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Can Cats Sense Snakes? What The Science Tells Us!

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By Nicole Cosgrove

cat and snake

Believe it or not, our adorable feline friends are actually hunters by nature. Domesticated cats may not be as aggressive as their wilder and larger cousins, but they still have their predatory instincts and heightened senses that make them excellent hunters. These traits allow them to be aware of nearby prey, such as mice—but can cats sense other predators like snakes? The simple answer – yes!

Cats can be helpful allies when it comes to keeping snakes away from their humans or their property. Their superior senses allow them to detect snakes even though they aren’t visible.

Still curious about how cats are able to detect snakes? Read on to find out more!

Is There Proof That Cats Can Sense Snakes?

It is easy to say that cats have superior senses and are, therefore, able to detect snakes. But is there actually any scientific evidence that supports this claim?

Well, a study by Barua and Mikheyev in 2020 tells us that cats have the ability to identify the snake involved just by smelling their venom. The study also reports that, not only do cats use their sense of smell to pick up the scents, but also their whiskers!

While there is yet to be more research to be done on the topic, this study does show that cats can indeed sense and detect snakes.

copperhead snake
Image Credit: Jumpstory

How Are Cats Able to Sense Snakes?

Cats have acute senses that allow them to detect prey, as well as potential dangers. Cats also use their senses to detect other predators including snakes. Our feline friends have three primary tools when it comes to sensing snakes—their senses of smell, hearing, and their natural hyperawareness.

Scent Detection

Scent is the strongest signal emitted by most animals. As hunters, cats are able to take advantage of this heightened sense of smell. While humans have about five million scent receptors, cats approximately have a whopping 200 million receptors, which is 14 times better than that of humans! This ability allows cats to smell more diluted scents that humans can’t even detect.

With their incredible scent detection, they can easily smell secretions from a snake’s scent glands when a snake is nearby.

close up cat with bump on wounded nose
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Superior Hearing

Another acute sense that cats have is their hearing. Humans can hear a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, while cats can have a range of 48 Hz to 85,000 Hz! This gives cats access to a wider frequency band than that of humans, allowing them to hear sounds that humans normally can’t.

Snakes are subtle in their movement. They slowly slither along the grass and the ground while using their scales to blend in and camouflage themselves to catch prey. With cats’ superior hearing, they are able to pick up on the movement by hearing the rustle of the grass and the hissing of the snake.

Cats also use their whiskers to pick up vibrations from the grass and ground, and can catch even the slightest of movements.


When cats hear or smell something, you may notice your cat enter a very alert and vigilant stance. With their natural hunting instincts, they immediately make themselves aware of what’s going on in their surroundings based on what smell or sound they’ve picked up. This is also the reason why cats enjoy high spaces to rest because it allows them to see everything around them.

This hyperawareness is useful for cats especially when outside. You may notice your cat either move closer toward the snake or away from it, depending on your cat’s response to what they’re detecting.

brown cat with runny nose
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Are Cats and Snakes Enemies?

Like cats, snakes are efficient hunters themselves. This makes cats natural enemies because they naturally compete for the same type of prey. On some occasions, they may even prey on each other.

Cats like to hunt and eat smaller prey, such as rodents, squirrels, and birds. Unfortunately for cats, these are also typical prey for snakes, so it is common for snakes and cats to compete over the same resources.

Do Cats and Snakes Hunt or Eat Each Other?

Since both cats and snakes can find themselves hunting in the same territory, it is likely that they may cross paths with one another. Although it’s more common for cats to stalk snakes, rather than vice versa, snakes can attack and even eat a cat if placed in the situation. Snakes can vary in size, so larger species of snakes can readily accommodate and eat the average-sized cat.

Cats are naturally curious animals. Their hunting instincts can easily be triggered by the sound, smell, and movement of snakes outdoors. They are natural stalkers and can easily pounce on a snake if properly excited.

Bobcat hunting in Arizona
Image Credit: G. Parekh, Shutterstock

What Happens if My Cat Gets Bit by a Snake?

If you live in an area with easy access to the outdoors, there is always the risk of your cat getting bit by a snake. The tricky part about a snake bite is not knowing if the snake is poisonous or not. Should you notice or suspect that your cat has gotten bit by a snake, take your cat to the vet immediately.

If you saw the snake that bit your cat, immediately get you and your cat away from the snake. Try to take pictures of the bite or wound to show your vet and, if possible, photos of the snake at a safe distance. It is also important to identify the different signs of a snake bite to give your vet an idea of what happened. Listed below are common signs of snake bites that your cat may exhibit.

Signs of a Snake Bite

  • Agitation and visible signs of pain
  • Visible fang marks
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty standing and walking
  • Bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis

Final Thoughts

Cats are natural hunters with acute senses. This allows them to be aware of their surroundings for prey and potential danger. Cats are able to sense and detect snakes through their sensitive smell, superior hearing, and hyperawareness.

Cats are a great companion to have when it comes to keeping snakes away from their homes, but it is also important that you make sure your cat is safe. While your cat protects you from snakes, us cat parents should also protect them and keep them safe!

Featured Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

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