We’ve all seen a cat slowly stalking its prey. Whether they are inside the home and in pursuit of a mouse that’s slipped in or outdoors hunting for a bird or rodent in the high grass, a cat’s hunting skill cannot be denied. This is especially true when the prey is small and quick.
While we may want to think of our precious felines as nothing more than furry companions to spend our days with, they are cunning hunters who enjoy the chase and relish in their victories when they happen. Realizing this leaves many cat owners wondering how far their cat will go and what prey they are willing to take down.
If your cat spends time outdoors, you may have seen them eyeing local wildlife such as rabbits. While you may want to keep the fairytale image of your kitty intact, in the back of your mind you may be curious as to whether cats can eat rabbits and if so, is it healthy for them. Cats can eat rabbits, but due to the risk of disease, you should try to prevent this. Let’s dive into your cat’s world and discover more about these small hunting machines so you can be prepared when your cat brings home one of these hopping creatures.
Why Do Cats Hunt?
Cats are obligate carnivores. While house cats may be content with the food you put in their bowl, unless they’re picky divas who demand only the best, they derive their nutrition from meat. Unlike dogs, who enjoy dog foods with meat, veggies, and even potatoes, cats don’t require plant matter and most steer clear of it when it’s offered to them.
The need for this meat is one of the reasons your cat catches mice, squirrels, and even rabbits in the backyard. Whether they are domesticated and living their best life with the most expensive cat foods, the need for meat is still alive and well in them.
While they may take up space on the edge of the bed or their cat perch lounging in the sun throughout most of the day, don’t be fooled by your kitty. They are still amazing hunters who enjoy chasing prey. Cats will exhibit this when playing with their toys, their humans, and especially small prey that makes its way into the house or backyard.
The big question in the back of your mind right now is why does my cat need to hunt if I keep them fed well? While it may be disturbing to hear, the answer is quite simple. Cats like it. The hunt allows them to exercise and show off their abilities. It may not happen each time your cat comes into contact with a smaller animal, but don’t be surprised when a rabbit enters your cat’s domain and kitty decides it’s time to show off what comes naturally.
Will a Cat Eat a Rabbit?
You may not want to hear this, it’s in their feline nature. They are known for hunting animals, even bunnies, for fun and not as a necessity. In most situations, a cat that is well fed and taken care of won’t take the time to eat a rabbit after they’ve killed it. Normally, they will play with their prey until it passes then leave it be. Sometimes, they will even bring the rabbit, rodent, or other creature to their owners to show what they’ve done and try to teach us proper hunting techniques for when we’re playing in the backyard.
While house cats may not be big on eating the animals they kill, this doesn’t mean every cat is the same way. Feral and wild cats hunt for the food they need to survive. Your house cat may partake on occasion but these kitties do it to live. If you witness a cute cat enjoying a meal on a woodland creature it may be upsetting but it’s expected. They are natural hunters who’ll kill for both sport and survival.
Is Eating Rabbit Dangerous for Cats?
Like with any animal, rabbits can carry diseases. Tularemia is an illness known to kill large amounts of rabbits and rodents. While human hunters can inspect rabbits they kill for signs of this disease, cats aren’t so lucky. Tularemia doesn’t only affect rodents and rabbits, unfortunately, and can be quite serious to your cat if they eat a rabbit that is suffering from it.
What If You Have a Pet Rabbit?
It doesn’t matter to a cat whether the rabbit they encounter is a pet or a wild rabbit. All they see is prey. For most kitties, their instincts will kick in and they will be ready to stalk, hunt, and potentially kill the rabbit in question. This can be difficult for pet parents who have both cats and rabbits.
To help with this, and protect your rabbit from several other animals who’d enjoy a quick meal, it’s best to build them a safe enclosure to play in. Metal fencing can keep a cat at bay. It’s hard for their teeth and claws to penetrate it to reach the rabbit. According to your area and other potential animals your rabbit may encounter, your fencing may need to be more elaborate. Animals, especially cats, are great jumpers. Keep this in mind if you’re hoping to protect a rabbit from the rest of the world.
Cats will hunt, kill, and potentially eat any small animal they encounter. This includes rabbits. It’s in their nature. With disease possible, it may be best if you try to prevent your kitty from eating a rabbit they catch. The best way to prevent this is to keep your cat indoors only or only allow supervised outdoor time. Other than that, you can invest in enriching cat toys that stimulate hunting prey. However, if your cat does get outside don’t be surprised when a freshly caught rabbit, dead or alive, shows up on your back doorstep. It’s just your cat’s way of taking care of you.
Featured Image Credit: tdfugere, Pixabay