Coyotes may be to blame for missing, dead cats in St. Pete

After a string of disappearances some pet owners in St. Petersburg are keeping an extra eye on their animals.

One man suspects coyotes are to blame after his cat after was brutally attacked.

Multiple cats are missing from the same neighborhood and now residents are fearful their pets may have met the same fate.

You might not expect to see coyotes in a residential neighborhood, but James Preston has seen them on numerous occasions in the Eagle's Crest neighborhood.

Preston, who owns multiple cats, says his worst nightmare came true this week when he made a gruesome discovery.

"He loved to be around people. He was a very loving cat and to see a cat get destroyed by a coyote is a little disturbing," Preston told FOX 13 News.

He is still reeling from the unthinkable death of his beloved 1-year-old cat, Sam who he says was mauled to death by a coyote.

Sam’s remains were discovered in his neighbor's front yard.

"It's heartbreaking to see animals get killed by coyotes, which you wouldn't expect to be in a city," Preston said.

Sam may not be the first victim.

Preston discovered a second dead cat this week, not far from where his cat's remains were found.

At one time, Preston cared for about 16 cats, but in the last few days, four of them, including Sam, went missing.

He's now searching for the other three, fearful of what he might find.

"One was a female cat who was pregnant. She was home. She ate. She did what she had to do and she went outside and next thing I know we haven't seen her," Preston said.

Although coyotes aren't native to the sunshine state, there are plenty of them here. They've been spotted in every county in Florida.

They are about 2 feet tall and range from 20 to 35 pounds.

Attacks on humans are rare, but can happen. Small pets are most at risk. That's why Preston says he's now taking extra steps to protect his four-legged feline friends.

"Not just us, but for whoever is out here, has to keep their animals inside the house," Preston said.

That's what officials urge as the best protect pets; keep them indoors at all times.

When you have to take them out to go to the bathroom, be sure they're on a leash. Also, make sure you don't leave any pet food or trash outside where a coyote could get to it.

Most importantly, St. Petersburg officials say never, ever feed the coyotes.

If you see one, be sure to call animals services.