DOUGLAS PARK — For 13 years, Wally the cat was the king of the neighborhood.
“He was just mister stud cat,” said his owner, Kristin Rotblatt, who lives near Douglas Park just north of Wilshire Boulevard. “He was very sweet to us, but he never took any crap.”
Wally met his untimely death earlier this month — at the jaws of coyotes, Rotblatt suspects. She said her beloved pet had been missing for five or six days when a neighbor called her and said she found Wally’s body on her lawn.
“When I saw that cat and how he’d been killed, I knew it was a coyote,” Rotblatt said. “It was the same night that a white duck was killed by a coyote in the park. And my neighbor said she had heard a huge fight happen between a cat and coyotes in the bushes outside her window.”
Wally isn’t the first cat in recent memory to die in such a way.
Santa Monica Police Department Lt. P.J. Guido said animal control officers have been dispatched to pick up remains of cats eight times since July 21 of this year, mostly north of Wilshire and east of Fifth Street. Over 30 sightings have been reported in the last year.
While the numbers alone are not unusual citywide, Guido said, the attacks do represent “an increase,” especially in the area.
Guido emphasized that the attacks are “suspected” — not confirmed — coyote kills.
“There has not been one case where there was a sighting of a coyote attack upon a domestic animal,” he said.
In that situation, the only clues that coyotes were responsible come from the remains, which in the case of coyote kills are often distinguishable by decapitation or missing limbs.
Left in this partially-eaten state, the attacked felines usually die before they can be taken to veterinary hospitals.
That might explain why Santa Monica Dog and Cat Hospital veterinarian Carrie Bagshaw has not seen any cats come in with coyote-attack related injuries. Her own cat was eaten earlier this summer, however, in what she suspects was a coyote kill.
The police department is investigating the attacks and has stepped up patrols in the affected area, Guido said. He encouraged the community to do its part by keeping small domestic animals and their food inside or kenneled and securely fastening all trash cans.
George Wolfberg, president of the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association, said attacks in that area peaked around a year ago. Despite occasional howling or sightings, he hasn’t heard of an attack happening in the neighborhood in almost three months.
“We put out some comprehensive information reminding people not to leave food out for pets — or leave their pets out as food,” Wolfberg said. He recommends that other homeowners do the same.
Rotblatt said Wally spent nights outside all his life and never had a problem. Still, in the weeks before his death, rumors of coyote kills gave her pause.
“I had been making him stay in every night,” she said. “But that night I let him out — against my better judgment.”
Wally’s ability to hold his own with the family’s 115-pound lab made Rotblatt think he could handle anything. Now, she’s changed her mind.
“I don’t think anyone with any cat should allow them to be outside at night,” she said. “And small dogs. If you have a short fence, those coyotes can jump right across.”
Even in her grief, Rotblatt understands the age-old cycle her cat’s death fits into.
“It’s a sad situation, but I don’t have any ill will against these coyotes,” she said. “They’re hungry and trying to survive.”