How Cats Kill Their Prey

Much of what we love about cats is there because they are killers. It’s a fact that most people prefer to gloss over.

Some do enjoy videos of cats killing or being killed. I don’t, but I understand that every living thing gets hungry, and that these predators play an important role in a healthy ecosystem.

A few hunting videos that aren’t very graphic can show us how individual cats kill their prey.

They use their teeth in one of two ways (Kitchener and others):

  • Severing the hapless victim’s spine with a killing bite to the back of the neck.
  • Crushing the windpipe or using a snout bite to suffocate prey that is too big for a neck bite.

And fishing is sometimes an option:

That’s going to require an extra-long postprandial cat bath!

Of note, the leopard’s speedy success probably means that it has learned to compensate for the refraction of light in water, unless it tracks the catfish by sound and/or feel.

It’s harder to watch a video where the prey resembles Bambi. But hunger is a fact of life, and very young cheetah cubs don’t feed themselves:

We never think of what such a dramatic hunting style costs a cheetah. In this case, too, the mother had to keep her mouth tightly closed for a while after stopping.

No wonder she needs some recovery time.

Meanwhile, in the high country, life’s a struggle for everybody:

Edited June 2, 2020.

Featured image: Persian leopard by Felix Broennimann at Pixabay. Public domain.

Kitchener, A. C., Van Valkenburgh, B., and Yamaguchi, N. 2010. Felid form and function, in Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, ed. D. W. Macdonald and A. J. Loveridge, 83-106. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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