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How Far Away Can a Coyote Smell a Cat?

Coyotes have a better sense of smell than dogs, which they use to detect prey from a distance. They also use their sense of smell to keep away from danger and even find other members of their pack. 

After all… 

They do have over 50% more olfactory receptors, which leaves us wondering how far away can a coyote smell a cat. Remember, they love hunting cats, which is one of their easiest prey, thanks to their small size.

How Far Away Can Coyotes Smell a Cat?

Coyotes have an excellent sense of smell, and their olfactory abilities can vary depending on several factors, including environmental conditions and the individual coyote’s health and age. In general, coyotes have a strong sense of smell that can detect scents from a considerable distance.

A male coyote smells the scent of potential prey, including small mammals like cats, from several hundred yards away under normal conditions.

In fact, their sense of smell is 14 times more accurate than humans. A coyote is believed to smell a cat from about 10 miles away; it then traces it using its other senses until it finds it.

Unfortunately, the actual distance at which they can smell a cat can vary depending on various factors. In some cases, they may be able to detect a cat from even farther away, especially if the scent is strong and the conditions are favorable. 

It’s important to note that while coyotes have an impressive sense of smell, they also rely on their keen eyesight and hearing to locate prey. 

If you’re concerned about coyotes in your area posing a threat to your pets, it’s a good idea to take precautions such as keeping your cats indoors, especially during dawn and dusk. You can also secure your property to make it less inviting to these wild animals.

Remember, they can easily detect odor from about 3.2 km away under favorable conditions.

Factors Affecting a Coyote’s Ability to Smell a Cat From a Distance

The ability of a coyote to smell a cat, or any scent for that matter, can be influenced by several factors, including:

  • Wind Direction: Wind direction significantly affects a coyote’s ability to detect scents. If the wind is blowing from the direction of the cat toward the coyote, it enhances the coyote’s chances of picking up the scent. Conversely, if the wind is blowing from the coyote towards the cat, it may reduce the coyote’s ability to detect the cat’s scent.
  • Weather Conditions: Weather conditions such as humidity, temperature, and air pressure can affect how scents travel and linger in the environment. Cool, damp conditions tend to carry scents farther and make them more detectable, while hot, dry conditions may limit scent dispersal.
  • Terrain and Vegetation: The type of terrain and vegetation in the area can impact scent dispersal. Open areas with little vegetation can allow scents to travel more freely, while dense vegetation and obstacles can impede scent detection.
  • Scent Strength: The strength of the cat’s scent can vary based on factors like how recently the cat passed through the area, whether the cat marked territory with urine, or if the cat rolled in something with a strong odor. Stronger scents are more likely to be detected from a greater distance.
  • Coyote’s Individual Sensitivity: Like humans, individual coyotes may have variations in their sense of smell based on genetics, health, and age. Some coyotes may have more acute senses of smell than others.
  • Coyote Experience: Coyotes that are more experienced hunters may be better at identifying and tracking scents compared to younger or less experienced individuals.
  • Time of Day: Coyotes are generally crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. Their senses, including their sense of smell, may be more acute during these times.
  • Human Activities: Human activities, such as the presence of strong human odors or the use of chemicals, can potentially mask or interfere with a coyote’s ability to detect other scents.

How Often Do Coyotes Eat Cats?

The frequency with which cats are eaten by coyotes can vary widely depending on several factors, including the location, coyote population density, cat behavior, and human intervention. In areas where urban or suburban development encroaches on coyote habitats, there may be a higher likelihood of coyotes coming into contact with domestic cats.

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Location: The likelihood of cats being eaten by coyotes can be higher in regions where coyotes are more prevalent. Coyotes throughout North America have adapted to urban and suburban environments in many areas.
  • Coyote Population Density: Coyotes are not protected by the Wildlife Service since their population is always growing. Therefore, there may be more frequent interactions between coyotes and domestic cats in areas with a higher coyote population density.
  • Cat Behavior: Cats that roam freely outdoors are at a higher risk of encountering predators like coyotes. Indoor cats are generally safer from such threats.
  • Human Intervention: Human efforts to manage coyote populations, such as trapping, relocation, or culling, can impact the frequency of coyote predation on cats.
  • Coyote Behavior: Coyotes are opportunistic predators and may prey on small mammals like cats if they are readily available. The availability of other food sources, such as rodents or garbage, can also influence their dietary choices.
  • Time of Day: Coyotes are most active during dawn and dusk, which is when they are more likely to encounter outdoor cats or any other small animal.
  • Seasonal Variation: The frequency of cat predation by coyotes may vary seasonally, with more instances occurring when young coyotes are learning to hunt and during times of food scarcity.

To protect your cats from potential encounters with coyotes, it’s generally advisable to keep a cat indoors. You can also deter coyotes or even stop coyote attacks using wolf urine. A coyote roller can also help prevent a coyote encounter.

Providing a secure outdoor enclosure or supervising your cat outdoors can also help reduce the risk. But you can always keep your cat indoors and remove the pet food from the feeders, including the bird feeder.

Can Our Cats Escape a Coyote?

Cats are agile and have a good sense of self-preservation, so they may be able to escape from coyotes in some situations, but it largely depends on the specific circumstances of the encounter.

Here are some factors that can influence whether a cat can escape from a coyote:

  • Speed and Agility: Cats are known for their speed and agility. If a cat spots a coyote from a distance and has enough time to react, it may be able to outrun the coyote or climb to a safe location like a tree or fence.
  • Territorial Behavior: Cats are territorial animals, and if they are in their familiar territory, they may be more familiar with escape routes and hiding spots that can give them an advantage.
  • Size and Age: Larger and more mature cats may have a better chance of escaping a coyote, as they can be more physically capable of defending themselves or fleeing.
  • Number of Coyotes: The presence of multiple coyotes can increase the threat to a cat. Coyotes often hunt in pairs or packs; if there are multiple coyotes, it may be more challenging for a cat to escape.
  • Surprise Factor: If a coyote surprises a cat or approaches stealthily, the cat’s ability to escape may be limited. Cats may not react quickly enough if they are caught off guard.
  • Enclosed Spaces: Cats can sometimes escape from coyotes by seeking refuge in enclosed spaces, such as under porches or in small openings that a coyote cannot access.
  • Human Intervention: In some cases, humans may intervene and scare away coyotes before an encounter becomes dangerous for the cat.

Why Does a Pack of Coyotes Hunt Cats?

coyote warning

When coyotes encounter a cat, they can go after it for several reasons, primarily related to their natural predatory instincts and survival behaviors:

  • Opportunistic Predators: Coyotes are opportunistic predators, which means they are willing to hunt a variety of prey to satisfy their hunger. Cats, especially smaller ones, can be seen as potential sources of food.
  • Small Mammals: Coyotes typically prey on small mammals, and cats, particularly outdoor cats, fit this category. Cats are about the same size as some of the coyote’s natural prey, such as rabbits and rodents.
  • Availability: In urban and suburban environments where coyotes have adapted to living in proximity to humans, cats can be readily available as a food source. Outdoor and feral cats can be especially vulnerable.
  • Hunting Behavior: Coyotes are skilled hunters with keen senses of smell, sight, and hearing. They may be attracted to the movement, scent, or sound of a cat, especially during periods of increased activity, such as dawn and dusk.
  • Territorial Behavior: A coyote is a territorial wild animal, and it may see cats, particularly outdoor cats, as intruders in their territory. This can lead to aggressive or predatory behavior.
  • Lack of Natural Predators: In some urban and suburban areas, coyotes may have fewer natural predators and may not face significant threats, allowing them to pursue a wider range of prey, including cats.

It’s important to understand that while coyotes may prey on cats, they are not specifically targeting cats as their primary food source. Their diet consists of a variety of animals, vegetation, and scavenged food. 

To reduce the risk to outdoor and feral cats, it’s advisable to keep cats indoors or provide a secure outdoor enclosure. 


Generally, a coyote can smell a cat from about 2 miles away, but the distance depends on a wide range of factors. For instance, the direction of the wind can blow the cat’s scent away, making it hard for the coyote to detect its cat. Other weather conditions that can affect the coyote’s smelling capabilities include air pressure, temperature, and humidity. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats fear a coyote?

Yes, after all, coyotes are known for hunting small animals, and cats are aware of this. In fact, they can smell coyotes from a distance.

Can wolf urine deter coyotes?

Yes, it can deter female coyotes more than the male ones.

How do coyote rollers keep them out of our compounds?

These rollers serve as a barrier that stops coyotes from jumping over fences. These rollers are usually mounted on the walls, making it hard for coyotes to jump over the fence.

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