If you’re a cat owner whose pet has access to the great outdoors, you probably know the universal experience of your cat bringing you the gift of an animal they’ve hunted.
If you’ve seen your cat hunting rabbits before, or you know that wild rabbits live in your area, you may be left wondering if they simply hunt the rabbits or if they eat them as well.
Can cats eat rabbit? The simple answer is yes—cats eat rabbits.
Cats are natural-born predators, and while they can be cute and snuggly with their human family, they can also pose a real threat to small wildlife that they are known to hunt and kill.
It is perfectly normal for cats to hunt and eat rabbits, as they are obligate carnivores with a high prey drive.
Cats are excellent and stealthy hunters, and if your cat has access to the outdoors, there is a good chance that they will hunt and eat small animals in the area.
An obligate carnivore is an animal that can derive all of the nutrients that they need from eating meat. Even any requirements for vegetables or grains come from the animals that they consume, eating and digesting these items.
This is not to say that vegetables are inherently bad for cats, but they are not a required part of their diet and are built to have all of their nutritional needs met when eating meat.
Because of this, they are genetically predisposed to be adept hunters, and their speed, stealth, claws, and teeth all make them fearsome contenders for small birds and mammals that they typically prey on.
However, if your cat is domesticated, you may wonder if they eat the prey that they kill since they are getting plenty of food from you at home. The truth is that it may vary depending on how hungry or inclined your cat is to eat their prey when they kill it.
Unlike feral cats, cats that live in a home will likely have less of a need to eat the animals they kill for survival and may hunt for fun and out of instinct more than a desire to eat their prey; don’t be surprised if you find a bunny that your cat has hunted but has not eaten.
However, it is just as possible that they will eat at least part of the animal they have killed, both out of instinct and a certain hunger level.
While some complications may arise from your cat eating rabbit, if the animal they consume passes pathogens or bacteria to your cat, it is generally perfectly safe for them to eat rabbits. This is because they are built to be able to handle and benefit from eating raw meat.
If you’ve ever caught your cat eating a rabbit they’ve caught, then you may have noticed that they tend to eat the head over the rest of the body; there are several theories as to why cats do this with prey rabbits.
Firstly, your cat can ensure that the animal is dead by starting with the head, which means that they have to expend less energy struggling with the rabbit if it was still alive when they started eating another part of its body.
Rabbit brain also contains phosphorous, which your cat may gravitate toward for nutritional value.
Unlike many other types of small prey that cats hunt, rabbits tend to be larger, meaning that your cat will have less need to eat the entire body and instead choose to focus on the rabbit’s head.
Cats can eat rabbit ears without issue, and sometimes the ears, which are part of the head, are the first part of the rabbit that cats eat.
In fact, rabbit ears are so safe and enriching for cats to eat that some pet stores even sell dehydrated rabbit ears as toys and treats for domesticated cats.
Your cat can process rabbit ears, and if you have an indoor cat, you can consider buying rabbit ears as both a toy and a treat for your cat without fear of your cat ingesting it.
How much rabbit meat your cat should eat depends on the source of the meat. Cats are obligate carnivores, and pre-made cat foods such as kibble and wet food are typically high in either one or multiple protein types.
You can feed your cat a pre-made diet with rabbit as the primary protein as frequently as every day so long as they’re not allergic to it.
In the wild, cats hunt and eat whatever food source is the most prevalent in their geographic location at any given time of the year. So cats won’t necessarily seek out rabbits specifically, but if they are abundant, they may become a cat’s primary food source for a certain period of time.
Cats are strategic with their hunting, and rather than seeking out a specific type of prey over and over again, prevalence is the primary indicator of their diet. For example, feral cats who hunt and eat rabbits when they are abundant may eat them as frequently as every day for that period.
If your cat is an avid hunter and you’ve noticed that they not only kill but also eat their prey, you should exercise some caution when it comes to allowing your cats to eat rabbits.
When your cats hunt and eat animals of any kind, they are consuming raw meat, which can have harmful side effects. For example, cats can get bacterial infections or other diseases from infected animals whose meat they consume.
If your cat has access to the outdoors, keeping their vaccinations up to date is very important, as well as monthly flea treatments and dewormers to prevent them from developing common ailments associated with outdoor access.
In addition to the general concerns associated with outdoor cats, eating raw rabbits poses a potential threat to your cat’s health. Tularemia, commonly called “rabbit fever,” is a potentially fatal disease that cats can contract from eating infected animals.
In cats, tularemia can cause severe pain in the abdomen, fever, enlarged lymph nodes of the head and neck, and in some cases, organ failure.
It’s essential to catch tularemia early to treat it effectively and will likely require hospitalization to ensure your cat makes a full recovery.
If you know that your pet hunts and eats animals and there are rabbits in your area, be sure to keep an eye on them for early signs that they may be sick and contact your veterinarian immediately.
Hunting is a natural instinct for cats, and domesticated cats with access to the outdoors will likely hunt small animals they encounter around your home.
Along with common types of prey that cats hunt, such as birds, rats, and mice, cats will often hunt rabbits in their area. Unlike birds, rabbits cannot fly away if a cat is hunting them, and they are not as small as other prey like mice, which can escape by fitting into small areas.
Because cats have a natural desire to hunt rabbits, pet owners who own both cats and rabbits may have reservations about introducing the two. However, it’s entirely possible for domesticated cats and rabbits to co-exist harmoniously within the same home, and some cat and rabbit pairs may make good companions.
A slow and proper introduction is key to owning both a pet cat and a rabbit. If your rabbit gets startled and tries to run away, this may trigger your cat’s instinct to hunt it. Because of this, it’s best to begin by keeping your rabbit in a crate or exercise pen where your cat can’t have access to them.
This way, both animals can become acclimated to each other’s presence, and there won’t be any opportunity for dangerous or fatal interactions.
After doing this several times, when you feel confident that your cat and rabbit can be around each other without incident, some supervised visits in the same area are advised before ever leaving them alone together.
Be aware that even if your cat gets along well with your pet rabbit, they will likely see rabbits in the wild or other domesticated rabbits as prey and may still hunt and kill them.
Cats are obligate carnivores and natural-born predators. They can get all the nutrients they need from eating meat, and in the wild, they survive by hunting and eating their prey.
Cats will not go out of their way to hunt animals that aren’t abundant in their area, but if you live somewhere with wild rabbits, your cat will likely hunt them.
Cats do not always kill the rabbits they hunt; sometimes, they simply chase and hunt them. However, even if a cat doesn’t kill a rabbit when they’re hunting them, it is still possible for them to cause damage that will kill them later on.
Depending on the size of the rabbit, a cat bite can be fatal, even if they manage to escape before dying. In addition, cat saliva can cause bacterial infections in rabbits, so the bite may become infected and kill the rabbit over time.
There is a high likelihood that if your cat hunts and catches a rabbit, they will kill it.
There is a common belief that cats are nocturnal and do the majority of their hunting overnight.
In reality, however, cats are crepuscular, which means that rather than being most active at night time, their most active times are in the late evenings and early mornings, right before nightfall and at dawn.
Cats cannot see in total darkness, as nocturnal animals can, and like humans, they require some light in order to see and move around. However, they are more genetically adapted to see in situations when there is lower light because their eyes contain far more rods than human eyes do.
These rods allow cats to have better vision even when there is less brightness, which is why they are specially adapted for hunting during low light times of day, when they may have an advantage over their prey.
These times of day also pose a good opportunity for cats to hunt because their prey tends to be more active at these times as well.
Remember that cats are natural-born predators, but they’re also creatures of convenience. So despite being crepuscular, they will hunt at any time of day that their prey is active and they’re outside.
However, you may be more attuned to your cat hunting during these times because they may ask to be let out more than they do during the day or night times.
You can do several things to stop your cat from hunting wild rabbits. First, if your cat often hunts and kills rabbits and other small prey, consider turning them into an indoor-only animal.
Although it may seem extreme if you’re used to your cat having access to the outdoors, cats that live their whole lives inside are still able to have an enriched and active life; it may just take more effort on your part.
You can simulate your cat’s experiences hunting through play and even consider building a catio if outdoor access is important to you. This way, they can still go outside, but they will be unable to roam freely, protecting both the local rabbit population and your cat from any potential diseases.
If you are unable or unwilling to keep your cat indoors, putting a collar with a bell on it is helpful because it will prevent your cat from being able to sneak up on rabbits, who will be notified of their presence when the bell rings with their movements.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s essential to recognize that your cat is a natural hunter, and if they have free access to the outdoors, they are likely to hunt because it’s instinctual.
So the best thing you can do is limit their time outdoors and help animals detect their presence.