cache.

Many of our intellectual constructs are emotional rather than rational. There is drama and closure in asserting that poor defenseless Fluffy was torn limb from limb by a blood-thirsty pack of crazed killers. It enhances the grieving process and feeds a delicious sense of victimization. We are more sinned against than sinning.

Heaven forbid that Mr. Peaches departed this vale of tears in some mundane fashion that might not reflect well on his owners, or make zippy cocktail fodder. For example, could he haven been flattened by a Hummer? Frozen or starved to death in the woods? Perhaps he ingested some weed killer or leaking radiator coolant in the garage? The most disturbing possibility of all is that Chairman Meow simply relocated to a postmodern domicile across town that serves Fancy Feast three times a day.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry killed a coyote last year while jogging in a gated community near Austin. To clarify, Rick was the one jogging, with his security team in tow; his victim was lurking and allegedly threatening his daughter's puppy. Rick was packing, of course, and dispatched the varmint with hollow-point bullets. Why the future presidential hopeful was jogging with a pistol and a puppy is beyond the scope of this rumination.

Perry is not alone. I know people in Connecticut who will shoot coyotes that are not threatening puppies or anything else. What's up with that? Is it our need for domination? Or macho bluster to veil some primal fear? I must confess that the existence of wild canines (not to mention bears) does make a walk in the woods more exciting. I don't mean to disparage Texas coyotes, but our Eastern variant is bigger. Migrating here from the West and the North, they have interbred with wolves and domestic dogs — the latter puts a dent in their pet-killing cred.

One morning, our dog Sophie went nose-to-nose with a wild cousin. They both blinked. I was nearby wielding a Wiffle Ball bat in case detente failed. Another time, she charged out to confront two coyotes luxuriating in our hayfield in broad daylight, like they had just paid the property taxes. One ran away and the other led Sophie on several large loops before retreating into the woods.

There is no question that coyotes are opportunistic and will take certain pets under certain circumstances. If I owned a Bichon Frise, I would not let it out of my site out of doors.

What coyotes eat mostly are critters that we should thank them for ingesting, such as garden-raiding woodchucks and smaller rodents and fawns. Without such predation, deer would be even more numerous hereabouts, and cause more accidents on our roads. A coyote may have saved your Lexus from horrible disfigurement.

My final argument is this. Our cat, the honorable Mr. Chuckles, rest his soul, lived to be blind, deaf, lame, shrill and dotty. He would spend much of his time in the middle of our hayfield yowling at no one in particular. The resident coyotes never laid a glove on him.