Are cats faster than rabbits?

Cats are not faster than rabbits. In general terms, cats and rabbits run at a similar speed but my research indicates that the top speed of the rabbit is perhaps slightly higher than the top speed of a domestic cat. And of course, we are referring to domestic cats. Also, I have generalised with respect to rabbits because there are different species which dictates how fast they can run. Also, many species of cat such as the serval (which is a pet in some homes in the US) can run at speeds of around 50 mph, well above the top speed of a rabbit. As you know, the fastest land animal is a cat: the cheetah at around 70 mph maximum. My research indicates that their top speed is nearer 64 mph and they can sustain this for around 400 meters.

Rabbit and cat
Rabbit and cat. Montage: MikeB based on images from Pixabay.
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Depending on the species and the individual rabbit they can run between 25 mph and 45 mph. The top speed of a domestic cat is somewhere around 30 mph. Many domestic cats will have a top speed much lower than that. Perhaps some can run faster such as an F1 Bengal cat or an F1 Savannah cat. I would expect the F1 Savannah cat to be able to run at a speed similar to the fastest rabbit!

So, the answer is very much dependent upon the individual animal and the species. That’s why you have to generalise. The Bunny Lady tells us that, on average, rabbits have a maximum running speed of 30 miles an hour, which as mentioned, is very similar to that of a fit domestic cat of ideal weight. She says that hares can reach speeds of 45 mph. One factor with rabbits is that they zigzag which slows them down. Your classic domestic pet rabbit will probably not reach these sorts of speeds.

The domestic cat is able to run fast but they are sprinters rather than long-distance runners as are dogs. Cats have fast twitch muscles and long levers in their hind legs. There are also flexible which allows them to have a long stride. A rabbit’s anatomy is also geared up to running fast. They have powerful hind legs which allows them to accelerate very quickly. This helps them to evade predators. For the cat, their high rate of acceleration allows them to catch prey, the exact opposite to a rabbit. My estimate is that cats can accelerate to near 30 mph in around 3 seconds.

The cat’s anatomy is geared up to stalking with a final dash to capture prey. That’s why they are good at acceleration but not good at long-distance running.

The cottontail rabbit is a small species weighing about 2-4 pounds and their maximum speed is about 30 mph. They usually reach a speed of about 18 mph. The jackrabbit is often referred to as the fastest species of rabbit. Although they are a hare rather than a rabbit. Hares have stronger hind legs. They can reach top speeds of about 45 mph, as mentioned. They can also leap 10 feet with one jump. European rabbits can reach top speeds of about 35 mph but these are exceptional and most domestic rabbits don’t achieve this speed.

The chart below tells you how rabbits and cats measure up against other animals in terms of top speed.

AnimalTop Speed
Cheetah70mph
Antelope55mph
Lion50mph
Jackrabbit (hare)45 mph
Horse44mph
Coyote43 mph
Fox42mph
Greyhound40mph
Cottontail Rabbit30mph
Deer30mph
Domestic Cat30mph
German Shepherd30mph
Grizzly Bear30mph

Sources: various including as stated in the text and from my own knowledge.

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