Why Are Cats Afraid of Snakes?

You may have noticed that cats aren’t exactly best friends with snakes in general. Truth be told, felines aren’t best friends with anyone, but this is a different matter.

The situation is entirely different with snakes, though, as cats are noticeably more jittery in their presence. The same behavior can be noticed in the interactions between cats and any reptiles, for that matter.

But why is that? Let’s have a look!

The Relation Between Cats and Snakes

The relationship between cats and snakes, or felines and reptiles in general, is exceptionally complex.

For one, these 2 animals have evolved vastly differently from one another, despite them being very similar in many aspects. For instance, they’re both predators and prey based on their position in the food chain.

The following points are the main factors that influence the relationship between cats and snakes in general:

  • Predatorial instincts – Cats and snakes do not respect one another. That’s because they don’t see each other as predators but as predators and prey. In other words, most cats see snakes as prey and will hunt and eat them if given the opportunity. The situation changes entirely if the snake is larger than the cat, in which case the feline is the prey. But, overall, the cat’s instinctual tendencies are predatorial in nature, given that cats have hunted snakes in the wild for tens of thousands of years.
  • Natural wariness – Cats are very wary about any new animal, especially one that they have no information about. The myth according to which cats are exceedingly curious, to the point where they will ignore safety measures, isn’t quite true. Cats are, indeed, curious, but they will never sacrifice their safety in the process. Take the cat’s reaction speed, for instance. Cats’ average reaction time is between 20 and 70 milliseconds. A snake’s reaction time is between 40 and 70 milliseconds. So, a cat can confidently get close enough to a snake, not worrying that it risks getting bitten. Just for context, the average human reaction time is 500 milliseconds.
  • Defensive aggression – This behavior is prevalent among snakes because snakes recognize cats as predators. If you’ve ever observed the interaction between any cat and any snake, you will notice that the snake is always defensive, while the cat appears curious and approaches the snake. This informs you on everything you need to know about the millennium-old relationship between the 2 species.
  • Food competition – Cats are territorial animals, and so are snakes. They also feed on typically the same prey since they’re both carnivorous. So, if you notice a cat and a snake facing off, that may be a sign of territorial dispute.

Needless to say, the winner in a cat-snake confrontation depends on a variety of factors. Some wild cats hunt snakes for dinner, while some snakes hunt cats instead.

The size and the snake’s type can make all the difference in the world in this sense. To put it simply, venomous snakes are considerably more dangerous for obvious reasons.

But even small and non-venomous species can inflict significant damage if they get to bite the cat by its face, for instance.

The resulting wounds can infect, which can result in death. So, what should you do to keep your pet feline safe from snakes lurking around your backyard?

Keeping Your Cat Safe from Snakes

Naturally, you cannot rely on your cat’s common sense to keep itself safe. As we’ve already discussed, cats are extremely curious animals. Cautious but extremely curious, which doesn’t always work to their advantage.

So, you need to fill the gap by providing your cat with additional protection from any potential slithery reptile that may visit your backyard.

Here are a handful of tips in this sense:

  • Keep the cat indoors – Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t mind staying indoors exclusively. They actually love it that way because it’s warm and dry and they get to sleep in a cozy place the entire day, and they have nutritious and delicious food 24/7. The only problem is that cats tend to be extra active at nighttime, but this isn’t necessarily a problem once they become accustomed to their lifestyle. Keep in mind that cats are roamers. Leave it out, and it will set up a territory at least 150 acres wide for males and about 40 acres wide for females. This increases the likelihood of them encountering a variety of dangers, snakes being one of them.
  • Keep the yard clean – Snakes are master ambushers that prefer to hunt in rich ecosystems with plenty of vegetation and as many hiding areas as possible. To minimize the risk of housing snakes in your backyard, clean the area as thoroughly as possible. Remove any unnecessary vegetation, keep the trees clean and well-trimmed, and remove any elements that snakes may use as housing.
  • Know the reptile life around your home – It’s quite useful to learn about the different species of snakes available in your area. This way, you can determine the level of threat that your cat may face.
  • Vaccinate the cat – Your cat should always be vaccinated, no matter where you live. This becomes even more important if you reside in an area with a variety of wild animals around, including snakes. Even mild, non-venomous bites can cause infections or transmit diseases that will impact your feline’s health.
  • Always check your cat – Monitoring your cat’s health and body regularly is critical if your pet goes out often. This allows you to detect snake bites in time and take adequate measures early on. In case of a bite mark, contact your vet immediately to diagnose the situation properly.

Most importantly, you should always remove any snakes you find near your property or have snake experts in your area do it for you. Don’t worry about depriving the area of an important pest-controlling animal.

Your cat fulfills that role anyway, sometimes even better than snakes. After all, cats eat daily, whereas snakes only hunt once every several days or weeks.

Treating Snake Bite on a Cat

If you’ve determined that your cat has been bitten, consider the following approaches:

  • Contact your vet – This should be the first line of attack because you have no way of knowing the bite’s severity. The expert should be informed as early as possible.
  • Identify the snake – If you can identify the snake responsible for the bite, do so unless you risk getting bitten yourself. Write down specifics like the snake’s size, coloring, any distinct markings, head shape and size, and any other markers that could be used to identify the species.
  • Keep the cat calm – This is easier said than done because cats do whatever they please anyway. But, as much as you can, try to keep your cat calm and peaceful until help arrives. This will keep the animal’s heart rate down, slowing down the venom’s spread.
  • Monitor the animal – Watch your cat’s vitals to look for any worrying signs like difficulty walking, difficulty breathing, accelerated heart rate, etc. These symptoms usually warn of the presence of envenomation.

Ultimately, if your cat has been bitten by a venomous snake, take the feline to the vet asap. There’s no reason why you should waste any more time.

Will a Cat Kill and Eat a Snake?

Yes, cats will kill and eat snakes, generally speaking. However, this isn’t a universal rule. Some cats may exercise more caution and decide to avoid the snake, especially if they’ve had no contact with one before.

An important note here, domestic cats may not be able to distinguish between a venomous and a non-venomous snake. So, they may be extra confident in themselves and play with fire more closely than they should.

The idea is that even if your cat does have the inclination to hunt and kill the snake, it’s best to avoid the encounter altogether.

If you see your cat facing off a snake, intervene and put an end to the confrontation immediately and in a safe manner.


Cats and snakes are clearly enemies and will act accordingly toward each other. Always monitor your cat’s outdoor activities as much as possible to prevent any unfortunate reptile encounters.

Most importantly, follow my guide regarding cleaning your backyard of snakes and reducing the risk of snake bites.

And learn the key CPR measures in case your cat gets bitten and things go south fast. Your efforts can make a vital difference until the vet comes online.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...