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Do Cats Eat Lizards And Are There Any Health Risks Involved?

Do Cats Eat Lizards And Are There Any Health Risks Involved?

If you’re an experienced cat parent, chances are you often see a dead mouse or a bird on your doorstep. This is a cat’s way to brag and to show you her most recent prey!

But, you have also noticed that your cat kills a lizard from time to time. Oh my God, is this real? Do cats really eat lizards?, you are probably wondering.

Well – they do. Many cats might eat lizards, and, in most cases, this will not be dangerous for them. However, there are also potential health risks involved with a cat eating a lizard; they aren’t so common, but still might happen.

Another important thing to understand here is that cats don’t always have to actually eat the lizard – they might just kill it, and this happens due to their natural instincts. 

Cats’ Hunting Instincts

The beautiful brown cat, Siamese, with blue-green eyes lies in a green grass and leaves

You give your cat tasty cat food, multiple times a day. She gets everything she needs from this food, so, why would she have the urge to go after lizards?

Because hunting is in her blood! As Martina Cecchetti and her associates [1] specify:

Domestic cats are not like other domesticated animals. Cats’ phenotype and genotype are relatively unchanged, and despite living with humans as pets for years now, they are still quite independent. Most of them still retain some propensity for hunting behaviors, even though the same isn’t required for their nutrition.

So, although our cats nowadays are no longer forced to find food on their own, like they used to be in the wild, this doesn’t mean their natural instincts are completely gone. Yes, our home cats still love to hunt! 

Do Cats Eat Lizards, Or Just Kill Them? 

Some cats might go after lizards just after they had their meal. So, they don’t do this because they’re hungry – this is their hunting game. 

Therefore, you might see your cat carrying a lizard around in her mouth. Maybe she won’t eat it, but she will just play with it and kill it.

Still, some cats will also eat it. Some of them might even cripple the lizard, eat its head, or legs, and then play with the rest of it.

This might be weird to understand, but, don’t forget your little ball of fur is still a predator! 

She is domesticated, but she still has her natural urges. Lizards are living and moving creatures, therefore, a tempting prey for felines.

Is It Safe For Cats To Eat Lizards?

calico cat holding a lizard in mouth

I have encountered many cat parents throughout the years wondering if it is normal for cats to eat animals such as birds or bugs

Of course, all of them immediately wanted to know whether ingestion of these animals could be dangerous for their pets. 

A cat ingesting a lizard might sound like a way worse scenario than her eating a bug or a bird. 

However, in most cases, your cat eating a lizard will not be dangerous or life-threatening for her.

Most small lizards found in North America are not poisonous to cats.

Still, there are some exceptions and some potential health risks related to cats eating lizards. This is why, as a responsible cat owner, you should not let your kitten eat these reptiles.

Health Risks Related To Cats’ Eating Lizards

A Bengal cat hits or grabs a sand lizard climbing a white wall with its paw

In some situations, your cat eating a lizard can be dangerous for her health.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these circumstances.

1. Liver Fluke Parasite

Some lizards might carry parasites called the liver fluke, which is, according to petMD, a trematode parasite that lives in water. A land snail might become a host to this parasite, which is later on digested by another intestinal host – such as the lizard!

If your cat eats one of these lizards – she’ll also be ingesting this parasite, which can potentially be very dangerous for her liver. 

According to a study published in the Veterinary Parasitology journal [2], this parasite is commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions. 

Some cats eating a lizard infected with this parasite might not have any visible clinical signs. However, other cats might have severe symptoms, such as fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, and enlarged liver. 

As the cat gum color chart suggests, yellow gums can also indicate a sign of organ issues, such as liver disease. Together with her gums, a cat’s skin, ears and eyes might also become yellow.

At times, liver fluke parasites can even lead to death due to biliary tract obstruction and hepatic failure in cats.

As soon as you notice any of the symptoms that might indicate ingestion of the liver fluke parasite in your cat, contact your vet immediately.

2. Poisonous Lizards

Oriental Garden Lizard

Some lizards have poisonous skin, and eating them might be dangerous, and even life-threatening for cats.

Your cat might not even encounter any of these lizards during her life, but, it’s good to be informed, right? 

The Mexican beaded lizard is one of these reptiles, which can be found in the southwestern part of the United States. This part of America is also a place to find another poisonous lizard – the Gila monster

According to San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance,  the Gila monster is a venomous lizard. When this reptile bites, small grooves in his teeth help the venom flow into his prey. 

Symptoms that will indicate your cat has licked or eaten a poisonous lizard are excess drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, tremor, shakiness, and foaming at the mouth.

Of course, if you suspect your cat has been in contact with a poisonous lizard, you need to get to the vet’s as soon as possible.

3. Risk Of Salmonella Infection

A lizard your cat has eaten might be a carrier of the Salmonella bacteria, which can cause a range of problems in cats, such as septicemia and gastroenteritis, according to petMD.

This infection manifests in symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting, weight loss, and mucus in stool.

Salmonella treatment in cats usually includes rehydration, helping the cat to overcome fluid loss, and replacing lost electrolytes. 

A study on cats as a risk for transmission of salmonella [3] showed how felines carrying this bacteria can pose a hazard to people who are highly susceptible to it, such as the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and children.

Therefore, it would be best to avoid any chance of your cat catching salmonella – such as by eating a lizard that might carry this bacterium.

Cats’ Hunting Behavior As A Threat To Biodiversity 

Cat caught a lizard

Cats hunting lizards can be dangerous for their health, but can also be a threat to biodiversity globally.

What’s this about?

According to a study published in the Wildlife Research Journal [4], Australian feral cats kill a million reptiles a day.  

But, stray cats are not the only ones that tend to kill and eat reptiles – this research estimated how 130 million reptiles are killed by feral cats, but 53 million of them are killed by pet cats per year as well!

Therefore, even if there’s not a high chance of your cat getting sick after eating a lizard, you should still stop her from doing this, since her hunting behavior can also have an impact on the environment. 

How To Keep Your Cat Away From Lizards?

Young male Australian domestic ginger cat hunting a green lizard at the back yard

For your cat’s overall well-being, the best thing you can do is to prevent her from having a chance to catch lizards.

Some ways to do this are the following:

Keep Your Cat Inside

The best way to keep your cat away from lizards is by making her an indoor cat.

This is efficient, but will also be difficult for a cat to understand. If she usually spends as much time outside as she wants to, becoming an indoor cat can come as a shock.

As Central Providence indicates, living outside can be tempting for cats, but it also brings a lot of risks, such as encounters with wildlife and a higher incidence of getting killed in car accidents.

So, how to make your cat an indoor pet?

You might try putting some aluminum foil in front of the door, since cats are known to hate this foil! Therefore, they are less likely to try to go outside.

Furthermore, you should do your best to make indoor life as enjoyable as possible for your kitten. A nice cat tree, a cozy bed, and a comfortable scratching post – provide your cat with these essentials and she will soon forget why she loved to be outside so much!

Stimulate Your Cat

Your cat is a natural hunter and she’ll always have these instincts inside her. You shouldn’t try changing this, but you shouldn’t let her catch lizards, either. So, what to do then?

You should try giving her a lizard toy, instead! She will enjoy playing with it, and this is a good way of keeping her stimulated and entertained.

Also, you should spend more time playing with your kitten, to understand better what she likes and what kind of stimulation she needs. This will allow her to spend her energy and feel comfortable while staying inside

Use An Anti-Hunting Collar

You don’t like the idea of your cat being an indoor pet, but you would still like to keep her away from lizards?

You should try using an anti-hunting collar, which is basically a collar with a bell. Thanks to the bell, lizards in your yard will be able to hear your cat approaching, and will have enough time to run away!

Final Verdict

cat catching lizard and guarding its from the others

Do cats eat lizards? Yes, many of them do, while some might just hunt and kill them.

Can eating these reptiles be dangerous for felines? In most cases, no, eating a lizard will not endanger your cat’s health, since the lizards you have in your backyard are not likely to be venomous.

However, it’s still not a good idea to let your cat eat lizards. I’m sure all of you want to avoid dealing with salmonella infection or liver fluke parasites in your kittens!

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our explanation of whether cats eat rabbits!


[1] Cecchetti, M, Drivers and facilitators of hunting behaviour in domestic cats and options for management. Mammal Review, Volume 51, Issue 3, July 2021, Pages 307-322. DOI, Retrieved April 11, 2023. 

[2] Basu, AK, Charles, R: A review of the cat liver fluke Platynosomum fastosum Kossack, 1910 (Trematoda: Dicrocoelium). January 2013, Veterinary Parasitology 200(1-2), DOI, Retrieved April 04, 2023.

[3] Van Immerseel, F, et al. Cats as a Risk for Transmission of Antimicrobial Drug-resistant Salmonella. Emerg Infect Dis. 2004 Dec; 10(12): 2169–2174. DOI, Retrieved April 04, 2023.
[4] Woinarski, JCZ, How many reptiles are killed by cats in Australia? Wildlife Research 45(3), 2017. 247-266, DOI, Retrieved April 04, 2023.