For people living in rural and even some suburban areas, foxes, coyotes, bears and wolves are a genuine concern. If you’re not careful, your dog, cat or other pet could fall victim to an attack by one or more of these wild animals, many of which are less wary of being around humans and populated areas than in the past. While they may simply be curious or searching for any leftovers that might be lying behind, that might not necessarily be the case.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to prepare for the worst by considering certain measures:
- Keep them indoors. The best way to protect your little ones from predatory attacks is to avoid leaving them outside. However, this is not ideal for everyone. For some, the answer is to install a “pet door,” which allows their dog, cat or other member of the family to go out or come in whenever they like. Bear in mind, though, that they will still be exposed to threats during those times when they are outside. And while the risk is small, a pet door might also be a way for animals such as foxes or coyotes to gain access to your home.
- Protect yourself. Experience suggests that coyotes and other smaller predators will not engage with a dog when a human is present. In contrast, most encounters with larger animals, such as a bears, tend to occur when owners are out and about with their pets. If you are hiking or simply walking around in a neighborhood or locale where potentially aggressive animals have been known to be present, you’ll want to take some precautions, including the following:
- Carry bear mace, an air horn and/or a firearm. Sine there is no one-size-fits-all method of defense, you’ll probably want to speak with local wildlife experts or engage in research online to determine what strategy is the most appropriate for the area you live in. Regardless, if you live in “bear country,” you should certainly keep up-to-date with current recommendations, like those found here, for keeping you and your pet safe in the event of an encounter.
- Keep your pet leashed. Some people believe it is a good idea to allow their dogs to run free while they are moving around in bear country. Canines, even small ones, will often succeed in chasing these predators away from their owners. Sometimes, however, when they are running around out of sight, they can startle a mother who is looking after her cubs, causing her to chase the dog right back to its owners! Under the circumstances, you’ll want to keep your little one close by, whether unleashed or not.
- Make your property safe and secure. It goes without saying that a properly fenced-in yard can help keep many pesky predators away. But a tall wooden or chain-link fence is not an infallible solution; some animals might be able to climb over it or dig under it if they try hard enough. Regardless, it’s not just the threat of predators entering your property that you should be concerned about about. Cats are notorious for scaling virtually any barrier, leaving them exposed to a potential attack beyond your borders.
Among the other steps you can take to bolster your defenses against natural predators in the wild are:
- Keep food and rubbish indoors. Bears and other animals are naturally drawn to the scent of food, no matter what shape it is in. To minimize the risk that you will be visited by an unwelcome guest, avoid leaving garbage cans in your backyard or out in the open, and don’t feed your pets while they are outdoors. Keep in mind as well that even bird feeders can serve as the wrong sort of invitation. Because they appeal to songbirds, they may also attract avian predators such as hawks and owls.
- Install motion-activated outdoor lighting. Bright lights can help keep potential intruders – whether animals or people – away from your property and your pets. They can also alert you about whether you need to take immediate action to protect those you care about from threats to their safety and security. Although wild animals may represent the biggest threat, this kind of safety feature can also help reduce the risk of your dog, cat or other pet being stolen, an issue we discussed in “4 Ways to Protect Your Pet from Thieves.”
- Keep kennels, “catios,” and outdoor runs protected. If you house dogs in an outdoor enclosure, ensure that the area is sufficiently fortified and padlocked. After you feed them, remove bowls and leftovers as soon as possible, giving bears and other potential predators fewer reasons to drop by. Otherwise, if you keep your your cat, rabbit or other small pet in a “cat patio,” or “catio,” so they can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine in a more secure setting, make it is enclosed in wire to prevent owls, hawks and coyotes from breaking and entering.
Even if you are extra careful, it would be difficult to protect your pet against every kind of predator. However, through greater awareness of the things you could be doing differently or better, you will go some way toward reducing the odds that something bad will happen. Knowing that your little one is less at risk should also make your life as a pet parent that much less stressful.