Do domestic cats kill squirrels? Yes, they do but the percentage of house cats who are successful squirrel hunters is probably quite low despite the impression the pictures on this page provide.
Depending on the individual cat, those allowed outside might instinctively have the urge to prey on squirrels. They are the right size for a domestic cat prey item and they are rodents1. The house cat’s natural prey is the rodent.
But there are several reasons why the majority of domestic cats can’t and don’t kill squirrels. Yes, some house cats who are successful in hunting squirrels but it depends on the the cat’s character, the circumstances and the squirrel. Perhaps young, inexperienced and ill squirrels are potentially vulnerable to being preyed on by a house cat.
However, I believe that most often adult, healthy squirrels are too quick, too athletic and such great climbers that they will escape any attempt by a cat to hunt them down. My cat looks at them and feels the urge to hunt but doesn’t bother and he is a top quality hunter. I guess he has decided that it isn’t worth the effort and I have a lot of squirrels in and around my garden. Cats instinctively weigh up the risk-reward equation when hunting. Instinctively, the effort to hunt an animal has to be worth it. There is a risk of getting hurt for the domestic cat which must be in the decision making process.
But online there are reports of domestic cats successfully hunting squirrels. There is even one example of two domestic cats working together to catch and kill a squirrel inside the home. They dragged the poor thing through the cat flap and killed it on the carpet which warranted an insurance claim!
Also one forum member on mumsnet.com wrote:
“We had a very tame and domesticated cat who killed several squirrels and a couple of really big rats, so yes, definitely possible.”
Set against this very positive and optimistic outlook for domestic cat squirrel hunting there will be many more who would admit that their cat has never caught a squirrel.
If I was asked what percentage of domestic cats in developed countries had successfully hunted a squirrel, I’d put the figure at around 5%. A low percentage, which does not mean that cats don’t chase them from time to time. I mention ‘developed countries’ because I’d expect community cats in developing countries to be more adept at catching squirrels and more motivated to do it. Cats do hunt even when well-fed because it is instinctive but I’d argue that the motivation to do so is diminished in the well-fed and pampered pet.
1. Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, a family that includes small or medium-size rodents – Wikipedia.