Do Cats Eat Rabbits?

We have already written a whole article on whether cats attack rabbits, but today we are going to delve deeper into the topic of whether cats would actually eat a rabbit! Sounds gruesome, right!! Better to find out now if you own both a pet cat and rabbit 🙂

In July 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company called Hare Today and the massive herds of rabbits they kept. From the name and that job description, you might think that they would be concerned with raising rabbits to send them off to happy homes. However, as the saying goes, “Here” (or “Hare”) “Today, Gone Tomorrow,” and these rabbits are gone in a flash, slaughtered on-site with their meat sold as jerky for carnivorous pets – cats included. 

That alone should serve as a simple if inelegant answer to the titular question – yes, cats can and do eat rabbits, and will eat them when given the chance. 

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon and what you can do about it with your own cats and rabbits. 

An Overview 

Cats can hunt and kill rabbits, yes, but there is a lot of variation on that point depending on the breed and type of rabbit along with the situation and environment they find themselves in. It’s important to note that while cats don’t always hunt rabbits (though we’ll be touching on how they can), they will always eat them when given the chance. That’s why companies such as Hare Today can make a profit selling rabbit meat jerkies for cats – there’s a market for them because cats do like the taste of rabbit. 

One of the important factors at play here is how well fed the cat in question is. A stray cat is probably hungry and looking for any food, and so is more likely to kill and eat a rabbit. On the other hand, assuming your cat is well-fed, it may still chase after and try to kill a rabbit, but may also simply leave the body behind.  

In either event, the impulse for hunting is triggered when cats and rabbits come into contact, but if your cat’s hunger is already satiated, they may not feel the need to eat the corpse (small comfort though that is to you). Adding to that gruesome display, some cats eat “just” the heads and leave the body behind. To add insult to injury, some cats can drag the corpse of the dead rabbit to show off to their owners, showing them what great “hunters” they are. 

On the other hand, cats eating wild rabbits may contract tularemia. Also known as rabbit fever, this can cause swollen lymph nodes around the neck and head area as well as abdominal pain. It can also make parts of your cat’s eyes start to turn yellow. As the name would imply, rabbit fever comes with high temperatures, sometimes topping 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Unchecked, this can lead to organ failure and even death, so you need to get your cat help right away. That said, you can catch tularemia too, so you’ll need to be extremely cautious when transporting your cat. 

Luckily, a cat can be treated and cured of tularemia if it is taken to a veterinary hospital right away.  

It’s important to remember that even a single bite from your cat may be enough to mortally wound your rabbit. Even if the bite itself doesn’t do them in, the wound can cause a bacterial infection which will. The same may be true for a rabbit defending itself and sinking its big teeth into your cat’s hide. 

What You Can Do About it?

If your cat has bitten your rabbit, you need to get it treated at an animal hospital immediately. Time is not on the side of the rabbit when they suffer such a wound. However, not all veterinarians treat or accept rodents, rabbits included, so make sure that you go to one that does to save precious time. 

If you own a cat and rabbit and are starting to despair right now, don’t – it may be tricky, but you can train cats and rabbits to get along together. In fact, cats and rabbits can potentially be socialized to become good friends. However, if you are to accomplish this, you need to start early and make sure that your cat and rabbit like each other as soon as they meet each other. The younger you can do this, the better, as this will better ingrain the friendly relationship you wish them to have into their psyches. 

Have treats on hand for that first meeting, and make absolutely sure that your rabbit has a clear path of escape back to their hutch or cage in case things go south. Watch your cat extremely closely and hold them for a while, letting them simply get used to the rabbit’s smell and not attack them. 

After a while, your rabbit may start to run up to the cat. This is potentially a good thing, since it can show the cat that the rabbit isn’t afraid of it now and is to be treated as a friend rather than food. Of course, you’ll want to keep a close eye on both of them and be ready to rescue your rabbit in case your cat doesn’t quite see things the same way, especially at first. 

In terms of stray cats, you need to make sure that you keep your rabbits out of sight and protected from them at all times and at all costs. As mentioned, stray cats will be hungry and are very likely to attack your rabbit if they see it and think there’s a chance they can nab it for lunch. 

If you keep your rabbit outdoors in a hutch, make sure that the materials are strong enough to keep out a stray cat or any other predator. You’ll also need to look around to make sure there are no holes in the hutch. Even a small one may be enough for a cat to enlarge and wiggle through, with tragic results. If possible, get a hutch that can be locked for added security. 

Cats do indeed kill and eat rabbits when given the chance, but if you socialize them as friends from the start, you can keep them both as pets today, tomorrow, and for a long time to come.