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Cats are fantastic hunters with the ability to track down and catch small animals. However, depending on a domesticated cat’s size, a wild animal such as a rabbit might be as large as they are. That being said, do cats hunt rabbits?
Yes, cats hunt rabbits. Normally the cats that hunt rabbits will be feral cats or stray cats. Rabbits are small animals of prey that most predators can hunt. Outdoor domesticated house cats that normally prey on mice or birds might seek out rabbits if they happen to cross paths.
Due to limited time outside, not many domesticated cats have the opportunity to hunt wild game. However, given the opportunity, most cats will act on their innate predatory instincts. The remainder of this article will focus on the hunting patterns of house cats and whether they can—or have the desire to—hunt rabbits.
Do House Cats Hunt Rabbits?
Most domesticated predators like the house cat have an innate instinct to hunt down household pests. This can be a great asset for keeping the home rodent-free, but a cat’s primal instincts can extend outside of the household.
You may notice your inside cats staring out the window as birds, bugs, or even leaves fly by. This may be cute to watch as their eyes are fixed on the flying object, but this illustrates their primal instincts at play.
Like most prey animals, house cats rely on their opportunistic natures to catch and kill prey for feeding. Though they are much more likely to hunt and eat prey if they are hungry, they might act on opportunity and save their catch for later. This is why your cat may bring in their kill to be later found on the floor.
Rabbits are not rodents, but their size, speed, and habitats leave them susceptible to becoming prey for domesticated and feral cats. Rodents and insects tend to be the number one source of prey encountered by small cats due to opportunity, but any small mammal can be part of a healthy cat’s diet.
However, if your cat is strictly a house cat, they will have little to no chance of catching a wild rabbit. They may jump at windows if one is spotted, but catching one would either require the cat to go outside or the rabbit to come in.
Wild rabbits rarely make their way indoors. Indoor cats can still be skilled predators, but their prey will most likely be small household pests like bugs, rodents, and lizards.
Are Cats a Danger to Rabbits?
Yes, cats are a danger to rabbits. Outdoor cats are known to decimate some species of wildlife. However, cats rarely hunt species of prey that fall in endangered categories. Small mammals such as rodents appear in the diet of feral cats three times more often than other species. It is possible that cats could make a meal of a rabbit or baby rabbit if they happen to come across one and can catch it.
Domesticated cats that spend a lot of time outdoors are more likely to rely on food provided by human caretakers than hunt primarily for meals. Populations or rabbit species are more likely to be preyed on by feral cats or stray cats than domesticated ones.
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Even so, given a chance and under the right conditions, your outdoor cat may still instinctively want to hunt a wild rabbit should they cross paths.
Do Feral Cats Hunt Rabbits?
We’ve discussed a bit about the predatory habits of cats. Cats and rabbits fall into the predator versus prey relationship. This relationship places these animals in their respective roles:
- Predator – An animal that has an innate instinct to hunt and eat other animals
- Prey – The animal predators eat
Rabbits are not often preyed on by domesticated cats due to opportunity. However, as mentioned above, if a rabbit crosses the path of your house cat, these primal instincts are bound to kick in, and the rabbit could become a part of your cat’s next meal.
However, even feral cats that need to hunt to survive are much more likely to hunt smaller prey. These include:
- Small snakes
These animals are often smaller and easier to catch than faster rabbits; therefore, these types of animals constitute most of a feral cat’s diet.
Are Cats a Danger to Rabbits?
Yes, cats are a danger to rabbits. Cats are predators with claws and sharp teeth that they will use against prey animals, such as rabbits. Rabbits, especially baby rabbits, may look like a tasty meal to a feral or stray cat.
What Do You Do if Your Cat Catches a Rabbit?
If your cat catches a rabbit, you will want to remove the rabbit from the cat immediately and take your cat indoors. Next, you should take the rabbit to see a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator immediately to see if they can help the rabbit.
Can Rabbits Defend Themselves Against Cats?
Yes, rabbits can defend themselves against cats, but their best defense is their speed and agility.
Rabbits seem to thrive with a sense of territory. If the cat in question has invaded a space where the rabbit feels territorial, the rabbit will most likely fight to defend its home. Their claws and teeth are constantly growing, so they may use these to attack if threatened.
More often than not, rabbits will use their agility to run or jump away rather than fight. Your cat is most likely in no danger if they find a wild rabbit. When fight or flight kicks in, rabbits almost always choose flight. If they are agile and fast enough, they may be able to escape the domesticated cat.
Protecting Rabbits from Cats
A cat’s desire to hunt wild game such as rabbits is a natural part of the web of life. This predatory instinct helps keep local rabbit populations manageable. If there were no natural predators to hunt wild rabbits, the rabbits would be met with a lack of available resources.
The survival of the species is, in fact, directly related to the predator versus prey dynamic. However, if you hope to keep your domesticated cats away from wild rabbits and hares, there are a few steps you may take:
- Keep Your Cat Inside – You can start by limiting how much time your cat spends outdoors. You may also invest in a harness and leash and only let your cat roam outside while they are accompanied.
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- Catio – You can keep your cat in an enclosed catio if you want to securely give them time outside. Also, this will prevent them from hunting small prey like rabbits.
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- Rabbit Repellent Spray – Rabbits are attracted to natural foliage and scents. A chemical repellent may keep these animals off of your property.
Do Rabbits Carry Diseases?
Rabbits are known to carry some diseases that can transfer to your household felines. The most common disease your cat might contract from rabbits, specifically, is tularemia.
This disease can be transmitted to humans through contact with an infected animal, so your sick cat can transfer the disease on to you.
If you think your cat might have encountered a diseased rabbit, do not hold the cat with your bare hands. Put on a pair of gloves, and place your cat in a safe location. If possible, immediately get the cat to a veterinarian for further examination.
The best practice for prevention is to follow the necessary precautions to limit how likely the cat encounters wild prey. Keeping your cat indoors as often as possible is the best first step.
Can House Rabbits Live with Cats?
Believe it or not, your house cat can befriend a house rabbit, but it is not something I recommend. Suppose you will attempt to put your house cat and house rabbit in situations where they will encounter each other. In that case, I recommend you contact a behaviorist or veterinarian ahead of time for advice.
Certain factors may create issues between cats and rabbits living together in a house. Some of these factors are the predator and prey relationship and the sharp claws on a cat, especially if they are untrimmed.
Who is Faster Cat or Rabbit?
Most rabbits and most house cats can hit speeds around 30 miles per hour. Depending on the type of rabbit or breed of the cat, the speeds may be different. Now that we know the speeds are remarkably similar, we can understand why cats may be able to hunt rabbits in the wild. This is also why the agility of a rabbit will play great importance in its ability to escape a cat chasing it.
Domesticated cats are still very predatory by nature. For example, if you have seen your cat chasing after small creatures or floating leaves, those are their predatory instincts kicking in. They may be accustomed to a more leisurely life, but they will hunt wild game like birds and rabbits given a chance.
To protect your cats and the local rabbit population, you may want to consider limiting how much time they spend outside. Also, consider setting up a catio or using wildlife repellents to keep rabbits away.
Your cat is a natural-born hunter, but after taking a few precautions, you can help keep your little predator safe from unnecessary diseases and minor injuries.
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