Domestic Cats Face Dangers From Urban Coyotes

The US National Park Service recently completed a two-year study on the diet of coyotes in the Los Angeles, California area.  The results indicate that our cats could be at greater risk for being eaten by coyotes than we thought.

Researchers analyzed over 3,200 samples of coyote poop (called scat) from Los Angeles and surrounding communities.  They also compared the urban coyote samples with samples from more suburban areas that are closer to their natural habitat.

They found that the diet of urban coyotes was influenced by living so close to humans.  The coyotes routinely ate human food scraps and commercial pet food.  They also ate a lot of ornamental fruits commonly found in our gardens.

Unfortunately, free-roaming cats–and even cats allowed outside but restricted to enclosed yards–are also on the menu for urban coyotes.  Domestic cat remains were found in 20% of the scat, the third most common component after human and pet foods and ornamental fruits.

The scat of coyotes from more rural areas had only 4% of domestic cat and it also had less human and pet food and ornamental fruit remains.  Rabbits were the most common part of the non-urban coyotes’ diet.

Pet owners in areas with high numbers of coyotes should always keep their cats indoors.  Small dogs can also be at risk, so it’s important to walk your dog on leash and never leave your dog in the yard unattended.

Make sure your trash can lids are secure and avoid leaving bowls of pet food outside as well.  Experts also recommend avoiding bird feeders and ornamental fruit trees to discourage coyote visits to your back yard.

You can find a lot of helpful information on keeping your pets safe from coyotes on the Urban Coyote Initiative website HERE.

 

Pet Tornado Safety Tips

With the unusually high number of damaging tornadoes hitting the US in the past few weeks, many pet owners may be wondering how to best keep their dogs, cats, and other pets safe from harm during tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

We’ve gathered some of the best expert advice and compiled the following tornado safety tips for pets.  (Be sure to create a disaster plan for your pets, no matter what types of natural disasters your region of the world may face.)

  • Make sure all your pets are microchipped and have up to date ID tags.
  • Your emergency supply kit for severe weather should also include items for your pets, such as food, water, bedding, and leash.

  • Keep dogs and cats indoors during any severe weather event.  During tornado warnings, bring your pets to safe locations in the house.  It’s best to keep cats crated.
  • In the event your pet escapes, make sure you have a current identifying photograph, and know the locations of all local animal shelters.
  • Small pets like guinea pigs and rabbits should be placed in carriers in a tornado-safe location in the house.

  • Birds can be especially sensitive to stress.  Monitor your bird’s health for several days after a severe weather event.  Always keep your birds caged so they don’t escape.
  • Aquariums should be moved under tables or covered with padding to keep the glass from breaking.
  • If you have advance warning that severe weather is on the way, the best plan is to evacuate with your pets until the threat is over.

 

Vets Explain Health Risks of Homemade Cat Food Diets

Researchers at the University of California–Davis have found that homemade diets for cats are often lacking in essential nutrients and could even contain potentially toxic ingredients.

The study, shared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, evaluated over 100 published recipes and found significant problems with almost all of them.

Most of the recipes, even those written by vets, lacked three or more essential feline nutrients, such as zinc, iron, thiamine, and vitamin E.

Some of the recipes contained ingredients that are toxic to cats, including garlic, onion, and leek.  Some also included bones, which can damage the gastrointestinal system.

Many of the recipes also lacked adequate preparation and feeding instructions, forcing readers to make assumptions about how to make the food and how much to feed their cats.

Feline health experts note that the trend of homemade pet food diets, while popular for dogs, can be trickier for cats because of their unique nutritional requirements as true (or “obligate”) carnivores.

Cats require certain specific nutrients (like taurine) that are only found in animal proteins in order to survive.  The safest option for cat owners is to buy high-quality commercial cat food.

Sometimes vets will recommend a homemade diet for medical reasons, but it’s important to follow a diet that has been created by a certified veterinary nutritionist.

 

Scientists Study Online Videos to Understand Why Dog Bites Happen

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Liverpool used dog bite videos posted on YouTube and other online sources to identify human and dog behaviors that can be precursors to dog bites.

The researchers studied dozens of videos and analyzed both human and dog behaviors, bite severity, dog and victim characteristics, and the context in which the bite occurred.

What did they find?  Here’s an overview of the most interesting data:

  • Bite victims were more likely to be male than female, and children and infants were more likely to be bitten than adults.
  • Victims were more likely to initiate pre-bite interactions than dogs.  Most bites occurred on the victims’ limbs.
  • The dogs’ pre-bite body language included a change in ear position (often lowered) and holding the body in a low to the ground, awkward position.
  • The humans’ pre-bite behavior included standing over, petting, and restraining the dog.
  • The most common dogs in the videos were Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Labs, Pit bulls, and mixed breeds.
  • Bites were most likely to occur during play and other interactions, rather than when the dog was at rest.

The authors report that while studying these videos can give us clues as to why dog bites happen, they also note that many bite scenarios are not filmed or uploaded to the internet.

For more information on how to read canine behavior and prevent dog bites, check out the Doggone Safe website.

 

Parasite Infection Risk Increases for Outdoor Cats

Cats allowed to roam outdoors face a variety of health risks, from getting hit by cars and attacked by other animals to an increased risk for infection by internal and external parasites.

A recent study of parasite infection rates for outdoor cats vs. indoor cats around the world has led to some interesting findings.

Cats allowed to roam outdoors are 2.77 times more likely to become infected with parasites than indoor only cats.  The surprise finding in this study relates to what parts of the globe parasite infection risks are highest.

You might think that cats in warmer climates have an increased risk of parasite infection because there tends to be a greater concentration of parasites in these warmer places.

In reality, the opposite was found to be true:  infection rates decrease with higher parasite diversity, and cats in northern climates are a greater risk for infection.  Risk of infection goes up a surprising 4% with each degree of increase in latitude.

Why is this?  The researchers note that rodents (a common feline prey animal) and other species of wildlife display similar increased infection rates.

Experts recommend that cat owners restrict access to the outdoors for their pets, both to preserve their cats’ overall health and well-being, and also to reduce the risk of parasite transmission to humans.