DEAR JOAN: Two days ago, a mountain lion was seen about 150 yards from our house about 4 pm
We have two outdoor cats, and we are concerned for their safety at nighttime. This is a very rural area. I have been leaving our large outdoor yard light on at night, hoping to scare the mountain lion away, but am I only helping it find the cats?
Any suggestions on keeping the cats safe? They are basically free-roaming barn cats that cannot be confined.
Mike Bernal, Morgan Hill
DEAR MIKE: As anyone who reads my column regularly knows, I tend to lecture quite a bit on the importance of keeping cats indoors, especially at night when the dangers to them increases.
I’m going to spare you the soap box lecture, because these are barn cats, which have a job to do. However, they still need a place where they can shelter from the weather and predators. If you don’t already have this for them, you should look into getting it.
As dangers go, mountain lions don’t pose a huge risk to the cats. They will hunt small animals, including cats, but they tend to go after larger prey. Coyotes, on the other hand, will stalk, capture and eat cats, so there’s that to be concerned about.
Keeping mountain lions away from your home is a good idea whether or not you have outside cats. Leaving your lights on could help deter the cougars, but installing motion activated lights, sprinklers or alarms is even better. That’s because while mountain lions rely on stealth to catch their prey by surprise, they don’t like to be surprised themselves and tend to be wary of anything that’s unpredictable.
Installing motion-activated devices or using timers on deterrents will make it more difficult for the mountain lion to figure out your yard.
Electrified fencing is also a deterrent, but you risk shocking your own cats. Removing brush and places of concealment for the cougars will also make your yard less welcoming.
DEAR JOAN: Settle a bet with my friend. Do cats always land on their feet?
Jordan, Reno, Nevada
DEAR JORDAN: Don’t you guys have enough gambling in Nevada without drawing cats into it?
I’m not sure my answer will settle anything, but cats usually land on their feet. They have superfast reflexes that allow them to spin around and land feet first. If you watched them in slow motion, you’d see the cat’s body twist and its head lock into place as the cat sights the landing spot.
It’s a qualified “always” because it depends on the cat. Please don’t try dropping cats to find out — they can be injured.
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