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Pet Connection Q&A: Coyotes pose danger to pets, even in cities

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7D

When I'm walking my dog through a parkway near my home, we occasionally see coyotes. We have had a couple of small dogs killed by them, and judging by the "lost cats" signs, I suspect they've taken a few cats, too. I live in the suburbs of a big city, and I guess I'm surprised that coyotes will take a pet right under an owner's nose. Is there any way to protect our pets? This seems to be a relatively new problem here.

Coyotes are everywhere, and they've learned that household pets are relatively easy prey. They've used the ability to find food easily to expand their range dramatically. Coyotes are plentiful in suburban areas across the United States, and have even been reported in New York City and other highly urban environments.

Free-roaming cats seem to be especially at risk. Many times missing cats or the gruesome finding of feline remains is initially thought to be the work of sadistic cat-haters, but often these apparent crime sprees turn out to be the work of neighborhood coyotes. Keeping cats safely indoors is the only way to completely protect them.

Small dogs often are targets of hungry coyotes as well, and for these pets, it's important to be sure to supervise them in your yard, especially if you back up to a wooded area, golf course or other potentially coyote-rich environment.

When walking small dogs, don't let them off leash. Few coyotes are bold enough to get so close to a person as to snap up a leashed dog. Larger dogs are considerably less at risk, but not completely so, and it wouldn't hurt to keep a leash and close eye on them, as well.

To discourage coyotes from colonizing your neighborhood, work with your neighbors to remove food sources that attract these predators, such as pet food left outside, garbage cans that aren't securely closed or compost piles that are not correctly maintained. If food sources are denied them, the animals will move on to a more promising area.

While none of these steps will completely protect your pets, they will reduce the risk from these ever-more-common predators.

– Dr. Marty Becker


The buzz

Male cats haven't always been 'toms'

• While a male cat – especially an unneutered one – is today called a "tom," that wasn't always the case. Until the late 1700s, male cats were "rams" (like sheep) or "boars" (like pigs). A book about cats with a character named Tom became popular in the latter part of that century; after that, male cats started being called tomcats.

• As noted by DVM360.com, a study by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association highlights concerns that have been raised with human pharmacies that dispense drugs for pets. The OVMA reported that more than a third of veterinarians said that an external pharmacy had changed a prescribed dosage or medication without asking for authorization. In one case, a pharmacist recommended a product with acetaminophen, apparently unaware that the common pain reliever is deadly to cats.

• Providing palliative and end-of-life care is a trend in veterinary medicine that's resonating with pet owners, according to the VIN News Service (news.vin.com). There are now guidelines and organizations that promote the concept of hospice for pets, extending life without extending suffering for older or sick animals.

– Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

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