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Do Cats Eat Squirrels? Is It Healthy for Them?

Cats are quirky animals, and you never know what they are going to do next. They don’t tend to follow the pack or do what we humans want them to do. So, even when we do provide our kitties with an abundantly nutritional diet, since all cats have a predatory instinct, they may decide to go off on their own and kill prey to eat as a snack. It may be a surprise to learn what kinds of animals a cat will hunt and eat.

For instance, cats can and do hunt and eat squirrels. The practice isn’t common, but it does happen when the opportunity presents itself. So, is it healthy for cats to eat squirrels? Let’s explore to the answer to that question and more here.

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Is It Safe for Cats to Chase and Kill Squirrels?

Cats can and will chase a squirrel whenever they get the chance. However, doing so can be dangerous. Squirrels have sharp nails and teeth, and they can easily injure a cat that is attacking them. That said, cats are larger, stronger, and usually quicker than squirrels when a fight ensues, so they typically win in the end.

Also, wild squirrels can carry dangerous diseases that could infect your cat during a fight. Diseases that can be passed on from squirrels to humans and cats include:

  • Lyme Disease — This can result in symptoms such as headaches, arthritis, fatigue, and even heart palpitations. The disease can be successfully treated if caught early.
  • Tularemia — Symptoms of this disease include fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and painful skin ulcers. Antibiotics typically cure the disease.
  • Rabies — While it’s rare for squirrels to transmit rabies to humans, they can more easily do so to cats. Symptoms include headache, fever, insomnia, and paralysis. If you suspect that a wild squirrel has bitten your cat, you should have them tested for rabies as soon as possible.
  • Salmonellosis — Squirrels can become infected with salmonella bacteria when eating rotten food from garbage cans, and they can pass the disease on to your cat if they fight or kill and eat the squirrel. Signs of salmonella disease include vomiting, intestinal discomfort, and diarrhea. Hydration is a main component of treatment.
black cat chasing squirrel
Image Credit: James Sakaguchi, Shutterstock

Therefore, it’s not a good idea to allow your cat to chase squirrels if you can help it. But if your cat does happen to catch a squirrel and eat it, don’t panic. Call your veterinarian to find out whether you should schedule a checkup appointment. They will let you know what signs and symptoms to look for that could indicate a serious problem and the need for immediate attention.

Is Eating Squirrels Healthy for Cats?

In addition to possibly being exposed to various diseases and getting injured during the fight, there are other reasons that eating squirrels may not be healthy for cats. For instance, the bones of the squirrel could get lodged in a cat’s throat and cause them to choke. If the stuck bone does not dislodge, it can cause death.

But it is also important to note that there are certain benefits if your cat eats a squirrel. First, catching a squirrel requires exerting energy, which is sure to provide your kitty with great exercise. Second, eating squirrels can help fill in any nutritional gaps that might be present in your furry family member’s diet. However, these benefits don’t usually outweigh the risks for domesticated cats that live in household settings.

cat captured a red squirrel
Image Credit: Florian Levassort, Shutterstock

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What Is a Cat’s Typical Diet?

As carnivores, cats require animal protein as the main staple in their diet. Wild and stray cats tend to hunt down rats, mice, birds, and other small mammals. They might even catch a squirrel now and again. But domesticated pet cats rely on their human companions to provide them with the food that they need to not only survive but also thrive and maintain a high quality of life. High-quality commercial cat food that includes real meat like chicken, beef, and even fish should provide your kitty with the nutrients that they need for good health.

persian cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

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In Conclusion

Cats can eat squirrels but it could be dangerous for them. The more squirrels that a cat eats, the more susceptible they are to the dangers of doing so, like contracting a disease. Fortunately, most pet cats have plenty to eat at home, and after chasing things like spiders, cockroaches, and mice, they don’t have much interest in trying to take down squirrels.

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Featured Image: NadyGinzburg, Shutterstock

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