Cat behavior changes after coyote trauma

by Lori
(Richmond, Minnesota, USA)

We live on an acreage by a lake in Minnesota. We have four indoor/outdoor cats who prefer to be outside but we bring in at night and during cold spells.

Three of them got out one night and one didn’t return (Penelope). The next morning my husband rescued her littermate after a coyote had her treed in our front yard. All the cats are understandably skittish and we assumed that Penelope was an unfortunate meal.

Panda reacted by staying by herself. She avoided my husband and wanted to sleep by me but didn’t want to be petted. She avoided the other two cats (Moose and Millie) picking a chair by the window and not moving for hours.

Every time she went outside, Panda would continue to go back to the tree in our yard and then puff up and shake. I figured she was the one most traumatized, not just by the coyote but also losing her sister.

Three days later, Penelope is meowing at the door. We figure, with the lake still frozen, she was able to escape but had a hard time getting back.

We all rejoiced - except Panda. All the cats sniffed Penelope and it was obvious she smelled different from her experience, but Moose and Millie seemed happy to have her back, grooming her and laying next to her as she stayed in the house the first day.

Panda, on the other hand, has continued to hiss and growl and pick fights even though it’s been a couple of days. Panda was always the underdog between the two as they grew up and although she would hold her own in any wrestling matches, isn’t the one to pick a fight or be aggressive. She won’t even ask for attention if any of the others were around. When it’s just me and her, Panda has always asked to be held but is never pushy like her sister.

Is she angry? Jealous? They will eat next to each other one minute but then Penelope tried to groom Panda and she hissed and growled. They both slept on my bed relatively close all night and then Panda woke up and hissed and swiped at Penelope.

I would love your insight.

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Coyote trauma solution
by: Randy

First, why are you letting the cats outside when you know coyotes are in the area and will kill and eat them? Avoid the problem and remove or kill the coyotes or keep the cats inside.

Penelope evidently smells and acts different after her experience. The issue may resolve itself in a few days. Try rubbing a towel or bedding on her that has the scent of the other cats on it.

You may have to start from scratch and re-introduce Panda and Penelope as if they never met. Separate them to different rooms and follow the standard procedure of bringing a new cat into the home.

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