Do Cats Chase And Eat Squirrels? (Can They Catch Them?)


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Do Cats Chase And Eat Squirrels? (Can They Catch Them?)

Most of us have heard of the trope of a dog chasing a squirrel, and it is commonly understood that the majority of dogs will attempt to chase after a squirrel (or any small animal) if given the opportunity. What about our feline friends? Are they interested in squirrels in the same way that dogs are and will cats chase and eat squirrels if they get the chance?

Cats will chase and eat a squirrel if they have access to it, but the effort and energy required to catch the squirrel may be more than what the cat is willing to offer, and they are likely to hunt other small rodents that are more easily caught.

As predators, cats are likely to chase after any small prey animal, including squirrels. Due to the squirrel’s agility and quick reflexes, the cat catching the squirrel is probably not likely in most situations. If the cat does happen to catch the squirrel, they may attempt to eat it.

Cats have earned a reputation for being wonderful at pest control, so it is likely that they would be interested in chasing and even eating a squirrel.

Is it safe for a cat to chase and eat a squirrel? Below we will discuss the relationship between cats and squirrels and why a cat would chase a squirrel. We’ll also look at the potential dangers of a cat catching and eating a squirrel, as well as possible solutions for keeping Kitty away from the squirrels.

Can Cats Even Catch Squirrels? 

Is a cat fast enough to catch a squirrel?

Cats can reach a speed of up to 30mph, while squirrels can reach speeds of up to 20mph. That difference in speed means it is likely that a cat is fast enough to catch a squirrel.

While cats do run faster than squirrels, squirrels tend to leap and jump much more frequently than a cat, and the squirrel is also able to grasp onto things once it lands. This can make for a quick getaway as the squirrel can easily climb a tree or up the side of a house where a cat might not be able to follow.

So, while a cat may be able to outrun a squirrel on the ground, the fact that the squirrel is able to use height as an advantage means it is unlikely the cat will be able to catch them if the squirrel locates something to climb up

Will a Cat Attack a Squirrel?

Considering that cats are predators and more than willing to show off their skills, it is very likely that if given the opportunity your cat will attack and possibly kill a squirrel. If the cat is hungry, then the chances of it going after a squirrel are even more likely.

Will a Cat Kill a Baby Squirrel?

Squirrels tend to give birth twice per year, and they create nests within trees to keep their babies safe until they are old enough to venture out on their own. During this time, the baby squirrels are very vulnerable and a curious cat who comes across the nest can easily kill the babies. Babies who fall out of the tree are also at risk to passing cats.

Compared to adult squirrels, who have the agility and reflexes necessary to escape an approaching cat, baby squirrels are more likely to be killed by a cat due to their inability to protect themselves and get away from the cat.

Do Cats Eat Squirrels?

Cats are considered obligate carnivores, which means their bodies are designed to eat meat. Squirrels are considered prey animals, and a cat is able to eat them. While they are not an ideal food source for most cats, they do contain a large amount of protein but the energy required by a cat to catch and kill a squirrel may outweigh the benefits of eating a squirrel.

Will an Indoor Cat Eat a Squirrel?

Compared to their feral counterparts, indoor cats may have different attitudes towards squirrels as a food source.

Your typical domesticated house cat usually has their nutritional needs met through the food you buy from your local pet store or supermarket. They do not usually have to concern themselves about saving energy to go and hunt down their meal for the day and can instead spend their time relaxing on the windowsill and soaking up the afternoon sun.

While your indoor cat may not need to catch and kill a squirrel for food, they are very likely to try and chase it down and kill it due to their natural predatory instincts. While cats do not generally kill for fun, they do have very strong hunting instincts and they are prone to being indiscriminate about the animals that they kill. If your cat sees a squirrel (or a bird, spider, or just about anything else small) in your yard, he’s likely to chase it!

Will a Feral Cat Eat a Squirrel?

The diet of a feral cat can vary greatly based on their individual locations. Feral cats within urban environments may have an easier time locating food scraps or stealing food from pets who are fed outside, whereas feral cats in more suburban and rural environments must focus on hunting small animals, including squirrels.

Due to the difficulty of chasing and catching a squirrel, a feral cat may opt for an easier food source. But, with cats being opportunistic hunters, if the opportunity presents itself for a feral cat to make a quick meal out of a squirrel, they will probably do it.

Why Does My Cat Want to Eat a Squirrel?

Squirrels may be appealing to cats because they are your typical small prey animal. Even though cats can be very picky about food, they actually have very weak taste buds, so the taste of the squirrel is probably not relevant in the cat’s interest in chasing or consuming it. It is more likely the sudden movement and the prey behaviors a squirrel displays are what is triggering the cat’s natural hunting instincts to chase and potentially consume it.

Why Do Cats Like to Eat the Squirrel’s Head?

The squirrel’s head does not contain any particularly interesting parts that would appeal more to a cat than any other body part, but it does contain a large amount of meat and less fur. The cat is more likely to eat the head first as it is easily reachable and does not require the cat to get past any fur in order to get to the meat.

Is It Safe for My Cat to Chase and Eat Squirrels?

The chances of your cat catching the squirrel are probably pretty slim, but if he does happen to succeed in getting the squirrel there are potential dangers to think about it when it comes to your cat consuming the squirrel. The risk of your cat catching a contagious illness or disease, or becoming injured by the squirrel in their attempt to catch it may outweigh the benefits of letting your cat chase squirrels.

Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Let Your Cat Catch and Eat Squirrels

Risk of Illness and Disease

Squirrels are considered rodents, and like mice and rats they are good hosts for a variety of parasites and different diseases, all of which could infect your cat and make her ill. Fleas and ticks, in addition to just being plain annoying, can pass on a variety of diseases to your cat, including flea dermatitis, plague, and tularemia.

The chances of a cat contracting these diseases depends a lot on what area you are in, but all of them are good reasons to keep your cat indoors and to make sure you are giving your cat an appropriate flea and tick treatment, such as this one, on a regular basis.

Intestinal worms are another concern for cats, especially feral cats who are regularly consuming rodents that carry high loads of intestinal worms. The worms can infect the cat upon the cat consuming the dead squirrel. Damage from worms can take a long period of time before it becomes noticeable, and they can do a number on the body and leave the cat in a weakened state, unable to gain weight, and can cause hair loss.

Risk of Choking

Because squirrels are small animals and contain many small bones, there is also a chance your cat may choke on the squirrel while trying to eat it. This is especially true if they attempt to eat the tail, which generally contains a lot of fluff and may be difficult for the cat to swallow.

Risk of Tearing or Impaction of the Digestive Tract Due to Bones

While it is safe for cats to consume uncooked bone, there is still a possibility for the bones to cause tearing or become lodged in the cat’s digestive tract. An impaction of the cat’s digestive tract due to a bone becoming stuck can lead to severe dehydration and constipation, and it requires emergency veterinary intervention to remove the blockage. It’s one of many reasons why bone broth is better choice for cats instead of bones and just another reason why it’s not a good idea for cats to eat squirrels.

Risk of Injury from the Squirrel

Outside of contagious illnesses, squirrels also pose another danger in that a cat chasing the squirrel may become injured by falling from the tree or getting hit by a car if the squirrel happened to dart into the road. And, if the squirrel bites the cat, there may be a chance for infection or abscessing of the bite wound.

Risk of Poisoning

Squirrels are considered pests in some areas, and sometimes homeowners or critter control agencies will leave out poison for the squirrels to consume. If your cat comes into contact with a deceased squirrel who died from poison, then there is also the danger of your cat becoming poisoned as well.

Can My Cat Catch Rabies from a Squirrel?

Rabies, while rarely found in squirrels, can also be transmitted to your cat. Rabies is almost always fatal, and in some areas if your cat is suspected of having rabies euthanasia is required by law, even if your cat is fully vaccinated.

Should I Let My Cat Chase a Squirrel?

In most cases, your cat chasing a squirrel every now and then probably won’t be an issue. However, if you live in an urban environment or in an area where diseases are present in the squirrel populations, you may want to take steps to prevent your cat from chasing squirrels.

How To Stop Cats from Catching Squirrels

While it is likely that your cat will attempt to chase a squirrel if given the opportunity, there are a few things you can do to help prevent your cat from catching squirrels.

Bell Attachments on Collars

Collars with bells attached have mixed reviews as to just how reliable they are with warning wildlife of an approaching cat. While they can alert some squirrels about the approaching cat, they should not be the sole solution you rely on when attempting to keep your cat away from the squirrels.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

Keeping your cat indoors is the only solution with a 100% success rate on preventing them from killing a squirrel. Indoor cats can still engage in their natural predatory instincts by playing and is a much safer way for cats to practice their hunting skills.

Keep Your Cat Active with Playtime

Providing your cats with an ample number of toys that encourage stalking, pouncing, and chase behaviors is a great way to help cats embrace their inner hunter but in a safe and effective manner. It’s also one of many fun things you can do with your cat!

Cats should be allowed access to a variety of toys, from feather toys to crinkle balls, and owners should make time to enjoy playing with their cats, too. Wand toys and interactive cat toys are a great way for owners to build a better bond with their cats through play.

How to Reduce Risk for Outdoor Cats

Different species of squirrels are active at different periods of the day. Several squirrel species are considered diurnal, which means they are active during the day. Other species are only active at dawn and dusk.

If you choose to let your cat outdoors, making sure they are only let out during the squirrel’s less active hours can decrease the chance that your cat will come into contact with the squirrels. However, if the species of squirrels in your area are active throughout the entire day, then this might not be possible.

Should I Worry If My Cat Catches and Kills a Squirrel? 

It is normal behavior for a cat to chase and kill a squirrel. As predatory animals, cats will naturally want to chase a squirrel and they will most likely at least taste the squirrel or chew on him if they do catch him.

A well-fed indoor cat may not consume the entire squirrel, but a hungry cat or a feral cat may attempt to eat the entire squirrel. If your cat does kill a squirrel, you should remove the dead squirrel from your yard as soon as possible, preferably before the cat has a chance to eat it.

You should then check your cat to make sure he is not injured, and then watch him for a period of time to make sure he did not pick up any illness from the squirrel.

If you live in an area where diseases such as tularemia and plague are known to be found in the squirrel or rodent populations, you should also keep the squirrel’s body in a secure bag within a freezer and make an appointment with your vet to have your cat inspected and the squirrel’s body tested for disease.

At the very least, you should closely monitor your cat for any sign of illness for the first few days after coming into contact with the squirrel. If you can catch it early enough, many of the diseases that a squirrel can pass along to your cat can be treated without incident.

Do All Cats Chase Squirrels?

Considering that all cats are natural predators, the chances of your cat chasing a squirrel, who is a prey animal, is high. Indoor cats and cats who have had little interaction with prey animals may not be as inclined to chase the squirrel, though. Barn cats or cats who are frequently let outdoors are more likely to engage in a chase with the squirrel.

Will Having a Cat Keep Squirrels Out of My House?

Just the presence of a cat is unlikely to keep a squirrel away from your house. While cats are predators and squirrels recognize that the cat is a predator, the squirrel will most likely just adjust its behaviors to avoid coming into contact with the cat as much as possible.

 Are Squirrels Afraid of Cats?

Wild squirrels are generally afraid of cats in the sense that they are afraid of all predators or anything that could potentially cause them harm. Squirrels in urban environments who have become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of a city may show less fear towards a cat, but if the cat attempts to chase the squirrel the squirrel will still run.

Squirrels that have been raised around cats can sometimes get along with them, but if the cat makes any sudden movements, it is likely the squirrel will still get the instinct to run away.

Are Certain Breeds of Cats Better at Catching Squirrels?

There is no specific cat breed that is better at chasing squirrels than others. As predatory animals, all cats have the natural abilities and instincts to chase a squirrel. A cat’s instinct to chase a squirrel is also dependent on its upbringing and individual personality and genetics.

If the cat comes from a long line of cats bred specifically for their hunting skills, then the likelihood of the cat being interested in chasing a squirrel will increase, as will its ability to catch and kill the squirrel.

Can Squirrels and Cats Ever Get Along? 

While there is evidence of certain cats and squirrels getting along and living harmoniously, it is not something that should be expected and purposefully putting your cat into a situation where they would encounter a squirrel will most likely result in the cat attempting to kill the squirrel.

So even though the video above is a lot of fun, it’s not something you should expect!

Closing Thoughts

While cats are predators, it is unlikely that they would focus on squirrels as a primary food source when other, more easily accessible food sources are available. House cats may engage in chasing a squirrel every now and then, and they may even catch one, but the chances of them consuming it vary based on their own individual personality and hunting preferences.

The potential downsides and dangers of a house cat consuming a squirrel are also a cause for concern, so it’s probably best that the cats be discouraged from chasing and eating squirrels.

Sarah Crothers

I am a lifelong animal lover and (some would say) a Certified Crazy Cat Lady. My 8 cats give me plenty of opportunity to explore and demystify the inner workings of my furry friends. Alongside my cats, I have 3 big dogs (I am also a Certified Crazy Dog Lady) and an axolotl named Fin Diesel (he's family). I am passionate about education and outside of writing I spend my days as a professional dog-to-human translator (aka Dog Trainer).

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