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In the battle between an alligator and house cat, you’d think that the clear winner would be the animal with the biggest mouth and the most teeth. Surprisingly, though, your bet should be placed on the cat.
Just look at this video of a cat taking on not one, but two alligators. This viral video has been viewed more than 14 million times and it isn’t the only one of its kind. There are several videos on the Internet showing cats fighting off these much larger, much more aggressive animals.
But why are alligators afraid of cats?
Alligators are afraid of cats because they are quick, agile, and unpredictable. Their encounters frequently happen on land, an area where gators aren’t the most comfortable. Furthermore, alligators may be afraid simply because cats stand up to them. If the cat believes it’s superior, why shouldn’t the alligator believe it, too?
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons alligators are afraid of cats. We’ll also take a look at why cats aren’t afraid of alligators or other large animals, as well as what you can (and should) do to keep your cat safe from gators.
Reason 1: Cats Act Like the More Intimidating Animal
Even though house cats are considered domestic animals, this study comparing DNA between cats today and ancestral cats shows that there haven’t been many evolutionary changes. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the domesticated cats of today still have a lot of their habits from being wild animals. This includes the fight-or-flight reaction.
When a cat comes face-to-face with an alligator, it does see it as a threat. Rather than running, however, some cats stand their ground and fight. They may growl, hiss, huff, or even take a swipe at an alligator that gets too close.
Alligators are not used to small animals standing their ground. In fact, animals like small dogs or other mammals are more likely to run away from an alligator. An alligator feels they are superior in these cases because they can sense the animal is afraid of it, so they are more likely to give chase and attack.
Some cats act like they are superior when they encounter alligators. Since alligators are unsure of this animal that is willing to stand up to such a big beast, they are more likely to retreat.
Reason 2: Cats Are Agile
Alligators are also afraid of cats because of how quickly they move. Animals that move quickly in the wild are considered to have a biological advantage. Just think about the way the relationship between a mongoose and a snake.
Mongooses have a history of killing large, venomous snakes. Even though you would think the snake would be able to strike and win, the mongoose wins because it is much faster than the snake. It is also smart, attacking the head and breaking the skull with it’s bite before the snake can bite it or wrap itself around the mongoose.
Cats have a habit of moving quickly and erratically when confronted with a dangerous situation. Furthermore, many of the interactions between cat and alligator caught on video happened on land. Alligators are slower and less agile on land than they are in the water, so the alligator is already at a disadvantage compared to the speed of the cat.
Reason 3: Cats Are a Mystery
Cats have zany personalities and that’s really a testament to how unpredictable they are. Even though humans have lived in alligator-populated areas like Florida for a long time, alligators still aren’t quite sure what to make of the domesticated house cat.
Being an animal that lives in the wild like the alligator is all about survival. The cat is an unknown factor, so the alligator is going to back off because that is its natural instinct. Whether the cat is the superior creature or not, anything that stands its ground like that has the potential to be dangerous.
Reason 4: The Alligator May Not Think the Fight is Worth it
Alligators are not the type to actively seek out prey. Instead, they lie hidden and wait for splashing or other sounds that indicate some prey is nearby. If an alligator hasn’t eaten a big meal in a while, it’s actually less likely to engage with a cat that’s standing its ground.
Every fight that the alligator encounters in the wild may not be life-or-death. When a cat is ready to fight, the alligator may lose interest simply because it doesn’t believe the energy exhausted in the fight is worth the small meal that a cat would provide.
Why Are Cats Not Afraid of Alligators?
One of the biggest reasons cats are not afraid of alligators is because they are so slow. Cats run at around 30 miles per hour, while alligators have a top speed of around 20 miles per hour. Additionally, alligators are large and bulky, which prevents them from turning too quickly, especially when compared to an agile cat.
Cats are also climbers, whereas alligators are not. This gives the cat plenty of ways to escape, even if the alligator doesn’t back down.
Why Are Cats Not Afraid of Bigger Animals?
Another reason cats may not be afraid of alligators is because they are not afraid of animals bigger than them as a general rule. Cats fight off dogs, alligators, and even bears when they come across them in the wild. But why wouldn’t a cat be afraid of something so much bigger than itself?
This might have something to do with the predator-prey hierarchy. There are not many animals that would consider a cat their natural prey, even cats that live in the wild. Since animals are not familiar with the domesticated cat as a food source, they are naturally intimidated by cats.
Cats also know that they are strong, agile, and capable of defending themselves when necessary. An animal that stumbles across in a cat in the wild is more likely to back away because they aren’t interested in the risks that come along with interacting with that cat. Through these regular interactions with animals that seem to be scared, it also makes sense that a cat would believe that they are rather intimidating.
The Alligator is Not Afraid Because Jaguars Eat Alligators
Even though a house cat can be intimidating, alligators are not afraid of them because of the their relationship with jaguars. Odds are, the American alligators most common in the United States have never even seen a jaguar. Jaguars live in the hot, humid climate of places like the Amazon Rainforest and Mexico.
Jaguars do hunt and kill alligators in the wild. Even though they seem like a big meal, jaguars are incredibly skilled at hunting and have powerful jaws. They often clamp down on prey until it stops breathing, then drag it to land to divide it and bring it back to its territory to eat it.
A house cat does not have the size or the power to take on an alligator like a jaguar. Their fear comes from the cat’s attitude and willingness to stand its ground instead.
The Alligator is Not Afraid Because the Cat is Actually Dangerous
Even though a cat standing its ground is enough to intimidate an alligator, in a battle of physical capabilities, the alligator would probably win. Cats do have sharp teeth and claws that they use to hunt and defend themselves when necessary. They even have some toxins in their saliva that are fatal to smaller animals like birds and squirrels.
Even with all these defense mechanisms, however, a cat is not a serious threat to an alligator. Alligators have an incredibly thick hide. Even when jaguars attack alligators in the wild, they suffocate them instead of inflicting injury with their teeth or claws because alligator hide is so thick.
Do I Need to Worry About My Cat Being Safe Near Alligators?
Even with all the videos of cats fighting off alligators and winning, this isn’t something that you want to take your chances with. There are a lot of factors that affect whether or not an alligator decides to attack a cat or retreat. It comes down to factors like how hungry the alligator is, if the cat is in the alligator’s territory or near their nest, and how the cat reacts to the interaction with the alligator.
Furthermore, some cats are a little more gentle and less likely to fight back than others. If a cat doesn’t act or seem intimidating enough, then the alligator may attack. There’s also no guarantee that an alligator won’t sneak up on a cat, especially if they are near the edge of the water.
How to Keep Your Cat Safe from Alligator Attacks
Alligators live in warm, wet areas like the Southeast coastland of the United States and have been found around the coast from Florida to North Carolina. People who live in alligator-populated areas should always keep a close eye on their cats.
Even though a cat might be able to scare off an alligator, it’s not really something that you want to take a chance with. Here are a few precautions you can take if you live in an area that’s known for alligators.
Keep Your Cat Away from the Water
If your cat enjoys the outdoors, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your feline companion. Alligators aren’t always visible, especially because they are great hiders. The best rule of thumb is to assume if there’s water and vegetation that an alligator could be lurking there. Discourage your cat from visiting the water’s edge if they seem too curious.
Of course, it is hard to know what your kitty gets up to when they are outdoors. Sometimes, the best strategy might be discouraging your cat from going outside altogether, especially when alligators are most active.
Don’t Let Your Cat Out at Night
While an alligator might attack prey at any time, they are most likely to wait until night. Alligators have dark bodies that are easily hidden at night, giving them an advantage over those small, quick food sources they are most likely to hunt. If you do let your cat run around outside, you should try to call them indoors before dusk, when alligators are most active.
Something that may be helpful is designating a door for your cat to use when they go outdoors. If they associate one door with outside, it’s easier to pay attention to when they are trying to escape. It also makes it easier to put a note on the door so visitors watch for your little escape artist, too.
There are also ways to deter your cat from leaving the house. Train them by offering a treat when they walk away from the door or consider a deterrent. Some companies make citrus-scented motion-activated deterrents. A more natural method some people use is putting a piece of tin foil across the doorway, because cats find tin foil unpleasant to walk on.
Avoid Feeding Gators
Some humans may feed alligators, especially if they believe feeding an alligator that has approached them will satisfy it and make it go away. Unfortunately, feeding an alligator has the opposite effect. The alligator may leave temporarily so it can eat, but it also may be encouraged to return in the future. Alligators are instinctual creatures that will go where they know there is food when they are hungry, especially if they haven’t had any luck hunting in the area.
Be Wary During Breeding Season, Too
Alligators are reportedly most vicious during breeding season, especially female gators that have a nest of eggs nearby. Your cat is also more likely to stumble across an alligator during breeding season, since they often come on land to find a nest for their eggs and seek out a suitable mate.
For families that live near the water, consider keeping your feline companion inside during most active alligator times. Breeding usually happens in May and June, while alligators nest in June and July.
In the fight between an alligator and a cat, it seems the cat usually comes out on top. Alligators are afraid of cats because they are so quick, unpredictable, and overall not worth the risk of taking a claw to the eye. Cats are not afraid of alligators because they are not afraid of bigger animals in general. Not only do they have a history of coming out on top in many animal interactions, but they also are fast and can defend themselves when necessary.
Even so, it’s important to keep a close eye on your cat if you live in an area where alligators are common, particularly near bodies of water. There’s no guarantee that the cat is going to win, especially if they are in an alligator’s territory or the alligator sneaks up on them.
Have you ever seen any wild interactions between your cat and bigger animals? What’s your take on why this is?