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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


One possible contributor to the unusually high number of conflicts between coyotes (Canis latrans) and people in urban southern California, USA, may be the abundance of free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus; cats) subsidized by feeding and augmented by trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs. To determine if coyotes regularly prey on and consume cats, we combined visual and molecular-genetic approaches to identify prey items in stomachs of 311 coyotes from Los Angeles County and Orange County, provided to the South Coast Research and Extension Center, in Irvine, California, between June 2015 and December 2018. We detected cat remains in 35% of the stomachs of 245 coyotes with identifiable meals, making cats the most common mammalian prey item consumed and more common than reported previously. Using a geographic information systems approach, we then compared landscape characteristics associated with locations of coyotes that ate cats to public shelter records for TNR cat colonies. Cat-eating coyotes were associated with areas that were more intensively developed, had little natural or altered open space, and had higher building densities than coyotes that did not eat cats. Locations of TNR colonies had similar landscape characteristics. Coyotes associated with TNR colonies, and those that were euthanized (vs. road-killed), were also more likely to have consumed cats. The high frequency of cat remains in coyote diets and landscape characteristics associated with TNR colonies and cat-eating coyotes support the argument that high cat densities and associated supplemental feeding attracted coyotes. Effective mitigation of human–coyote conflicts may require prohibitions on outdoor feeding of free-roaming cats and wildlife and the elimination of TNR colonies.