Regarding alternatives to firearms for defense against cougar attack, it's tough to shoot something you can't see
Montana Fish, WIldife & Parks biologist Gary Olson quote regarding cougars: "Luckily, if you can see them, you'll probably be okay. It's when you can't see them and the animal means business that you're really in trouble."
(Olson makes this observation due to cougars' stalk & ambush killing method.)
Also, regarding effectiveness of firearms as self defense against bears, here's a relevant quote from US Fish & Wildlife service:
"[Investigations by ] Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of human-bear encounters since 1992 [show that] persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time.
During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time, and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.
Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a personís chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used."
For source of Olson quote seehttp://books.google.com/books?id=TE83Qfs...k+surprise#PPA9
Ask Olson questions at http://fwp.mt.gov/contact/direct.aspx?id=581035
For source of FWS quote, find PDF at www.r6.fws.gov