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Home > Cats > Do Hawks Attack and Eat Cats? Vet-Approved Safety Information

Do Hawks Attack and Eat Cats? Vet-Approved Safety Information

Yellow Billed Kite eat cats

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Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Maybe you’ve heard stories about large raptors carrying off small pets. After all, they go after wildlife like rabbits, which can be the size of a young adolescent cat. This is a scary thought for any owner of a cat, especially one that roams outdoors unsupervised.

But do hawks actually eat cats? While hawks won’t go out of their way to attack and eat a cat, particularly since cats are generally larger than their normal prey, they will go after a cat if they are hungry enough and have the opportunity.

Fortunately, there are some procedures to prevent this from happening.

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The Hawk

Hawks are raptor birds, which fall into the same category as eagles, owls, falcons, kites, and even vultures. Raptors are also known as birds of prey, which means they pursue and hunt other animals for food.

We will use an example of the red-tailed hawk, as they are the most common hawks in North America. You can typically see them circling high in the sky (usually over a field) or sitting on telephone poles as they keep a sharp eye out for dinner.

Harris Hawk
Image By: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

While these birds are some of the largest in North America, they tend to only weigh about 3 pounds (the females are actually larger than the males), which makes it much more unlikely that they can carry away your cat.

Interesting fact: the red-tailed hawk has such a distinctive and recognizable cry that it’s used for almost every raptor bird on the silver screen. This means that if there’s an eagle in the movie you’re watching and you hear it scream, it’s more than likely a recording of the red-tailed hawk.

The Hawk’s Diet

The average prey of the hawk typically weighs anywhere from less than a pound up to or a little more than 5 pounds.

The most common prey include:
  • Mice
  • Voles
  • Ground squirrels
  • Snowshoe hares
  • Jackrabbits
  • Woodrats
  • Rabbits
Northern goshawk in a snow-covered tree
Image By: Erik_Kartis, Pixabay

The red-tailed hawk will also eat carrion (animals that are already dead), snakes, and other birds (which can be blackbirds, bobwhites, pheasants, and starlings).

You will not find pets on these lists since they really are not a typical part of the hawk’s diet. It’s important to understand the hawk and what it eats, as this will help you to keep your cat safe.

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How to Protect Your Cat From Hawks

First of all, if you are aware of raptors in your area, particularly if you’ve heard about pets being attacked, keeping your cat inside is the safest thing you can do.

However, there are steps you can take if you want your cat to remain safe while outdoors.

1. Supervision

If your cat is young or small, you should sit outside and keep them under supervision. Most hawks wouldn’t attempt to take a larger cat.

Nonetheless, it’s best to only allow your cat to roam with supervision or with a leash (if they are leash trained). Remember that though a cat might be large for some hawks, other predators could view an unsupervised cat as an easy meal.

2. Enclosure

You can build an enclosure for your cat that could be connected to a window by tunnels.

There are also “catios” that can be attached to your house. This will allow your cat to enjoy the outdoors without fear of predators, plus it will keep your backyard birds safe from your cat.

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Final Thoughts

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects red-tailed hawks in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Mexico, and Russia. This means it’s illegal to capture and kill hawks. If you suspect there’s a hawk patrolling your area, it is best to keep your cat indoors for their safety.

Hawks and other birds of prey eat birds and animals to survive and have the same instincts as any hunter, including your cat. Always keep in mind that it is wise to take steps to keep your cat safe. Even though it is quite rare for a hawk to attack a cat, the presence of other predators warrants caution when letting your cat explore the outdoors.

Featured Image Credit: Kevinsphotos, Pixabay

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