Can Cats Kill Snakes?


BetterWithCats.net may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.
Can Cats Kill Snakes

Cats are natural hunters, even if it doesn’t always seem like it, and if a suspicious movement catches their attention, they’ll most likely go out of their way to investigate it and catch the possible prey!

If you have an indoor kitty then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see them hunting for snakes, unless you live in Australia. But outdoor cats can easily catch all sorts of critters, so what about snakes?

Can cats kill snakes? Since cats love to hunt for wriggling and slithering creatures, most are agile and smart enough to catch, kill and even eat snakes. This doesn’t mean that they can keep snakes away from entering your yard, and a snake encounter can result in your kitty becoming sick.

If you want to know whether cats can keep snakes away from your yard, and how safe it is then let’s dive right in!

Can Cats Kill Snakes?

It’s difficult to imagine my cats as exceptional hunters because they’ve lived most of their lives indoors, and apart from the short bursts of play/hunt activity they spend most of their day sleeping on my lap. But cats are skilled hunters, a title they carried with pride way before they were domesticated and after.

For this reason, they were often hired on ships and farms as mousers and for the overall pest control.

If you have an outdoor cat or you’ve got a group of cats living on your farm or property then finding dead animals at your doorstep might not come as a surprise, but as proof that they’re doing a good job. Rodents and birds are common prey for cats, but what about snakes, could they ever catch these silent slithering creatures? Well, the simple answer is yes, but things are never as simple as that.

Cats use different hunting techniques to get to their prey. If they’ve spotted an unsuspected creature going about their day, they’ll try to ambush it, by crouching so they stay hidden and leap and claim their prey when the moment is right.

In some cases, they’ll stalk their prey, stopping a few times while they approach so as to not alert the unsuspected animal and once they are at a striking distance they will leap and seize it.

With snakes, both strategies can work, and cats will make sure to use their deadly claws and teeth to kill the snake in question. If the snake tries to retaliate cats are also capable of jumping up and away from the sudden strike, especially if they’re familiar with snakes. Cats that have never encountered a snake before might have more difficulty, catching and killing snakes and most importantly avoiding a snake’s retaliation bite.

While cats love to hunt, not all kitties will try to kill a snake, or even bother hunting it. Some might play around with snakes, batting at them and chasing after them, without ever striking a killer blow. So, while all cats have the potential to kill snakes, not all cats have the opportunities or drive to do it.

Do Cats Have Faster Reflexes Than Snakes?

Cats are skilled hunters not only because of the techniques they adapt and learn from their mothers but also of how their bodies are built. They have an incredible musculoskeletal system, with a light but sturdy bone structure and lithe muscles they can have sudden bursts of speed and dexterous agility.

This agility offers them incredible speed when they’re swatting but it also enhances their reflexes. Even when it comes to avoiding a snake strike, they can jump so fast and so high that it will be hard for most snakes to reach them.

Cornell Center for Materials Research explains that “from a sitting start, they can spring up to nine times their height, and they can narrow their shoulders and chest to squeeze through almost impossibly tight spaces. In an eye’s blink, they can right themselves in midair and land on their feet and make sudden changes in direction while pursuing and capturing prey.”

This flexibility and agility help cats achieve better reflexes than most snakes. But cats will also make sure to have a perfect approach when they see a snake. They will stalk and circle their prey, and this can make it hard for snakes to escape. Cats will also swat and jump or move back to avoid any attack.

Just look at this cat that can deflect the snake’s strikes with his paw!

Of course, not all cats are the same, but their calculated strikes, cautiousness, and great reflexes help them avoid attacks and deal a killing blow to most snakes.

They’ll also try to tire their prey and make it weak as they keep batting for a long time until they decide to use their jaws that are incredibly strong. According to studies their relatively strong bite force is influenced by their overall body mass, and the fact that they go after smaller prey like snakes makes the bite even deadlier.

So, it’s not just their reflexes, but the way their body is built and the techniques they use that make most cats faster than snakes.

How Can Cats Keep Snakes Away?

With the hunting skills our cats process they should be able to keep snakes away, and while plenty of cats can, there are those that are simply not interested or not as good at it.

A study suggests that “cats can exhibit individual, or between-phenotype, variation in hunting behavior, and continue to hunt specific prey types even when these prey become scarce.” So, if your kitty has an eye for snakes they will hunt them down every time they get an opportunity, but if they prefer other kinds of prey, they will avoid snakes.

Nonetheless, there are certain things about cats that can help keep snakes away, intentionally and not.

The Smell Of Urine

Outdoors cats, especially those who haven’t been neutered or spayed will mark their territory. Debra Horwitz, DVM, explains that “cats will mark their territory to signal “ownership” and to advertise sexual receptivity and availability.”

But as researchers have discovered the smell of urine can also inform certain prey like mice that there’s a predator nearby. The smell of cat urine may also dissuade snakes from staying around, but there’s not enough data to support it. Nonetheless, the strong smell of ammonia in urine can give snakes certain information about the environment they’re entering, which could keep them away.

Food Competition

The best method cats can use to keep snakes from entering their domain is by being good hunters, but not necessarily to hunt snakes, but other small prey. You see similarly to cats, snakes are carnivores, and they usually eat other reptiles, rodents, birds, and rabbits, basically what cats go for.

Having similar tastes cats and snakes are in fact, food competitors. If you have an outdoor kitty that can freely hunt, then they’ll most likely act as pest control making the area less heavily populated with prey.

That alone can make snakes less interested in staying in your yard or area, and they’ll move on to a place where they don’t have to share their prey with cats. Now you might think that your kitty doesn’t rely on hunting or eating other animals since they always have a bowl filled with the best cat-food goodies.

But the U.S. conducted this research trying to estimate the mortality caused by cats and discovered that “free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually.” Of course, the numbers for feral and stray cats were larger, but it does show that cats have an impact on the critter population.

So, why would snakes even try to stay in the same place where another efficient hunter dwells unless of course, you have a rodent problem in which case they will happily set their nest nearby, cat or no cat.

Hunting

Another way your kitty could keep snakes away is with their amazing hunting skills. Cats are strong animals that have great advantages when it comes to catching snakes. 

Thanks to their incredible sense of smell and the Jacobson’s organ they can pick up chemical substances that have no odor. They can easily attack a snake during the darker hours since they can see better than most animals and humans during dawn and dusk.

Snakes can be silent and slithering, but cats are able to pick up both high and low frequencies, so they can easily detect such sounds. All these skills, along with the agility that I’ve mentioned above give them an advantage.

Not all cats will of course kill a snake, or eat them, but the way snakes move makes them the perfect plaything. If your kitty is interested in chasing snakes this constant danger might keep these slithering creatures away.

What Happens If A Cat Eats A Snake?

Most outdoor cats love to hunt and they are ready to chase anything that slithers and wiggles including snakes. They might spend a long time playing with their prey, swatting and batting at it without killing it, because they’re not entirely motivated by hunger. But if a cat is hungry or works up an appetite while they’re playing with a snake, then they will most certainly end up eating it.

Depending on where you live your cat might encounter a venomous or poisonous snake or both. David Nelsen a biologist explains that poisonous species deploy their toxins when injected, causing temporary illness or death.

While venomous snakes dispense their toxins through biting, which causes their prey’s neurological and circulatory systems to shut down. Then again, spitting cobras can bite and spray painful blinding venom at the eyes and face of their prey.

So, while your kitty can kill and eat a snake this isn’t necessarily a good thing for their health. There are plenty of snakes in North America for example that are perfectly fine to eat even for humans, the biggest risk is actually being bitten!

If the snake is poisonous or venomous then that can harm your kitty and their overall health, but if they’re not then they might get away with an upset tummy or infection. Cats that are not used to hunting, killing, and consuming snakes might also find it hard to digest the meat.

So, if you think your feline friend ate a snake then taking them to the vet should be your number one priority.

Are Cats Afraid Of Snakes?

This is definitely a topic for debate, but I think it definitely depends on each individual cat. Some cats are fearless and naturally curious hunters that are ready to face any possible prey, while others are easily intimidated.

Two cats that have never encountered a snake could react in two completely different ways. One cat might investigate this slithering creature, even attack it and play with it, while another cat might be too afraid to try this new hunting experience. Cats that have been attacked by snakes before might choose to avoid this animal, while another cat will try to catch a snake any time she gets a chance.

Research done on cats and their response to snake scent gland secretions showed that it could deter them from feeding. Con Slobodchikoff, an animal behaviorist also states that “cats are genetically hard-wired through instinct to avoid snakes.

That’s why he adds that “cucumbers look enough like a snake to have the cat’s instinctive fear of snakes kick in.” This basically explains all those viral videos of cats jumping up when presented with a cucumber.

Something he believes all cat parents should not do and I kind of agree. I mean it’s a bit rude to scare your poor kitty like that!

Can Snakes Attack Your Cat?

Julia Klaczko, a zoologist says that “you can find snakes that eat earthworms, mollusks and large prey, including mammals.” Because they can open their mouth incredibly wide, they can consume animals that are much larger than themselves.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that a snake will go out of their way looking for a cat to attack. Cats can also be frightening for a regular snake, because of their ability to move quickly, they’re much larger and they have those sharp claws that can easily tear up a snake’s skin.

If a snake does encounter a cat and they end up being attacked, then they will defend their nest or lives if they have to. There are of course snakes that not only can and will attack a cat, but they will also try to eat them.

For example, if you reside in South America, South Florida, or Southeast Asia, then your cat might encounter a Large boa constrictor snake or a Burmese python snake. These slithering creatures can definitely eat your cat. That’s why it’s important to know the possible dangerous predators outside your home before you decide to let your kitty out.

Are Cats Resistant To Snake Venom?

As we’ve established so far, snakes can be venomous, poisonous, or both, and if your cat’s bites or eats a venomous snake there’s a chance that there will not be any toxins ingested, aside from possible bacteria or parasites, that can cause health issues of their own nature.

Poisonous cats on the other hand can definitely cause serious complications, it could be food poisoning that will make your kitty sick or even cause death. When it comes to getting bitten or sprayed by venom a cat isn’t really resistant to the snake’s venom, they may simply have a higher tolerance than dogs.

This of course doesn’t mean that it’s not or can’t be lethal, but it might take much longer to spread. Research has also shown that cats are twice as likely to survive a venomous snake than dogs, and if they’re given anti-venom treatment.

What To Do If Your Cat Was Bitten By A Snake?

Depending on where you live, the season, and whether you let your kitty roam outside your house a snake bite can be a common occurrence. A snake’s bite can be lethal and the primary cause of death is venom-induced consumptive coagulopathy.

This means that if your cat is bitten by a venomous snake they lose their ability to clot blood and can bleed to death. Researchers have found that the reason why cats are more likely to survive a venomous snake bite is the fact that dogs and humans have faster clotting blood.

This in no way means that a snake bite isn’t serious. Maybe you saw your kitty play with a snake in your yard, or they brought it as a gift. No matter what the circumstances are if you see that your kitty came in contact with a snake you have to look for puncture marks, and symptoms. You might notice, swelling and bleeding in the area. If they ate the snake you might find your kitty trembling, vomiting, and having diarrhea and these symptoms can occur within minutes.

According to veterinarians, the symptoms of snakebites are:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Progressive weakness – first your cat may look like it is bunny hopping because its hind legs are becoming paralyzed
  • Flaccid paralysis – weakness progresses to your cat becoming totally floppy, unable to stand and lying flat out, even unable to lift its head up.

Depending on the snake, the location of the bite, and your cat’s resilience your kitty can have more chances of surviving. Don’t try to use home remedies, because the best thing you can possibly do to save your kitty is to take them to the vet where they can be properly looked after. The only thing you can do before seeking veterinary treatment is to take a moment to look around for the snake and take a photo of it so your vet can determine which type of venomous or poisonous kind it

How To Protect Your Cat From Snakes?

There are 3,000 types of snakes that live around the world and every country has at least 1 type of snake. Among these snakes 600 are venomous and 200 are considered deadly enough to severely injure or kill a human.

So, if your cat is allowed outside then there’s a great chance that they’ll encounter a snake at least once in their life. That’s why I think the best way to keep a kitty safe from outside dangers especially snakes is to keep them indoors.

Statistics also show that “Indoor cats tend to live longer than their outdoor counterparts, typically reaching 10 to 15 years of age. Cats who spend their lives exclusively outdoors live an average of just 2 to 5 years.” And keeping them inside you are protecting them not only from snakes but also other predators, food poisoning, and cars.

If there’s a snake problem in your area, relying on your cat to keep them away isn’t really going to work, and the possibilities of your cat getting hurt by a snake outweigh the possible input they might have in snake control. You can of course try different strategies in order to dissuade snakes from entering your territory like:

  • Keeping your lawn short since snakes love to hide in tall grass.
  • Make sure to keep your premises clean, and don’t leave cat or dog food outside which can attract rodents which in turn can attract snakes.
  • You could install a snake fence or mesh netting around your yard.
  • Plant snake-repellent herbs like garlic and peppermint.
  • Make sure there are no hiding spots where a snake can turn into their home.
  • If you have a big snake problem install catch and release traps that you can turn over to animal control authorities.

Even if you manage to keep the snake numbers under control if your kitty enjoys hunting them they might start running further away from home in search of these slithering creatures. So, once again I return back to the suggestion of keeping your kitty inside.

A cat can lead a full and happy life inside the safety of your home as long as you provide them with the right environment. If they enjoy chasing after snakes you can always get a toy that resembles this wriggling creature. I’m sure that the Rainbow Cat Charmer that you can check on Amazon will be a great snake replacement!

Then again if you truly can’t see a way of keeping your kitty inside, then at least don’t let them out during the night. This way they’ll be staying in during their hunting hours and if they do get bitten or attacked by the snake at least it won’t happen while you’re asleep.

Neutering and spaying can also help not only reduce the number of stray kittens but also keep your feline companion from going too far away from their home territory. If you’ve got a cat in heat, you can find a list of low-cost spay/neuter clinics across the globe thanks to PetSmart by clicking here.

Can Cats And Snakes Get Along?

If you’re wondering whether cats can kill snakes because you want to add a slithering friend into your home, then you most likely won’t like the answer. Cats and snakes are from two very different species, and they aren’t socialized to be around each other. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have both of them in the same house, but in that case, you need to make sure your snake is in a cat-proof room where your kitty has no access.

Even if your kitty is the gentlest of felines you can’t be sure how they will react when they see you remove the snake from the cage to clean it, or enjoy their company. I’d suggest that before you decide to get a snake to ask the store for some advice on how to best protect your new pet friend from your cat. Perhaps they can suggest a cat-proof terrarium or ways to make the terrarium safe.

At the end of the day, the last thing you want to happen is to find both animals attacking and hurting each other!

Closing Thoughts

While cats are capable of killing snakes and to an extent keeping them away from your yard, most of the time both of these animals will try to avoid each other. Let’s not forget that it is also our responsibility to keep our feline overlords safe from snakes and deal with a snake situation in our yard on our own.

I mean we all know what curiosity did to that one cat and we don’t want any of that!

So, how about you have you seen your cat kill a snake, and what are your thoughts on having cats for snake control?

Marina Titova

Marina was cat-struck 8 years ago. It was early autumn when Dante, her grey cat, found her and adopted her. They’ve been inseparable ever since. Dante has been a great cat-teacher and BetterWithCats.net seemed like the perfect place to share his cat-knowledge.

Recent Posts