It’s easy to overlook the fact that our lovely cuddly cats are ferocious predators with a strong desire to hunt.
And, while this drive can be immensely rewarding when directed at the latest toy or a shoelace, it can be disastrous when we’re seeking to form a vast hairy interspecies pet family!
Cats are known to hunt mice and rats, but what about other small animals like rabbits?
Do cats hunt or eat rabbits?
Cats have been observed hunting and eating rabbits, but this does not preclude them from coexisting in the same home with correct introductions. Even so, if your cat sees a wild rabbit outside the house, they will almost certainly try to grab it.
It all boils down to context, and there are many variables to consider. There are obvious distinctions between hunting and devouring rabbits, so let us go a little deeper to try to understand what inspires our carnivorous felines.
Your Cat Is A Carnivore
Carnivores are felines. But not just any carnivore; cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must consume meat in order to obtain all of their nutrition. That means animal-based meats aren’t just a necessary part of your cat’s diet; they’re crucial.
Cat chow, as a result, comprises a variety of animal proteins, including rabbit. Merrick’s Backcountry cat food is one of the most popular rabbit-based cat foods, and you can read my full review here if you’re interested.
Okay, so cats can eat rabbits in cat food, but what about hunting? What motivates cats to seek, pursue, and even eat rabbits?
Understanding Prey Drive
When your cat attacks a piece of string, nibbles your hair, or chases down anything dangling, you’ve undoubtedly seen it hundreds of times. Typically, the movement of whatever they’re hunting gets them moving!
When it comes to rabbits, if one approaches a cat calmly, there’s a good chance your cat’s hunting instinct will not be activated. Consider this photo of a young Pylon the orange rabbit meeting Ari the cat.
Pylon the rabbit is calm and confident, whereas Ari lacks a strong prey drive. As a result, these two are fantastic friends! Keep in mind that context is everything!
Cats are naturally skilled hunters who love exercising this expertise, in addition to being obligate carnivores.
You’ve most likely seen your cat stalk and pounce on its toys. This is because cats don’t just kill for food; they also kill for entertainment. Cats adore hunting and killing and are extremely skilled at it.
You can bet that if a cat sees an opportunity to hunt a huge, defenceless mammal like a rabbit, it will grasp it.
That isn’t to say that every cat will attack every rabbit it sees, but if you have a large cat around and it spots an unattended bunny, it’s open season.
Do Cats Normally Hunt Wild Rabbits?
Cats are known for hunting small rodents and birds, but they will also hunt rabbits.
It’s important to note that the study only looked at wild cats, who are the unsocialized equivalent of your domestic cat. So there’s no reason to believe that if your happy house cat goes outside, they won’t go rabbit hunting.
In another study, small cameras were implanted in house cats to learn more about what they do when they’re out and about.
One of the most surprising results was that cats enjoyed hunting even when they were well fed, and that they did not swallow 70% of what they killed.
While our cats may look to be miniature maniacs, it is this desire to hunt that has made cats such excellent mousers throughout the years, even when they are not hungry!
Is It Safe For Cats To Eat Wild Rabbits?
With all of this information on cats hunting and devouring rabbits, it may appear like allowing it to happen is acceptable, right?
Probably not. This is because of tularemia, a rare but potentially fatal disease transferred by rabbits to cats.
According to VCA Veterinary Hospitals, tularemia creates “tumor-like masses and abscesses in the infected animal’s liver” and is most commonly disseminated when a cat eats contaminated organs.
Worse, according to VCA Hospitals, tularemia can be fatal in cats, and “tularemia can be healed, but it requires active treatment, including hospitalization with good supportive care” (e.g., intravenous fluid therapy and antibiotics).
IMMEDIATE ACTION is essential for successful therapy. Even with quick diagnosis and treatment, tularemia in cats has a high fatality rate.”
As if it weren’t enough…
Tularemia in cats begins with swollen, painful lymph nodes in the head and neck, as well as fever.
Unfortunately, many infections present the same early symptoms, so if your cat has eaten rabbits (or you suspect they have), consult your veterinarian for the following treatment options.
Will a Cat Bite Kill a Rabbit?
Cats have a venomous bite. You’ll be fine because of your size, but smaller animals like rabbits would suffer greatly as a result of a cat bite. Cat saliva also contains germs capable of infecting rabbits.
Even if the rabbit does not die immediately as a result of the severity of the wounds and bacterial infection, it will almost definitely die soon after.
Why Do Cats Kill Rabbits
This is very depending on the state of the cat.
For a well-fed kitten with a caring owner, the drive to hunt is the driving force behind the kill.
However, because cats enjoy playing with their prey and do not necessarily kill them, many pets will chase the rabbit simply for the fun of the chase. To commemorate the victory, the cat may consume only a small section of the rabbit, such as the head.
A feral cat, who may be caring for a litter of kittens, is motivated by the need for food. In this case, the cat will most likely transport the carcass away from other predators and consume it. This is the life cycle at work!
Dangers of Eating Rabbits for Cats
Just because a cat can eat a rabbit does not mean it should. Tularemia is extremely frequent in rabbits.
This regularly kills large populations of rabbits and rats, but it can also be hazardous to your cat. Human hunters can test rabbits for tularemia, but cats cannot.
How to Keep Rabbits Safe from Cats
Cats, on the other hand, can pose a threat to rabbits in captivity. If you are concerned about the safety of your rabbit, you should build a cat-proof enclosure for it.
What Do You Do If Your Cat Catches A Rabbit
If you come across your cat hunting, try to distract or separate the cat. To entice the cat inside, offer a favourite food or toy, or physically remove the cat from the position, allowing the rabbit to escape.
If given the chance and not hurt, the rabbit will try to run. After you’ve freed your cat, get a little cardboard box and a lovely blanket or towel to bring the rabbit to the clinic.
If the cat is not yours and is most likely wild, do not approach or trap it unless taught to do so. If the cat attacks you, it might be very deadly!
Instead, contact a wildlife agency or redirect the cat’s attention away from yourself by tossing treats or food in the rabbit’s direction.
Some services trap and rehabilitate feral cats, however it is not recommended that inexperienced persons do so on their own. Consider keeping your cat indoors if you know he or she is prone to hunting behaviour.
Keeping your cat indoors offers various benefits for both the local wildlife and your cat. An outside cat can be converted to an inside cat. Your cat may enjoy going outside, but there are precautions you can take to keep him safe.
You may use a harness and leash, or you could build an outdoor enclosure near your house. These are typically equipped with windows or mesh to allow the cat to smell and see outside while not hunting or escaping.
Do Domestic Rabbits and Cats Get Along?
While cats have a natural drive to chase wild rabbits, a lot can change inside the home for domestic cats and rabbits.
So, how do cats and bunnies get along?
“A cat who lives with a house rabbit may still hunt and chase a rabbit he meets outside,” the House Rabbit Society states. Environmental cues would set off the instinct.
In fact, if they happen to cross paths outside, he might even follow his own rabbit-friend.” This is critical to understand since it stresses the significance of context in the feline/rabbit link!
It also implies that, for the most part, cats will not attack rabbits until their hunting instinct is stimulated. But that doesn’t mean you can let up on your guard. A cat’s prey drive is a powerful force, and a few moments can leave both participants injured.
How To Introduce Rabbits and Cats (Without Anyone Getting Eaten)
One of the most important factors to consider is that your rabbit and cat meet as cuddly housemates rather than predator and prey. This includes keeping your rabbit from bolting and triggering your cat’s hunting drive.
One of the most secure places to start is in your rabbit’s hutch or cage. That way, the two furry potential friends can get to know each other without feeling threatened.
Allow them to meet gradually, ideally on neutral territory within the home with no boundaries between them. Don’t rush and take your time.
Your rabbit and cat will discover how to create their own social structure that works for them, resulting in a happy and quiet home!
Can Cats Get Sick From Eating Rabbits
If you know your cat just killed a rabbit, chances are he or she ate some of it. In that case, you should take your cat to the veterinarian for a check-up, which you should do on a regular basis if your cat is permitted outside.
It’s not a good idea to leave your cat outside alone for long periods of time. Not only because of the diseases that your cat may catch, but also because your cat may come into contact with a variety of larger predators and threats.
Tularemia, sometimes known as “rabbit fever,” is one condition to be aware of after butchering a rabbit. Infection can occur as a result of insect bites, contaminated water, or—more frequently—the consumption of an infected rodent.
Cats who eat rabbits, mice, and other rodents are at risk of contracting rabbit fever, which is uncommon in most cases of transmission.
How To Check Your Cat For Tularemia
Usually, a cat with tularemia will have a high fever, swollen lymph nodes in the head and neck, a sore abdomen, and the whites of its eyes will turn yellow.Temperatures can reach extremely high levels, often topping 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition to your cat’s health, you and other humans in your family are at risk of contracting Tularemia.
If your cat has the virus and scratches or attacks someone, they have been exposed to it and can easily catch it.
A blister around a bite or scrape will emerge in a human in three to five days on average. Tularemia is a recognized disease since it endangers public health.
Tularemia can be treated as soon as possible with the help of a veterinarian. Your cat will need to be hospitalized for aggressive therapy. Catch your cat as quickly as possible to give it the best chance of survival.
Even if you don’t notice any of the symptoms, you should have your cat examined after the rabbit attack. Even with early discovery and treatment, Tularemia in cats has a significant fatality rate.
Cats will kill and eat a broad variety of small animals, including mice, birds, and even rabbits. In reality, a cat may kill a rabbit with no intention of eating it. Because it is in their nature, cats adore hunting and killing.
If you have a pet cat, try to keep it away from rabbits so it doesn’t get tularemia. Make sure your rabbit is safe from neighbourhood cats by keeping it in a cat-proof enclosure.
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