For the most part, our little feline friends have it pretty good. In exchange for no longer struggling to survive in the great outdoors, indoor domestic cats live a life of luxury.
With good pet parents, they get top-notch medical attention, and the only work they have to do is to look cute, play, and put up with an occasional snuggle. House cats don’t even have to hunt for their food. Instead, they are brought a nutritionally-complete diet right to them on a platter.
But, if your cat was wild, what would it eat? To answer that question, we’ll need to take a look at what your cat’s cousins eat in the wild.
In this article we’ll cover the following:
You may think your cat is fully domesticated, but just below the surface of even the most docile house cat lies a hunter. And while the cute little furball curled up on your lap might not seem like a savage killer, domestic cats are estimated to kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammals every year.
If a house cat gets all the food they need from their owner, why do they still hunt? The answer is quite simple. Domestic cats might not need to hunt in order to eat, but they still retain their instinctual drives, along with the skills needed to kill prey.
Compared to the average dog, domestic cats are not far removed from their wild cousins. Domestic cats still stalk, ambush, and pounce, much like their wild cousins.
Today, there are 41 species of cats in the world. Whether we are talking about tigers, lions, servals, jungle cats, or the house cat, they are all a part of the cat family and share more similarities than differences.
Wild cats can range in size from the 2-pound Rusty-Spotted Cat to a 400-pound Bengal Tiger, and everything in between. But, all eat meat and all are hunters.
If we look at what just a few of these wild cats eat, we’ll quickly see that cats will pretty much eat any animal they can catch and kill.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means all they really need to eat is meat. Possessing one of the shortest intestinal tracts of any mammal in comparison to their body size, cats are not particularly efficient at digesting vegetables or grains.
Unlike many other mammals, including humans, cats do not produce certain enzymes in their saliva which help to break down carbohydrates. This is why cats can not really thrive on a vegetarian diet, though some cats will, on occasion, eat some plant matter such as grass.
In the wild, cats eat what they can catch. In order to understand what cats eat in the wild, let’s take a look at a cat hunting.
The caption says the cat in the video is feral, a domestic cat gone wild, as opposed to a actual wild cat. The truth is that our domestic cat is descended from the African Wild Cat and, without genetic testing, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between the two species.
The point is, whether feral or truely wild, it’s likely that you have seen a cat stalking around your neighborhood just like the one in the video. Even though our domestic friends might just bring back what they kill as a present in your shoe, you can be sure their wild cousins would have eaten their catch as a meal.
There are two main factors in determining the preferred prey of any given cat species: the size of the cat, and what prey species are in the cat’s range.
Generally, cats take prey that is less than half their size. Smaller cat species tend to eat primarily rodents and birds, followed by lizards, fish, and even insects.
Larger cat species will take correspondingly larger prey, such as deer, wild pigs, and antelope. Some have even adapted to take down prey larger than themselves.
Perhaps the pinnacle of all cat hunters is the lion. By combining its natural feline hunting abilities with cooperative social behavior, the lion can take down animals 10 to 20 times its weight, such as giraffes and elephants.
Cats in the wild are hunters. They will basically eat anything they can catch. Too bad for them donuts aren’t in the wild. Well, that would be my choice for hunting anyway…
Our live-in housemates are lucky, because they no longer have to hunt to survive. However, they still retain their hunting instincts, even though they don’t usually eat prey they catch if let outdoors.
Because they don’t actually need to conserve their energies to hunt for food, domestic cats hunt solely for pleasure, doing a great deal of damage to wildlife. Let’s take a look at a video, showing just what harm a outdoor cat can do.
If this video is disturbing, remember that it’s even worse because this is not a wild cat hunting for food for its survival. This is most likely a domestic cat indiscriminately killing wild animals.
Our domestic house cats do best if they are kept indoors to avoid injury and disease. Most importantly, they need love and a high-quality cat food like Blue Wilderness which is grain-free and made with real meat so it’s great for cats.
If you still want your cat to experience the thrill of the hunt, why not check out these great feather lures just for cats. These cat toys are great fun for both you and your cat, and a safe way for your your little hunter to feel the call of the wild.
If you have any questions or would like to share a story about your cat and what they eat, please tell us in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!
Phil’s lifelong love of animals began as a young boy growing up with three pet dogs. As a teenager and young adult, Phil spent six years working as a veterinary technician, later earning a B.S. in Animal Science. After college, Phil continued working as a vet tech part-time while caring for a private collection of mountain lions used in wildlife educational programs. During this time, Phil volunteered at the Dallas Zoo and was eventually offered a position as a zookeeper in the zoo’s naturalistic Wilds of Africa area. Phil became the primary keeper for a black leopard named “Grady” and a caracal named “Tut” in the predator/prey exhibit.