What Is Eating Our Cats
What Wild Animals Are On The Country Homestead
Surrounded by pine trees and other forest-type fauna, I have often wondered what type of predatory animals are lurking in the woods on my property, if any at all. At least near my house. It took awhile before any wildlife knew we were here because the house had been vacant for 4 years. They didn’t take long to find out.
I finally had found my final place in the country. It is in the Panhandle area of Florida. The details are in my series on The Budgethouse Renovator. I have become a Country Hybrid by moving from the big city to a rural homestead. The main difference is the transition from a chain-linked protected apartment and traffic filled streets to a fairly isolated (and safe) home on a dirt road. But still, city type conveniences are still only a few miles away. Wildlife, on the other hand, is maybe 50 yards in the distant woods, or so it seems.
A possum periodically tries to pull the locked cover off of our trash can. One or two raccoons help themselves to pet food dishes on the back porch. My grand kids found a snapping turtle near a pond on the property. And a few snakes have entered into the mix. Vultures are always flying overhead.
We arrived with 2 black cats when first moving in. Our daughter brought a pregnant Tabby cat with her from Nevada and had 4 kittens to be added to the fray. So along with 2 Conures (birds), we had 7 cats to watch out for. Letting them go outdoors at night (after fully grown) seemed like a good idea. That was a city-slicker mistake!
One of the black cats disappeared and we think it got run over by a car on the highway about a 1/4 mile from our place. The second black cat eventually took off for a while, came back, and didn’t like the new Tabbys on the premises. He left one night, never to be seen again.
Of the five cats left, 2 disappeared on different nights. Something was getting them, but we didn’t know what. So we decided to bring the 3 remaining cats in each night and only let them out during the day. This may not be a fool-proof concept, but they are still with us after many months of living where we are now.
I began to try to find out what type of “suspect” predators could likely exist near us. It turns out my research showed that we have bobcats, coyotes, a few rare wolves, large rattlesnakes, hawks, owls, you name it. The surrounding woods are perfect hiding places for any animal, especially night prowlers. A lack of applicable watering holes and a flowing river or swamp nearby sort of cancels out any alligators for the most part. Don’t quote me on that!
Without a critter cam(era), we can’t capture what lurks in the shadows after dark. It is pitch-black here after the sun goes down so I would need something with night-vision capability. It would have to have a motion detector built-in.
Narrowing The List Down
My research states that there may be as many as 70,000 coyotes living in all 67 counties of Florida. An article from a Sarasota publication talks about Coyotes being seen walking around neighborhoods. They are well adapted to living in the South and are here to stay. They can even mate with your pet dogs if conditions are right.
Domestic cats are high on their menu. Ours may have mistaken one for just another local dog and became easy prey for the savvy canine. They are one of the fastest animals when it comes to speed and are very stealthy. Powerful jaws can make quick work of a struggling feline.
Bobcats are another possibility. it seems they could also be holed-up in the nearby woods. Any type of burrow like a hollowed out log, hole in the ground, or collection of dead trees would suffice as a den. Our cats would not stand a chance against this fearsome animal. Add a bad temper to the mix, and there you have it.
I have never seen one in the wild, only a mountain lion. But documentaries about them are scary. When they charged a cameraman, on one show, the wild cats left very little time to react. Quick slashing claws can make mincemeat out of any small foe. A domestic cat could be taken in a heartbeat.
No owls have been seen nearby, and hawks only hunt during the day. A rattler isn’t looking for something way bigger than itself, and wolves have all but disappeared from the Deep South.
I found out a license is not needed in Florida to kill a Coyote. They are considered a “nuisance species”. That issue changes if you use a steel trap. But even if you catch one and kill it, another one will probably move into the vacated territory. So what’s the use. Also, you need know the gun laws in your community before shooting one.
Bobcats require a Florida hunting license. Only one can be hunted by a person during the season. Pelts require a tag before being sold or when they leave the state. I find the information on trapping them to be less than encouraging. And again, a new one can move into a vacated area. I think the best recommendation is to let a professional trapper or wildlife control entity get rid of one that is a problem.
Bobcats are fierce animals when they are trapped, so they will need to be treated with caution to ensure that they do not get the opportunity to attack. For those having to move or transport a bobcat, when they are not in a cage would be wise to use a catch pole and to wear protective clothing. (Source: aaanimalcontrol.com)
What Do You Do?
My research reveals the following. Keep small farm type animals in an enclosed cage that is made of heavy steel. Chicken wire can be ripped apart by a medium-sized predator. Heck, rats can chew through concrete. Coyote jaws can crush bone.
Watch your pets when they are outside. Pet cats are natural hunters. A mole, gopher, mouse, or rat can lure them into the woods like a magnet. And those pets are relentless when pursuing prey. Anything moving gets their attention. While they are chasing a critter, beady predatory eyes nearby can mark their every move until it’s too late. Kitty cat goes bye-bye!
Most of the advice seems to center around bringing your pets in at night. If you care about them. Some people seem to consider them expendable if there is a large amount of them on site. Just having them around to clear out the barn or woodshed of rats or mice is a viable consideration. But a pet lover needs to decide on that option.
So, living in the country with the local wildlife is a tricky experience. The more we encroach on their territory, the more they will adapt to tracking, catching and eating our pets. A city cat that moves to the country is at a disadvantage. We can only help them out by giving them a fighting chance to survive!
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