What Will A Cat Do To A Snake?

Cats and snakes have a long evolutionary history as natural enemies. Despite their relatively small size, cats are actually quite effective predators of snakes. This natural instinct to hunt snakes remains strong in domestic cats as well. When encountering each other, cats will often aggressively attack snakes, while snakes may try to bite or constrict the cat in defense. Their interactions typically involve stalking, chasing, and violent combat. Cats rely on their quick reaction time and agility to avoid snake bites. Their encounters may end with the snake being killed or escaping, depending on the specific circumstances.

Cats’ Natural Instincts

Cats are natural hunters with strong predatory instincts. They are highly attuned to detecting potential threats in their environment, including snakes. According to the Cornell University Feline Health Center, “Cats don’t have a natural fear of snakes. In fact, a lot of them hunt snakes.” Cats and Cucumbers – Our Behavior Expert Talks About … When cats encounter a snake, their hunting drive kicks in, and they may react aggressively to attack and kill the snake.

Cats rely on their sharp instincts to assess threats in their environment. They are wired to react to sudden movements and unfamiliar animals as potential predators. Even domesticated house cats retain these innate instincts and behaviors. So when a cat sees an unfamiliar animal like a snake slithering through its territory, its natural reaction is to go into defense mode.

Snakes Pose a Threat

Snakes can pose a major threat to cats if they bite them. According to the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Health Topics, venomous snakes like rattlesnakes are responsible for most snakebite fatalities in cats in the United States (Venomous Snakebites in Cats – Animal Health Topics). Rattlesnake venom contains hemotoxins that can rapidly destroy red blood cells, tissue, and blood vessels. Even small amounts of venom can cause neurological impairment, paralysis, and rapid death in cats.

According to Science Daily, cat fatalities from snakebites occur more frequently compared to dogs because of the lightning quick effects of snake venom on cats’ smaller body size (Why cats have more lives than dogs when it comes to snakebites). Cat owners should be aware of venomous snakes in their area and take precautions to protect cats from potentially deadly snakebites.

Typical Cat Reactions

Cats are natural predators with strong instincts to hunt and protect themselves. When a cat encounters a snake, whether in person or even on TV, it will often demonstrate typical defensive and aggressive behaviors common to felines.

One of the most frequent reactions a cat will have upon seeing a snake is hissing. Cats will often hiss loudly as both a warning to the intruding snake as well as an instinctive response triggered by fear or stress. Hissing serves to make the cat appear larger and more threatening to the potential threat. Along with hissing, a frightened cat may also arch its back, fluff out its fur, swat at the air, and have dilated pupils.

Cats may also react to snakes by aggressively scratching, swiping, and biting. They have sharp claws and teeth that can inflict damage on snakes. Scratching is both an offensive and defensive maneuver allowing cats to keep snakes at a distance. Biting, on the other hand, enables cats to inflict puncture wounds on snakes, break their spines, and ultimately kill them. According to Quora, this aggressive reaction to snakes stems from cats’ natural hunting instincts.

In summary, when coming face-to-face with snakes, most cats will demonstrate their alarm and hostility through typical behaviors like hissing, scratching, swiping, and biting. These reactions allow cats to warn, threaten, attack, and potentially kill snakes that pose a danger.

Cats Can Kill Snakes

Cats are built to be excellent hunters and can easily kill snakes, especially smaller ones. Their sharp claws, quick reflexes, and strong jaws give them an advantage over many snakes.

There are many examples of house cats killing snakes. According to one report, “House cats can definitely catch snakes, and very easily. Cats are extremely agile and fast.” (source)

On Reddit, one user shared “I live in the rice fields and every once in awhile a small (maybe baby?) snake used to get in and I’d see evidence of the cats killing them.” (source)

Cats can reach speeds up to 30 mph, giving them a significant advantage in speed over most snakes. Their quick reflexes allow them to pounce on and kill a snake before it has a chance to strike back.

Cats Retreat If Threatened

While cats are formidable predators, they tend to avoid snakes that are too large for them to safely confront or kill. According to a Quora response, “My cat saw a snake on the TV and freaked out. Is this normal?”, cats have surplus killing instincts and will attack prey even when not hungry, but they will retreat from snakes that pose an overwhelming threat (https://www.quora.com/My-cat-saw-a-snake-on-the-TV-and-freaked-out-Is-this-normal).

An article on Catster confirms that when faced with a large, dangerous snake that could potentially kill them, most cats will avoid direct confrontation and retreat to safety. Their survival instincts kick in, and they recognize engaging could lead to them being bitten and poisoned (https://www.catster.com/guides/can-a-cat-sense-snakes/). So while cats are brave hunters, they will usually run away from snakes too big for them to safely take on in a fight.

Kittens at High Risk

Young kittens can easily be killed by snakes. Kittens under 6 months old are curious but lack an adult cat’s hunting skills and agility to avoid snake bites. Even nonvenomous snakes can kill a kitten with a single bite. According to experts at Marketplace Veterinary, “Kittens don’t have the experience to know to avoid snakes or the agility to escape quickly if they stumble across one.”

Kittens explore their surroundings with their mouths, so they are prone to getting bitten while investigating a snake. Their small bodies cannot withstand much venom. Sadly, snake bites are one of the top causes of death for kittens. The ASPCA advises keeping kittens indoors until they are old enough to be vaccinated against common diseases. This protects them from snake encounters.

If you allow young kittens outdoors, supervise them closely. Look under bushes and debris piles before letting kittens play. Avoid areas where snakes are active. Check with neighbors if venomous snakes are common in your area. Create safe play spaces for kittens, such as enclosed outdoor cat runs.

Avoiding Encounters

The main tips for keeping cats safe from snakes involve preventing encounters in the first place by making your property less appealing and accessible to snakes. Here are some recommendations:

Remove piles of debris, wood, rocks, and brush around your home, as these can attract rodents that snakes prey on. Eliminate tall grasses, vines, and shrubbery against the foundation that snakes can use for cover. Keep the lawn well-maintained.

Seal any cracks or holes in your home’s foundation, walls, doors, and windows. Fix gaps around pipes and wires entering the house. These potential entry points should be closed so snakes can’t sneak inside.

Use fencing made from hardware cloth to secure any vents and block snake access. Check window and door screens for holes and repair any damage.

Keep pet food bowls and water dishes inside the home so these don’t attract rodents to your yard.

Install wildlife-proof fencing around your property, dug at least 6 inches into the ground. Face any lattice outward and use a gate with a spring closure.

Consider motion-activated lights or sprinklers to discourage snakes from approaching the house.

Supervise cats when they’re outside so you can remove them from any area where a snake is spotted. Keep cats indoors at dawn, dusk, and night when snakes are most active.

Inspect your yard regularly and call animal control to remove any snakes. Be vigilant if you live near natural snake habitats.

Having a well-maintained property and securing access points can significantly reduce encounters between cats and snakes for safety.

When to Seek Help

If your cat has been bitten by a snake, it’s important to monitor them closely and seek medical care if they show any concerning signs or symptoms. According to the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Health Topics site[1], you should take your cat to the vet immediately if they exhibit the following after a snake bite:

  • Swelling or bruising around the bite
  • Excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Collapse
  • Muscle tremors or seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Unconsciousness

These signs can indicate a severe reaction to the venom and require swift medical intervention. Even if the bite appears minor, it’s best to have your vet examine your cat to assess the damage and provide appropriate treatment. Left untreated, snake bites can lead to tissue damage, kidney failure, paralysis, coma, and even death in some cases.

According to the Daily Paws article[2], you should also monitor the cat closely in the 24 hours after the bite and watch for symptoms like dilated pupils, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal bleeding, difficulty breathing, or swelling around the eyes. Take the cat to the emergency vet immediately if any of these warning signs develop.

Don’t wait to see if the symptoms worsen. Fast treatment is essential for your cat’s recovery and survival after a venomous snake bite. Call your vet or emergency clinic right away if your cat exhibits concerning symptoms following a snake encounter.


Cats and snakes make for a treacherous combination. A cat’s natural hunting instincts kick in when they see a snake. Most cats will react in fear and get away from the snake as quickly as possible. However, some cats may get aggressive and attack the snake, especially if they feel cornered or sense the snake as a major threat. Killing a snake is risky though, and the snake can still bite the cat during an altercation.

Cats and snakes should always be supervised when together. Keep cats indoors in snake-prone regions. If you have both as pets, house them separately. Look for signs of distress in cats after snake encounters. Seek immediate veterinary care if bitten. While startling, cats versus snakes don’t have to end badly with proper awareness and precautions.

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