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Can Cats Kill Squirrels?

Published September 13, 2022
Can Cats Kill Squirrels?

If you have many squirrels in your area, you might wonder whether cats can kill squirrels.

Squirrels aren’t the best meat source or easiest prey for cats, so you don’t have to worry about squirrels as much as mice or birds.

However, cats are instinctual predators and might attack squirrels if they have an opportunity. No cat can resist the thrill to chase a smaller mammal, even your well-fed domestic cat.

Hunting is an excellent physical activity for cats, allowing them to release excess energy, but you should be aware of the risks of eating wildlife for cats and take action to prevent it.

Learn how to keep a cat from hunting squirrels to prevent your pet from contracting diseases or receiving severe injuries.

Cats Are Natural-Born Hunters

Cats are natural-born hunters because their survival depends on how well they can chase prey. Cats cannot survive on an omnivore diet, feeding veggies and oats – they need animal protein.

Typically, cats hunt small rodents like mice and birds. Occasionally, a hungry stray cat fighting for survival will attack a larger animal like a rat, but such cases aren’t as common as you might think.

Cats are intelligent creatures who always assess their odds of winning a chase. Most felines won’t attack a squirrel because it isn’t the easiest prey, and they need to save energy for future hunts.

Some cats, however, might hunt squirrels as part of a play or if there is no other food source. Although stray cats are more likely to chase and kill squirrels, house cats, too, have hunting instincts and are likely to get interested in these small mammals.

Naturally, hunting is more crucial for stray cats who don’t have caring owners to provide for them and rely on their claws and teeth for survival. But domestic cats, too, might try out their skills chasing a squirrel up a tree.

Whether a cat will attack a squirrel also depends on its personality and age. A young, strong, confident, and courageous cat enjoying challenges is likely to do it, but not an old, sick, or naturally shy cat.

Squirrels Are Fast and Agile

Cats hunt and kill squirrels; that’s a fact. However, they aren’t as good at killing squirrels. Squirrels are fast and agile creatures that are good at climbing trees and have sharp teeth to break nuts.

Squirrels also have sharp claws on their tiny feet. Not many know, but squirrel feet can turn 180 degrees, allowing them to quickly scurry up the nearest elevation to scape.

A threatened squirrel will also flick its puffed-up tail to distract a predator. In fact, when the predator catches the squirrel, its tail will break off, allowing it to escape death.

Some squirrels will also make rattlesnake-like sounds to scare the offender. In other words, squirrels have many defense mechanisms to protect them from cats and other predators.

Even if we find squirrels irresistibly cute, many cats will find a creature with sharp claws and teeth and flicking tail, making rattling sounds, rather terrifying.

And while cats, too, are fast and agile, they are nowhere as good climbers as squirrels. A cat can quickly climb up a tree, but not down.

As a result, squirrels aren’t easy prey for cats. Even worse, squirrels can fight back if a cat catches it, leaving severe bite marks and scratches that might get infected.

Will a Cat Eat a Squirrel?

Contrary to popular misconception, cats don’t always hunt for food. Sometimes, felines hunt for sport, particularly house cats that don’t rely on their hunting skills for survival and get food from caring owners.

Hunting is an excellent physical activity to stay fit and mental stimulation. Chasing a squirrel is much more enriching than chasing a toy mouse for a cat. So, a house cat is likely to chase a squirrel when playing.

Furthermore, squirrels aren’t a good source of meat. They are lean and have a lot of hair. If a domestic cat decides to chase a squirrel and manages to kill it, it will likely play with it and leave it there without eating.

Because catching a squirrel takes so much effort, a cat is likely to be frustrated by the time it achieves success, biting the squirrel violently, but not eating it entirely.

Stray cats are more likely to hunt for food because they need to survive. However, most stray acts are scavengers eating scarps that are much easier to find than fresh meat.

When stray cats hunt, they typically target the easiest prey like mice or pigeons, or whichever animal is most common in the area at the time of the year. Therefore, stray cats are more likely to attack squirrels in woody urban areas.

If s stray cat kills a squirrel, even for fun, it is likely to eat it because stray cats value food more than domestic ones. They won’t leave the source of meat on the ground without purpose.

Risks of Cats Hunting Squirrels

If your cat hunts squirrels, learn about the risks of eating squirrel meat and otherwise interacting with these seemingly cute animals.

The primary risk associated with hunting squirrels is injuries. Squirrel claws and teeth can leave scratches and bite marks on the cat’s skin that can easily become infected because they are deep.

Experienced stray cats might know to finish off a squirrel quickly because it will fight back, but domestic cats may not know how to do it and get severe damage.

Another risk of hunting squirrels for cats is poisoning. Squirrels sometimes consume poison intended for rodents and continue running around for several days afterward. If a cat eats such a squirrel, it might die or become severely sick.

Squirrel bones are a choking hazard, particularly for domestic cats who aren’t used to chewing bones. Squirrels might carry many diseases that can transmit to cats and, sometimes, even humans.

Diseases transmitted by squirrels include rabies, leptospirosis, tularemia, salmonellosis, Lyme disease, and plague. Vaccinations are crucial to prevent your cat from contracting these conditions.

Everyone is familiar with rabies, but leptospirosis is no less nasty disease. It affects all mammals, including humans, and causes organ failure leading to death.

Tularemia is another terrifying condition causing high fever, jaundice, painful lymph nodes, and organ failure. Lets’ not even get started on plague – it kills pets extremely fast.

Lastly, squirrels can transmit parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms, leading to severe illness. If your cat is regularly hunting squirrels, check its body for any scratch or bite marks after every walk and disinfect them if necessary.

Then, bring your cat to a vet for a blood count to rule out the possibility of dangerous diseases like rabies.

How to Prevent a Cat from Killing Squirrels

Now that you know about the risks of cats eating squirrels, you might wonder how to prevent a cat from hunting wildlife. The best way to do so is to get your cat a bell collar that will alert animals your cat’s approaching.

Once squirrels in the area will hear the bell ringing, they will run away, leaving your cat no chance to catch them. However, many cats find bells annoying and try to rip them off. Furthermore, the bell might get caught on to something.

Bird bibs are an excellent alternative to cat bell collars. Bibs are made from colorful fabric visible from a distance but not distracting the cat with noise. Plus, bibs are softer and feel more comfortable on the neck.

You should also ensure that your cat gets enough mental and physical enrichment at home to keep its instincts at bay. A tired cat is less likely to run for challenging prey.

Assess your cat’s diet. If your cat frequently hunts wildlife, it either has powerful instincts or doesn’t receive all the necessary nutrients at home.

Lastly, consider building an enclosure if you have a garden for your act to enjoy fresh air without escaping. In any case, keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date and regularly treat it for parasites if you allow it to walk outdoors.

Can Cats and Squirrels Get Along?

If you have a squirrel regularly coming to your backyard or a pet squirrel, you might wonder whether cats and squirrels can get along. Although this is unlikely, some cats indeed can become friends with squirrels.

In the wild, a cat will inevitably perceive a squirrel as prey, no matter how frequently they encounter each other. But if you have a pet squirrel, you can teach your pets to get along or at least ignore each other.

Introduction plays a crucial role. Take things slowly, gradually increasing the time your pets spend together and decreasing the distance. Pay attention to both pets’ reactions and separate them when you notice signs of anxiety or aggression.

Still, even if you manage to train your cat not to attack the squirrel, you must keep them separate whenever you can’t supervise them. All cats are hunters at heart and might attack a smaller pet when owners aren’t home.