Cats have always been avid hunters, especially when it comes to outdoor animals such as rabbits. When it comes to cats and rabbits, you might wonder why cats would attack rabbits in the first place. Cats mostly hunt rabbits for fun, but occasionally they take it too far. So that poses the question; do cats eat rabbits?
Yes, cats can eat rabbits. Cats have also been known to hunt and kill rabbits without eating them. Eating rabbits is unhealthy for cats and can result in contracting Tularemia.
The frequency of such hunting depends heavily on the cat itself, why it kills the rabbit, and the overall availability of rabbits in the cat’s area. Although it is considered normal predatory behavior for cats to eat rabbits, the details are not always clear to their human owners. What follows are some clarifications about the origins of such behavior, the specifics, the possible health ramifications, and how to try to prevent your cat from doing it.
Why Does My Cat Bring Me Dead Rabbits
People have debated for years about why cats bring their owner’s dead animals or mostly dead animals.
Some have theorized that it is the cat’s way of showing off to their owners, demonstrating their proficiency as seasoned hunters. This type of dead rabbit may have a few bites taken out of it from where the cat enjoyed its success. The boastful cat may want to receive an acknowledgment from their owner while saving the prize for later, as a treat.
Others speculate that the animal is a present, some way for the cat to thank their owner for feeding them in return.
Still, others think that the cat might be trying to teach humans how to hunt, similar to how they teach their kittens. Female cats, especially, may consider their human companions like family and want to contribute to the family food by hunting and bringing their kills. They may even bring partially alive animals, hoping their owners will take the initiative to finish the hunt.
So, you shouldn’t really treat dead rabbits that much differently. To the cat, it’s merely another successful hunting trip.
Why Do Cats Kill Rabbits
This can depend heavily on the cat’s situation.
For a well-fed kitty with a caring owner, the instinct for the hunt is the driving force behind the kill. However, there are plenty of pets who would only pursue the rabbit for the thrill of the chase since we know that cats enjoy playing with their prey and don’t always finish them off. Alternatively, the cat may only eat a small part of the rabbit, like the head, to celebrate the victory.
For a feral cat, possibly caring for a litter of kittens, the need for food to survive is the impetus. In this case, the cat will likely take the carcass to a place the cat considers safe from other predators and eat it. This is the cycle of life in action!
Can A Cat Bite Kill A Rabbit
Yes, a single bite is enough to kill a rabbit. The rabbit may escape the onslaught, but even if a cat does not manage to kill the rabbit immediately, a cat’s mouth has lots of bacteria in it. The bite will likely become infected and eventually kill the rabbit. Most of the time, unless someone intervenes, once a bite has been administered, the cat will continue to pursue the rabbit until it finishes the kill.
If you have intervened and separated your cat from its prey, the rabbit will need immediate medical attention. Depending on the rabbit’s physical state, you may be able to contain it and get it to a hospital safely. Not all vets accept rodents, but many emergency animal hospitals are equipped to handle rabbits. Be sure to check whether the hospital does beforehand to avoid needless trips.
What Do You Do If Your Cat Catches A Rabbit
If you find your cat involved in a hunt, attempt to distract or separate the cat. Offer a favorite treat or toy to entice the cat to come inside or, if it is safe, physically remove the cat from the situation to allow the rabbit to escape. If given a chance and uninjured, the rabbit will try to get away. If the rabbit is injured, once you have removed your cat, get a small cardboard box with a soft blanket or towel inside and take the rabbit to a vet.
If the cat is not yours and is possibly a feral cat, do not attempt to approach or capture the cat unless you have been trained to do so. This can be a huge safety hazard if the cat attacks you! Instead, call a wildlife service or distract the cat by throwing treats or food in the opposite direction of the rabbit and away from yourself. Some services trap feral cats and attempt to rehabilitate them, but it is not recommended that untrained people do so on their own.
If you know that your cat is tempted to engage in hunting behavior, consider keeping your cat indoors. There are many benefits, both to surrounding wildlife and your kitty, to keeping your cat inside. It is possible to transition an outside cat to being an inside cat. Your cat may enjoy being outside, but there are safe ways to supervise outdoor time. For example, a harness and leash could be used, or you could build an outdoor enclosure close to your house. These often have windows or mesh to allow the cat to smell and see outside without the cat hunting or escaping.
Can Cats Get Sick From Eating Rabbits
If you know your cat has recently killed a rabbit, there is a distinct possibility that he or she ate part of it. In that case, you should take your cat to the vet for a check-up, although you should do this regularly anyway if you allow your cat outside. In general, it is not recommended to let your cat wander around outside unsupervised for extended periods. Not just because of the diseases, your cat could pick up, but there are many larger predators and dangers that your cat could face.
In particular, one disease to watch out for after killing a rabbit is called Tularemia or “rabbit fever.” The infection is caused by insect bites, contaminated water, or, predominantly, through the consumption of an infected rodent. While unusual through most types of transmission, cats who eat rabbits, mice, and other rodents are at risk for contracting rabbit fever.
How To Check Your Cat For Tularemia
Tularemia generally causes high fever in your cat, and swollen lymph nodes in the head and neck, a painful abdomen, and the whites of the eyes can begin to turn yellow. Those temperatures can be unusually high, sometimes in excess of 106 degrees Farenheight. Unchecked, the disease eventually leads to organ failure and death. If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, you should immediately take it to the closest veterinarian!
In addition to your kitty’s well-being, it’s essential to know that you and other humans in your household are also at risk of Tularemia. If your cat is infected and it scratches or bites a person, they have been exposed and can easily catch it too. You’ll notice a blister around the bite or scratch in three to five days on average in a human. This is why Tularemia is a reported disease; it’s considered a public health risk.
Tularemia can be treated with proper veterinarian assistance as quickly as possible. It requires that your cat is hospitalized for aggressive therapy. To give your cat the best chance of success, you have to catch it as early as possible. Even if you don’t notice any of the symptoms, you must have your cat examined after the rabbit attack. Even with early diagnosis and treatment, the mortality rate for Tularemia is very high in cats.