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Do Cats Kill Snakes? (With Personal Experience)

Have you ever seen your cat play with a snake? Owners often ask if this is safe. Do cats kill snakes? We take a closer look and answer some often-asked questions about cats and snakes.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: November 29, 2023 | 8 min read

Cat looking at a snake about to pounce

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Cats are natural-born hunters and often impress their owners with their prowess in catching indoor pests like bugs or rodents. Those cats that get outside often catch birds, squirrels, and other small wildlife., and then a cat chasing a fly or mouse. Some owners have questions about cats and snakes. Specifically, owners want to know, “Do cats kill snakes?”

If you are wondering, “Can a cat kill a snake?” the answer is yes. Felines are mighty hunters. Even the most coddled of kitties have a fierce hunter or huntress deep inside. When confronted with a snake, also called an ophidian, a feline will most definitely hunt and has the ability to kill one. But that does not mean that the typical house cat can kill all snakes, nor should they be allowed to. There is a lot owners need to know about cats and snakes to keep their pets safe.

You are in the right place if you are wondering about cats and snakes or have had a close call between your precious fur baby and a slithery reptile. We jump in and discuss the specifics and details owners need to know about their purr babies and snakes.

Can A Cat Kill A Snake?

The simple answer is yes, cats can kill snakes. Felines are skilled hunters, and even the most docile and pampered kitty is all in when a good chase opportunity presents itself. Felines are agile, have sharp claws, sharp teeth, and are quite fast. When facing down a garden snake, they have a distinct advantage. However, domestic felines cannot kill all snakes. Some species can be dangerous and can even kill a cat. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid your purr baby interacting with snakes.

What Kind Of Snakes Can Cats Kill?

Cats will generally see a snake as a threat or a plaything. They can easily dominate and kill smaller snakes with a simple swipe of their claws or batting them around on the floor a bit. If your kitty encounters a garter, corn, gopher, king, or rat snake, for example, they are likely to have the advantage. These are all common species found around homes and gardens in both rural and urban areas. The smaller the serpent, the higher the likelihood that a kitty will be able to catch and kill it.

If your kitty has outside reach in the yard, garden, or garage, it is highly possible they may come in contact with a snake. Many kitties will follow that immediate instinct to chase and hunt them. Some kitties may have no interest, but it is best to proceed with caution as with any other form of wildlife interacting with your pet.

Do Cats Kill Rattlesnakes?

Cats can kill common, smaller, harmless ophidians, but rattlesnakes are a different story. Rattlers pose a risk to humans and pets, and that includes kitties. Despite their innate hunting skills, athletic bodies, sharp claws, and teeth, rattlesnakes are not something kitties want to mess around with.

To be clear, in a fair fight, a cat stands a very good chance against a rattlesnake. Of course, this depends largely on the serpent’s size and the specific situation. And there is a high likelihood the kitty will have some sort of injury after the fight.

Depending on where you live, there is a higher chance of rattlesnake and feline interaction. At least 20 different species of rattlesnakes can be found in North America. Rattlesnakes live in almost every area within the continental United States. They are in higher numbers in southwest states. These reptiles are versatile and can survive in a variety of ecosystems. While they are largely associated with deserts and mountains, rattlesnakes survive well in grasslands, forests, swamps, and scrub brush and can even swim.

What Happens If A Rattlesnake Bites My Cat?

Cats getting bitten by snakes is fairly rare but does happen. Rattlesnakes are poisonous, and their bites can be particularly dangerous to humans and pets. Cats require quick treatment to increase their chances of survival. While not every rattlesnake bite will release venom, there is a high risk they will, and that venom can harm and, in some cases, even kill your pet.

Rattlesnake venom carries a mix of hemotoxins and neurotoxins. Hemotoxins can cause hemorrhaging and necrosis, including a breakdown of muscle tissue. The neurotoxins in the venom affect the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

A kitty bitten by a rattlesnake will have a puncture wound and need quick treatment to survive. As the venom attacks, a feline may experience several symptoms. The venom contains proteins inhibiting the coagulation process, meaning the blood will not clot following a snake bite.

Poisonous Snake Bite Symptoms:

  1. Shaking
  2. Muscle twitching
  3. Partial or complete paralysis in limbs
  4. Loss of bowel or bladder control
  5. Muscle weakness
  6. Swelling of the head
  7. Bruising at the puncture site
  8. Depression
  9. Dilated pupils
  10. Coughing
  11. Dooling
  12. Blood in urine
  13. Vomiting, vomiting blood
  14. Pale or blue-looking gums
  15. Collapse
  16. Coma

In some cases, a kitty may be bitten by a rattlesnake, collapse, and then get up and appear fine. Sadly, this is not the case. These are pre-paralytic signs and indicate that an animal needs immediate treatment.

What Should I Do If A Snake Bites My Cat?

If a snake bites your cat, or you even suspect your pet is bitten by a poisonous one, it is best to take them to your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic right away. Immediate treatment is the best chance of survival your pet has. Make sure to call your vet ahead of time and explain why you are coming in to ensure that they have antivenom on hand. If they do not, you will need a recommendation to a center or emergency vet hospital that can treat a snake bite.

While transporting your kitty to the veterinarian, try to keep them lying down with as little movement as possible. If you are able to keep the bite area below the cat’s heart. You may also try a pressure wrap to slow the circulation of the venom through the body. Prompt veterinary treatment is critical.

Once at the vet, an exam will be performed, and the vet will try to determine what type of snake bit your pet. The vet can then administer antivenom to counteract the poison. Depending on the severity and amount of venom released, a pet may need several doses before they are out of the woods. Along with antivenom, some pets may need supportive care, including hospitalization, observation, IV fluids, adrenaline, antihistamines, antibiotics, and oxygen, and in severe cases, they may need to be put on a ventilator to help them breathe.

Rattlesnakes are not the only poisonous ophidians that can bite pets. Other venomous species include the cottonmouth, copperhead, and coral snakes. It is always better to err on the side of safety and caution. If you suspect any kind of snake has bitten your pet, the best route is to contact your veterinarian immediately for advice and treatment.

Can Snakes Kill Cats?

Cats hunt for snake outside
Chasing pests is part of a feline’s natural instinct and an activity they enjoy.

Yes, some species can kill cats. Smaller species, like garters, are not able to do much against a cat, but bigger ones, like rattlers, can. While felines often have the advantage due to their strength, dexterity, claws, and teeth, ophidians are nothing to mess around with. They can be venomous, have sharp fangs, and muscular bodies can inflict significant damage.

Boa constrictors are a non-venomous snake species, along with Burmese and African pythons, that often live in southeast Florida. These giant constrictor snakes are not native to the area but thrive there. Though not venomous, constrictors have small teeth that they can bite prey with. Constrictors will not poison a kitty, but they do have the ability to squeeze them to death. When looking for a tasty meal, a boa constrictor of the right size would not hesitate to kill and eat a cat.

Can Cats Eat Snakes?

Cats will kill and eat snakes. If they find a dead animal, they may also be curious. In the wild, felines eat raw animals that they catch and kill, like mice, birds, and reptiles. Most domestic felines will likely only take a bite or two before walking away, as they are used to eating much tastier cat food. It is not likely that a bite or two of a non-poisonous one will cause much harm, but it might not taste very good either. They may also vomit it up later or have an unpleasant bowel movement or two following that slithery meal.

A cat killing and eating a venomous ophidian is dangerous, as the venom is carried within the body. Just like eating a toxic plant or other food, eating a poisonous snake can cause sickness and some of the same symptoms that happen after a serpent bite. For this reason, it is best to avoid letting your pet eat any reptiles, even ones they catch in the garden. Stick to high-quality, fresh cat food instead.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe From Snakes

The chances of a kitty encountering snakes inside the house are slim, but it can happen. An encounter possibility rises considerably when kitties are allowed outside. There are a few things owners can do to prevent their pets from coming in contact with a snake.

  1. Keeping things clean is a good start as the slithery reptiles like piles of wood and leaves, overgrown grass, overgrown plants, large rocks, and garbage. The garbage will attract them, and the other overgrown areas offer wonderful hiding spaces. Owners can clean up these areas, trim their grass and plants, and ensure the yard does not have garbage in it to deter unwanted guests.
  2. Rock piles, water features, untrimmed shrubbery, tall grass, coiled hoses, and any kind of open area or dark, cool space underneath a shed, stairs, or containers outside will also be prime hiding spots for reptiles. Do your best to remove any possible reptilian hiding spots in and around your yard.
  3. Inspect all of your window and door screens in the house. Be sure to close up any access a kitty may get outside through a torn or ripped screen. It also helps prevent slithery creatures from getting inside. Open windows also pose the same risk.
  4. Be sure to inspect and monitor pet doors. Pet doors are low to the ground and easy access points for pests. Pet doors also allow kitties to get outside and hunt for wildlife.
  5. Offer plenty of toys and opportunities for exercise so your kitty will not chase pests in the pard.

Personal Experience With Cats And Snakes

As long as a kitty is not interacting with a poisonous snake, sometimes these interactions can be enjoyable, at least for the cat. Snakes wriggle, writhe, and move. They also smell different from other rodents, plants, and odors felines are familiar with. These characteristics make them a very attractive and exciting animal for a cat to encounter. Many felines will enjoy chasing them, which can be helpful for owners.

For example, Olive, a 4-year-old tabby cat in North Carolina, did not take too kindly to a garter snake in her garage. When she spotted it on the floor just inside the door, she snuck towards it, hissed, and lunged at it. The snake slithered away and out of the garage. Olive’s owner was thrilled with this interaction and its results!

I lived for many years in the desert, where snakes, including rattlers, are common, so I try to avoid them. I would often see them when out walking the neighborhood. Though I do not let my kitties outside, they like to escape. One afternoon, my cat Zaphod slipped out to the backyard and happily rolled in the dirt when he suddenly bolted back inside. I was curious about what had scared him, as he usually did not come back inside so willingly. Upon investigation, a small, brownish-gray snake was lurking near the side of the yard, under some low bushes. I caught just a glimpse of the snake and bolted back inside about as fast as the cat. We are both thankful he picked up on the snake’s presence, and I kept my dogs out of the yard the rest of the day, too, just to be safe.

Final Thoughts

Cats can kill snakes, and some are quite good at it. They will often chase after them in the yard or get into the garage and house. While most ophidians one will encounter in the garden and at home are not poisonous, venomous species pose a considerable danger to pets. Their bite can be quite serious and even fatal, and eating them is also dangerous and risky. For this reason, it is best to try to avoid interactions between cats and snakes.

Calico female kitty cat sharpening her teeth into lemongrass leaf

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