Do Cats Bring In Snakes?

Imagine going about your daily routine when suddenly you hear a commotion coming from another room. You investigate only to find your beloved housecat batting around a live snake it has dragged inside. While this may seem like the stuff of nightmares, it’s a surprisingly common occurrence that has recently gone viral online.

Videos circulating on TikTok and other social media show various housecats proudly dropping snakes – some venomous – at their unsuspecting owners’ feet. One particularly harrowing video from Australia has been viewed over 17 million times. It depicts a cat in a living room tossing about a deadly eastern brown snake like a toy. The worried owners finally trap the snake under a laundry basket until animal control can safely remove it.

As chilling as these snake delivery scenes may be, they’re not random acts of chaos by our furry feline friends. The behavior is tied to your cat’s natural hunting instincts. However, letting your cat’s hunting antics turn your home into a reptile refuge is dangerous for pets and people. Understanding why cats capture snakes and how to curb the behavior is key to maintaining a safe environment.

Why Cats Hunt

Cats are natural hunters with an innate prey drive that has evolved over thousands of years. According to Purina, historically cats weren’t kept as pets and had to hunt for their own food. This means hunting behaviors are deeply ingrained in a cat’s instincts (Source). Wild cats and feral cats rely on hunting to survive, but pet cats may still exhibit hunting behaviors even when provided with food by their owners.

A cat’s natural prey drive comes from the predator instinct common to all cats, big and small. As Tractive explains, cats are equipped for hunting with sharp teeth, quick reflexes, and excellent night vision (Source). So even when they don’t need to hunt to eat, the desire and skills remain strong.

Common Household Pests Hunted

Cats are excellent hunters and often target common household pests like mice, rats, insects, and birds (https://www.21cats.org/what-animal-do-cats-hunt-the-most/). Mice and rats, in particular, are frequent prey for cats. These rodents can cause damage by gnawing on wiring, contaminating food, and spreading diseases (Source). Cats help control these populations by hunting and killing mice and rats that enter homes. Their keen senses allow them to track down and capture rodents, even in dark spaces like attics or basements.

In addition to rodents, cats hunt a variety of insects that may invade homes. Cockroaches, spiders, flies, moths, and crickets are often targeted. While not all cats are efficient bug catchers, their pouncing and swatting helps curb insect infestations. Cats seem especially determined to catch moths and other flying insects.

Cats may also prey upon birds that live nearby or visit backyard feeders. Sparrows, doves, blue jays, and robins are sometimes captured if they stray too close. The hunting instincts of cats pose a threat particularly to young chicks and eggs (Source). Bird predation can be minimized by keeping cats indoors and using deterrents outside.

Snakes as Prey

Snakes can certainly be prey for cats, especially smaller, nonvenomous snakes. Cats are natural predators with quick reflexes, allowing them to potentially catch and kill snakes. According to one source, “Cats have an instinct to hunt snakes just like any other small animal.”

However, cats do not specifically target snakes as preferred prey. Snakes are not a primary food source for cats. But cats may opportunistically hunt a snake that happens to cross their path, especially if the snake is smaller and appears vulnerable.

Much depends on the individual cat and its personality. Bolder, more aggressive cats are more likely to attack a snake. Timid cats may flee from snakes rather than seeing them as prey. The size and type of snake also plays a role, as cats are less likely to go after larger, venomous snakes that could pose a threat.

Overall, cats follow their predatory instincts and some may hunt snakes when given the opportunity. But snakes are not a frequent or preferred target of cats as prey. Cats likely opportunistically take advantage of vulnerable snakes rather than deliberately seeking out snakes to hunt.

Circumstances for Capturing Snakes

Cats that live in areas with wild snake populations are more likely to hunt and capture snakes. Rural areas, forests, deserts, and other natural habitats provide plenty of opportunities for cats to encounter snakes. Suburban yards adjacent to natural areas may also harbor snakes that cats can find.

Outdoor and indoor/outdoor cats are the most likely to interact with snakes. Cats that go outside have access to yards, fields, and wilderness where snakes may live or hunt. Indoor cats are protected from encountering snakes unless one finds its way inside.

Cats that are good hunters and have quick reflexes stand the best chance of capturing snakes. While any cat may kill a snake by chance, cats with strong predatory instincts actively pursue snakes and other prey. A cat’s hunting ability depends on factors like age, health, breed instincts, and experience.

The availability of prey like rodents and amphibians can also influence how often cats hunt snakes. Cats with abundant other prey may encounter snakes less frequently than hungry cats with scarce food sources.

Venomous vs Nonvenomous

While cats may occasionally bring home nonvenomous snakes like garter snakes or rat snakes, encounters with venomous species can pose much greater risks. Some of the most dangerous venomous snakes that cats could potentially encounter and bring home in suburban areas of the southern and southeastern U.S. include:

Copperheads – Commonly found in wooded areas and yards. Bites can cause severe pain, swelling, and tissue damage, but are rarely fatal to humans.[1]

Cottonmouths – Semi-aquatic so found near water. Venom can lead to permanent tissue and muscle damage in addition to excruciating pain. [1]

Rattlesnakes – Have hemotoxic venom that quickly damages tissue. Bites require rapid medical care and can be fatal. [2]

Due to the serious effects of venomous snake bites, encounters in suburban areas always warrant vigilance and caution. Keeping cats indoors, removing habitat attractants, and alertness when outdoors can help reduce risks.

What to Do

If your cat brings in a snake or you find one that has bitten your cat, the first priority is to safely contain or remove the snake if possible. Use gloves, a shovel or stick to avoid direct contact. Venomous snakes should not be handled directly. Once the snake is contained, administer first aid to your cat.

Check for symptoms of envenomation like swelling, puncture wounds, bleeding and lethargy. Clean the bite wound with antiseptic. Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Try to keep your cat calm and restrict movement to prevent venom from spreading.

It’s crucial to get veterinary care as soon as possible. Call your vet or an emergency animal hospital right away. Bring the snake if captured so it can be identified. Prompt antivenin treatment greatly improves recovery chances. Your vet will provide medications, fluid therapy and supportive care as needed based on exam findings and venom effects. Monitor closely for secondary infections.

Home care after initial vet treatment involves keeping the wound clean, administering prescribed medications and restricting activity. Alert your vet if any concerning symptoms develop like difficulty breathing, seizures or uncontrol​led​ bleeding. With prompt care, most cats fully recover from snake envenomation.

Preventing Incidents

The most effective way to prevent cats from bringing in snakes is to keep cats indoors. Indoor cats do not have access to find and catch snakes outside. According to an article on TheCatSite, “The best and most effective way to solve this problem is to transition your cat into an inside one. This will keep the snakes out and ultimately keep your cat safe as well” (source).

If cats have any outdoor access, you can snake-proof the yard as much as possible. Remove any debris, wood piles, or overgrown vegetation where snakes may hide. Install fencing or netting around the perimeter to deter snakes from entering. Making the yard less hospitable to snakes will discourage hunting opportunities for cats.

Snake Aversion Training

There are some techniques you can try to train your cat not to hunt snakes. The key is to teach your cat to associate snakes with something negative so they learn to avoid them.

One method is to use aversives like canned air or a spray bottle when your cat shows interest in snakes. When your cat notices a snake, immediately make a loud noise with the air or spray the water near them. This interrupts their hunting response and associates snakes with an unpleasant surprise. It’s important to time the aversive properly so your cat connects it to the snake [1].

Clicker training may also work for some cats. When you see your cat avoiding a snake or leaving a snake habitat, click and reward with a treat. This reinforces avoiding snakes. You can practice with rubber snakes to teach this lesson. However, the hunting instinct may override any training when your cat encounters a real snake [2].

The most reliable way to protect your cat is supervising time outdoors and checking areas for snakes before letting your cat outside. Even with training, it’s very difficult to completely override a cat’s natural hunting behaviors [3].

Conclusion

Cats have predatory instincts and may hunt smaller animals that enter the home, including snakes. Venomous snakes pose the greatest risk if caught by a cat. While not common, it’s possible for a pet cat to capture a small, harmless snake and bring it inside. Preventative measures like sealing entry points, snake-proof fencing, and training cats to avoid snakes can reduce encounters. If a cat does bring in a live snake, remain calm, confine the cat, and remove the snake safely.

In summary, cats can and do occasionally capture snakes due to their natural hunting behaviors. With preventative measures and proper response if it occurs, snakes brought inside by cats pose minimal risk in most cases. Understanding feline predatory tendencies helps owners take appropriate precautions and handle incidents properly.

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