Cats are natural hunters and will go out of their way to catch their prey. Even domesticated and indoor cats tend to catch mice and snakes around the home.
So, do cats keep snakes away? Yes but not necessarily always, because while snakes consider cats as predators, it doesn’t guarantee that having cats around will discourage snakes from getting near, especially if the snake detects rodents, frogs, or even birds in the area.
Cats and snakes: Are they mortal enemies?
Cats are curious animals and have the natural instinct to hunt for prey like rats, birds, squirrels, and even birds. Snakes also hunt the same kind of prey and their diet often includes rodents like mice and birds but they’re also known to eat frogs, insects, eggs, earthworms, and reptiles like lizards. Both cats and snakes hunt almost the same kinds of prey, making them both predators. However, there are larger snakes that eat cats such as boa constrictors and pythons, making cats prey as well.
Cats are curious about snakes because of their slithering and sudden movements which trigger a cat’s hunting instinct. Do cats hunt snakes? Yes, they do hunt snakes because they get the cat’s attention and puts their hunting skills to the test but it does not necessarily mean that snakes will not come visiting again especially if it spots rodents and frogs around.
Are cats afraid of snakes and are snakes afraid of cats?
Snakes are unlikely to scare a cat off especially if the cat has no prior experience with snakes. The curious nature of cats is the reason why they stalk slithering and wriggly creatures like worms and snakes. Cats even bring dead snakes to your house as gifts, just as they do with mice.
Snakes, on the other hand, tend to become frightened with cats and will try to avoid them if they can. If they’re attacked by a cat and won’t be able to escape, a snake will become defensive and will resort to hissing, tail shaking, rearing up, and striking. What makes a cat frightening for a regular snake is its ability to move and strike quickly, has sharp claws that can tear up a snake’s skin easily, and are usually larger than most non-venomous snakes in the backyard or grasslands.
Also, the smell of cat urine may also dissuade snakes from lingering around just as it does with rodents that avoid the pungent smell. Needless to say, cats and snakes are both known as predators and hunt almost the same kind of prey, making each of them a competitor of each other.
Do cats eat snakes and do snakes eat cats?
Yes, cats do eat snakes and vice versa. Cats in particular love to hunt, chase, and kill slithering and wriggly creatures and snakes fit perfectly with the description. Cats become more determined to go for the kill especially if a snake is wriggling and attempting to sneak away. Felines will most likely hunt and effortlessly kill snakes that are about 6 feet long or less. Common snakes that fit this size and length are usually corn snakes, garter snakes, rat snakes, king snakes, and gopher snakes, mostly the non-venomous kind of snakes that usually lurk in grasslands, backyards, or bushes.
Similarly, snakes do eat cats and we’re talking about bigger snakes. These are usually tropical boa constrictors, pythons, and anacondas that could even devour whole lambs and antelopes. If a cat happens to annoy or threaten them these slithering monsters won’t hesitate to gobble them up and that’s just for their appetizer!
How do cats attack snakes?
Cats attack snakes by batting at it with their paws and their murder weapons, their sharp claws. Once a snake retaliates and strikes in its direction, a cat will bat its head and then pounce at it, grab the snake on its head with its mouth, bite and twist the neck until it breaks which usually paralyzes the snake. The cat will then drag it off to play with it and it may also eat it, although some cats won’t eat the whole snake but may just nibble and chew on some parts. A cat’s hunting technique oftentimes makes it hard for snakes to avoid it since a cat stays close to the ground and will stealthily approach the snake.
The dangers that cats face when they encounter a snake
While cats are not afraid of snakes and would willingly stand their ground against one, they are still generally in great danger. Here are just some of them:
Cats could get eaten alive.
Snakes can eat a cat alive such as the boa constrictors and anacondas of South America or the Burmese python of Southeast Asia. These snakes are huge in size and length and could even swallow bigger animals like deer and lamb.
Cats may get bitten or become injured.
Just as a cat may aggressively attack a snake, the former will tend to avoid a cat if it can but if it becomes cornered, provoked or annoyed it will strike back and bite or fatally injure a cat.
Cats may die after fighting with a snake.
There are approximately 600 types of snakes that are considered venomous with at least 200 of these considered very deadly. If a cat is unfortunate enough to encounter a venomous snake it can potentially kill a cat in a matter of minutes especially if it’s the deadly kind. But even though a snake may not be venomous, its bites can still cause great harm to a cat in the form of infections.
How to tell if your cat has been bitten by a venomous snake?
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or RSPCA notes that a cat will manifest these symptoms if it has been bitten by a venomous snake:
- it becomes paralyzed
- it’s very weak
- it suddenly collapses
- it has blood in its urine
- its muscles are twitching
- it is blinking its eyes and having a hard time breathing
- it has lost control of its bowel and bladder
- it has dilated pupils
What to do if your cat has been bitten by a venomous snake?
If your cat has been bitten by a venomous snake, seek veterinary treatment immediately. Take a photo of the snake or take into account its appearance so you can give a detailed description to your veterinarian. Carry your cat instead of making it walk as it will allow the venom to spread through its body. Don’t try to do home remedies and be sure to bring the cat immediately to a veterinary clinic because every second count and the more you dilly dally the more likely that your cat won’t be saved because the venom may have already spread to his whole body.
Can cats and snakes become friends?
Cats and snakes can’t entirely get along well and rarely will they become friends even if they’re both domesticated. Both belong to entirely different species and add to that, snakes aren’t sociable even if they’ve been trained and cared for by pet owners. Should you decide to take in and care for a snake even if you have cats then make sure it’s in a cat-proof room and always keep the door locked. If ever you take out the snake from its cage then make sure that the cat is in another room with the door shut.
Ways to snake-proof your home and surroundings for your cat’s safety
Even if cats aren’t threatened by snakes and will happily hunt them down it’s better to take precautions and protect your cat and the household in general from harm by doing these steps to snake-proof your home.
- Get rid of rodents like mice by keeping your house and surroundings clean. Snakes eat mice and if they detect it in your area they will chase it and may even go inside the premises.
- Keep your yard and lawn well-trimmed to discourage snakes from lurking around.
- Install a snake fence or mesh netting around the perimeter of your yard.
- Spray predator urine such as bobcat or coyote urine around the yard and home to deter snakes.
- Plant peppermint around your home or in the yard as snakes dislike this herb. Other plants that repel snakes include marigold, mother in law’s tongue plant, West Indian lemongrass, onion, garlic, Andrographis Paniculata, Indian snakeroot, pink agapanthus, and mugwort.
- Place a snake trap, preferably the humane catch and release trap so you can turn over captured snakes to animal control authorities.
- Avoid stacking wood or piles of logs or stones since snakes like to burrow under it.
Cats and snakes do not get along and they may even kill each other because they’re in stiff competition with each one. Cats can keep snakes away but it’s not always the case, although snakes will always try to avoid them. If a snake is provoked or cornered it won’t hesitate to strike and injure a cat, even killing it especially if it’s the venomous kind.