How to keep your dog safe

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Bonnie Hale saw a bobcat with a rabbit in its mouth come out of the bushes and into a storm drain near her client’s home in Plano early one morning. As a Grapevine-based pet detective, Hale helps people find their lost furry friends throughout North Texas. But what she hadn’t realized until that morning was that bobcats had figured out that traveling through storm drains protected them from humans as they sneaked into yards to look for prey.

Well done, bobcats.

The Bobcats have unwittingly terrorized North Texans for years as suburbs continue to move into their territory. Stories of companion dogs and outdoor cats being killed and eaten by them circulate in the media every year. Some opinions on the frequency of bobcat attacks differ, but these wild animals are a very common concern for pet owners in the region. And the intelligence of bobcats, as exhibited in their secret underground ways, makes it all the more difficult to protect our pets from them.

Not only does their intelligence help, but these carnivorous wildcats weigh between 11 and 30 pounds, according to National Geographic. They also stand 26 to 41 inches tall, with a tail length of 4 to 7 inches. To put that into perspective, bobcats can be about twice the size of your average house cat.

So what can you do to protect your beloved pets from these incredible predators? Here are some facts and tips about Hale’s bobcats.

“The truth is most people think, ‘Oh, [my pet has] been out for years. It will not arrive.’ Until it does,” Hale says. “All the warnings in the world [and] all the techniques that i haven’t seen save the lives of so many animals because people only act when something bad happens, in which case it’s too late.

Will a Bobcat attack a dog?

Yes. Bobcats attack dogs, and dogs under 30 pounds are most at risk. The best way to protect your small dog or pet from a bobcat attack is to stay with it. So if your dog needs to go potty in the yard, go with him. Bonnie Hale, a Grapevine-based pet sleuth, offers some additional tips below.

HHow common are Bobcat attacks in North Texas?

“Extremely common,” says Hale. “It really is a year-round problem.”

However, Hale notes that she sees a spike in bobcat predation during whelping or breeding season. Across the country, young bobcats can be born anywhere from March to July, according to Wildlife Damage Management.

Of course, bobcats don’t come to your yard just because of pets. They come looking for prey — rabbits, rats and snakes, Hale says. But as they have become more comfortable hunting in close proximity to humans, they often come across our pets.

Through her work, Hale has encountered hundreds of cases where a bobcat has killed someone’s pet.

Bobcat spotted in Plano, Texas. Photo by Stephanie Tann.

What size pets are most at risk?

This is NOT a good idea to fatten up your pet so it can tackle bobcats. But the bigger the animal, the safer it is. Hale says the pets most at risk are those under 30 pounds, and especially those under 20 pounds.

If you only have a big dog, you really have nothing to worry about. While a lynx might technically attack and seriously injure an animal over 30 pounds, he probably won’t.

“There’s too much size disparity,” says Hale. “They are looking for a meal, not a fight.”

Although your adorable golden retriever may not seem like a fighter, if a bobcat got into a fight, it would fight back. And bobcats can’t afford to fight. Unlike injured animals, which we take to the vet for antibiotic injections and treatment, a bobcat is alone and could easily die from an infected wound.

Bobcat in Plano, Texas. Photo by Stephanie Tann.

How can you prevent Bobcat attacks?

As The Jackson 5 once said, “I’ll be there.” And it’s actually something you can do to protect your little dog from a bobcat.

“The best thing you can do is be there with your pet,” Hale says. “[Bobcat attacks] almost never occur when humans are present.

Hale’s advice is that if you have a small dog, you should go out with him to go to the bathroom. This advice mainly applies at night when bobcats are most active. Some scientists consider bobcats to be nocturnal (most active at night), and others consider them crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk). Anyway, when it gets dark, bobcats can be out too.

When it comes to protecting your indoor/outdoor cat, Hale says she sees a spike in cases of once-thriving indoor and outdoor cats being suddenly killed by a bobcat when they reach the age of 10 to 12 years. Just like humans, cats age. And with age comes a decrease in agility, hearing, vision, as well as slower reaction times.

Hale encountered this problem with her own cat. She started bringing her cat indoors at night when he was older rather than letting him run outside. In true cat fashion, it was Great irritated. Naturally, Hale had to find a compromise to keep her cat from destroying her house in protest throughout the night.

So if your older cat still needs some time outside, try to only let him outside during the day. If he needs to spend time outdoors at night, just be sure to give him good hiding places. Hale says she also sees a spike in cases of once-thriving indoor/outdoor cats being suddenly killed by a bobcat when someone has had things like unwanted cars, sheds or bridges in their yard. who make the perfect cat hiding places and decide to pull them out.

“The cat can get to safety in a heartbeat if it’s present,” says Hale. “But someone will come in and suddenly decide, ‘Okay, we’re going to rip all this shitty stuff out. And now the cat has no hiding place.

You can even DIY your own “cat bunker,” as Hale calls them, out of cinder blocks. Hale says you would need about 10 cinder blocks to create an opening just big enough for you to stick your fist in and still allow your cat to hide inside.

One way to prevent bobcats that applies to both cats and dogs is to keep your pet in a properly fenced yard. While bobcats can scale a fence of just about any height, “the higher the fence, the better the protection,” says Hale. They prefer to jump a lower fence so they can see what’s inside first to make sure it’s safe.

Along with fences, Hale says keeping rats from living near your home is another way to keep bobcats away, since rodents make up a large part of their diet. And if you happen to have a big dog in addition to a small dog or cat, that’s protection in itself. Their size will usually scare a bobcat away.

Bobcat in Plano, Texas. Photo by Stephanie Tann.

What to do if you see a bobcat attacking your animal?

Hale stresses that the decision to intervene or not must be personal. You are the only one who can ultimately decide if you want to risk injury to save your pet. It is difficult to know what one would do in a dangerous situation. You might think you would jump in immediately, but your fight-or-flight response could cause you to freeze. One option is to start screaming and running in the direction of the bobcat or banging pots together or even sounding a horn. She says to do anything to make as much noise as possible to scare her.

Hale has seen pets survive bobcat attacks when their owner intervenes quickly enough. Typically, they are injured enough to need veterinary care, but some make it out alive simply due to human intervention.

If a bobcat bites or injures you, it’s essential not only to take your pet to the vet, but also to go to the hospital to make sure you don’t get an infection. Bobcats are wild animals, so exercise caution and caution. When in doubt, stay with your pet.

Wondering what other animals to see in Collin County and North Texas? Click here for our list of the 5 most dangerous creatures.

This article was originally published on May 5, 2021.

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