UPDATED: Coyote suspected in deadly Fay Avenue cat attack


By Pat Sherman

What appeared to be the vivisected body of a brown and black cat was discovered on a residential lawn in the 7300 block of Fay Avenue this morning, in the vicinity of the Gillispie School.

Matt Doyle said his wife discovered the feline while walking to her car early this morning.

“It looked like the cat had just been cut in half,” he said. “It didn’t look like there had been any kind of struggle, just two halves of a cat thrown in our yard.

“My wife was pretty spooked by it,” Doyle said. “It’s quite a shocking way to start the day.”

Doyle said he initially thought the cat may have been the victim of animal cruelty. However, tufts of fur and drops of blood leading to a condominium complex next door made it appear that the cat may have been attacked there and dragged to his lawn by an animal, where it was partially eaten.

Dan DeSousa, deputy director with the San Diego County Department of Animal Services, said his agency’s veterinarian confirmed that the incident appeared to be a coyote attack.

“We put the top half and the bottom half together and can actually see teeth marks on the bones,” he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

DeSousa said cat killings, tortures and abductions are rare. In most cases, he said, the culprit turns out to be a coyote.

“I’ve seen coyotes walk out of downtown San Diego,” he said. “San Diego’s got little fingers of canyons throughout our communites and that’s what they use to get back and forth. Coyotes are a very adaptable species.”

Doyle said a police officer responding to the incident recently spotted coyotes on Nautilus Street.

Doyle said he kept his own cat indoors for a while after reading about a rash of missing black cats in the La Jolla Light last month, though the feline will now remain indoors permanently, he said.

Neighbor Bob Houston, whose wife also encountered the gruesome scene, said he never lets his two tabby cats, ages 15 and 7, outdoors, noting that the life expectancy for indoor cats is about 12 to 20 years, and about 5 or less for outdoor cats.

Three black and white cats belonging to La Jollans residing within a two-block radius in La Jolla’s Beach Barber Tract neighborhood went missing in May, as well as one pure black cat, which disappeared from Bird Rock in June.

DeSousa, with county department of animal services, adivses cat owners to keep their pets indoors.

“There’s coyotes everywhere,” he said, noting that they are a very opportunistic species. “They’ve lerned that it’s easier to catch cats and eat cat food or dog food left out overnight than to hunt for their natural prey, such as rabbits and rodents. They’re going to go wherever the for source is easiest. ... They’ll go into a trash can before they’ll hunt something down.”

DeSousa said that after such attacks, community members oftentimes ask animal control to track and kill a coyote, though he said that wouldn’t solve the problem. Instead people should make sure they are not leaving any potential food sources out for coyotes--including their own cats and small dogs.

“Coyotes are territorial,” he said. “Another one will simply move in. They’ve been here a lot longer than we have. We need to learn how to coexist.”

County animal control posts photos and descriptions of all the animals in its possession. To check the website, visit

  1. The San Diego County Human Society and SPCA also posts photo-descriptions of its animals. The website is