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#1
Old 12-05-2014, 10:44 PM
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Can cats tell poisonous snakes from non poisonous ones?

Hello Everyone,

We live on acreage out in the country and our cats leave us presents on our front porch all the time. The present varies, one day it's a rat, next a squirrel and so on. However, lately it has been snakes. One was a black snake and one looked like a baby rattler (but I'm not sure). Does our cats know if the snake that they are hunting is poisonous or not? I figure if they don't one of them is going to end up dead by a snake bite. I guess the cats are braver than me as I run screaming like a little girl at the first sign of one of the bastards.
#2
Old 12-05-2014, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Does our cats know if the snake that they are hunting is poisonous or not?
I'd say almost certainly not. You might want to police your property if you're concerned about outdoor pets.

That said if you aren't familiar with snakes there are a few that folks might mistake for a "baby rattler" that would otherwise be harmless - right down to behavior when they're alive. A lot of young snakes will drum their tails as a warning and if they are are in a pile of dead leaves or the like it might even sound like rattling. Gopher snakes ( Pituophis sp. ) and certain water snakes ( Nerodia sp. ) in particular are common look-alikes.
#3
Old 12-05-2014, 11:21 PM
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If they get bit and survive the venomous, many species will learn to avoid it in the future. Most species don't have the social cognition to learn this from others, but some species of venomous animals are colored brightly, have rattles, or hiss for the precise reason that they want to save their venom for prey and would rather avoid confrontation.

They would probably be more likely to avoid larger snakes. There are all kinds of discussion that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than the adults, and not just for avoidance. Something about not being able to control the dose. I'm not ready to call it urban legend, but I don't have a definitive cite and many websites say that it is false. But it's safe to say that cats are not made to react to threats on a species-specific manner but rather on displays of danger, and it depends on how the baby rattlesnakes can display this.
#4
Old 12-05-2014, 11:24 PM
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And: Florida venomous snakes. Note that the youngins may not necessarily look like smaller versions of the adults.
#5
Old 12-05-2014, 11:33 PM
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One of our black cats got hit hard in the face. Probably a Copperhead.

His face swelled up big time, he was walking slow and appeared drunk.

Took a vet trip or two, and weeks of draining puss out of a pocket that developed..

Used a big syringe to suck the puss out and it also helped keep things open. We would fill his face with Betadine also with a syringe. Been years and he still wants that side of his face rubbed.

Young cats do this snake hunting the most at our house. ( 8 cats ). They all are death on lizard which we try to discourage but they do not listen well about that. ::: Grump :::
#6
Old 12-05-2014, 11:43 PM
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Cats are much better than dogs at being able to avoid the bite and kill the snake. A cat is much faster than a rattler as long as he is aware of the snake.
#7
Old 12-05-2014, 11:45 PM
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No, any instinctive knowledge they may have is unlikely to be much use since the regions where cats evolved and where they are now may be quite different. And for several regenerations, their survival and ability to reproduce has been almost completely dependent on their symbiotic relationship with humans.

In other words, if your region has poisonous snakes and you let them out without supervision, you're likely to either end up with serious vet bills or a dead cat.


While it's true that a cat has better than even odds against a lot of snakes, it only needs to get bitten once.

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 12-05-2014 at 11:46 PM.
#8
Old 12-06-2014, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GusNSpot View Post
One of our black cats got hit hard in the face. Probably a Copperhead.

His face swelled up big time, he was walking slow and appeared drunk.

Took a vet trip or two, and weeks of draining puss out of a pocket that developed..
The pus and swelling sound like an infection, which could happen with any puncture wound. Bites can be dangerous even from technically nonvenomous creatures.
#9
Old 12-06-2014, 11:25 AM
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Bit of trivia: There's a theory that the reason cats evolved to put their ears back and hiss at potential predators is because it makes them look (the triangular head) & sound like a snake, which a lot of higher animals instinctively know to fear...
#10
Old 12-06-2014, 03:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
The pus and swelling sound like an infection, which could happen with any puncture wound. Bites can be dangerous even from technically nonvenomous creatures.
Now that I have had some sleep, I think you are correct.

The face infection was after Demon & PD had their 'who is gonna be the boss' fight. PD had him by the face pretty good.

Both of those cats had snake bites says the wife, I remember the leg bandage we had on Demon.

As to which is boss, that is still undecided after several years. They coexist but I never see one having any power over the other.

So not all cats are faster than snakes but 6 out of 8 seem to be.

We pretty much have them protected at night because of coyotes, bobcats & big owls where we used to live.

Here we do it because the road is so close & a couple have no sense about roads & cars. Can't let 4-5 out and make the rest stay in. That makes for some pissed cats. At least with our bunch.
#11
Old 12-06-2014, 08:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
Bit of trivia: There's a theory that the reason cats evolved to put their ears back and hiss at potential predators is because it makes them look (the triangular head) & sound like a snake, which a lot of higher animals instinctively know to fear...
A Cracked from today linked to an older article saying this. The external article linked is dead. Sounds a little "Just-So Story" to me. Anyway, cats probably don't imitate snakes but the ones who "accidentally" did were more likely to survive and make kittens who did the same. Same with the snake-mimic caterpillars.
#12
Old 12-07-2014, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by HoneyBadgerDC View Post
Cats are much better than dogs at being able to avoid the bite and kill the snake. A cat is much faster than a rattler as long as he is aware of the snake.
So is a honey badger.
#13
Old 12-07-2014, 06:05 AM
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I think you have mixed up the terminology (nit pick).

There are very few poisonous snakes.

However, there are a large number of venomous snakes (depending where you are).
#14
Old 12-07-2014, 11:39 AM
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I got bit by a copperhead this summer. I wish the neighborhood cats would kill them! No such luck.
#15
Old 12-07-2014, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Learjeff View Post
I got bit by a copperhead this summer. I wish the neighborhood cats would kill them! No such luck.
That sucks.

I would be reading to the cats out of the book.....
#16
Old 12-07-2014, 02:49 PM
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From my college biology course*, a thousand years ago, the reason baby venomous varieties are more dangerous is they haven't yet learned to not release all of their venom at once.
Only about 1 in 10 bites from adult snakes release any poison at all. It takes energy to produce venom, so if a snake can conserve it to be used on food rather than defense they get more food, live longer and produce more progeny.

*Disclaimer:
Everything changes, even the "facts" in college courses.
#17
Old 12-07-2014, 08:24 PM
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According to a recent QI, all snakes are venomous, even the constrictors, although some are only very weakly so, not enough to harm a human (or maybe even a cat)
#18
Old 12-07-2014, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cicero View Post
I think you have mixed up the terminology (nit pick).

There are very few poisonous snakes.

However, there are a large number of venomous snakes (depending where you are).
Blake and Colibri would disagree with you.
#19
Old 12-07-2014, 11:26 PM
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A cat is almost sure to beat a poisonous snake, even if it's a scrawny, mangy cat against a large, heavily-built species such as a bushmaster.

At least according to the script of this old radio show story:

A Shipment of Mute Fate

Quote:

(NARRATES) Its back was arched, and every hair stood on end. It moved stiff-legged now, walking in a half-circle around the snake. The bushmaster moved slowly and kept watching the cat. He tightened -- he was going to strike at any second.

SOUND:
THUD OF STRIKING SNAKE, AND SCRAPE AS IT RECOVERS ... CAT SNARLS AND SPITS ... THEN BACK TO THE LOW GROWL

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) He struck and missed! The cat was barely out of reach. Now she was walking back and forth again. She was asking to die.

SOUND:
THUD AND RECOVERY. SNARL, SPIT, AND BACK TO GROWL.

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) Missed again -- by a fraction of an inch! He was striking now without even going into full coil!

SOUND:
THUD AND RECOVERY ... SNARL, SPIT, AND BACK TO GROWL

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) Missed! Again and again -- always missing by the barest margin. Each time the cat danced barely out of reach -- and each time she countered with one precise spat of a dainty paw -- bracing her skinny frame on three stiff legs. And then suddenly I realized what she was doing!

SOUND:
THUD AND RECOVERY ... SNARL, SPIT, AND BACK TO GROWL

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) The bushmaster was tiring -- and one strike was just an instant slow. But in that split second, sharp claws raked across the evil head and ripped out both the lidless eyes. The cat has deliberately blinded the snake!

SOUND:
SNARL, SPIT ... REPEATED THUDS UNDER THE FOLLOWING

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) He didn't bother to coil now -- but slid after her in a fury -- striking wildly but always missing. And every strike was a little slower than the last one. Until finally, as the snake's neck stretched out at the end of a strike, the cat made one leap ...

SOUND:
CAT HOWLS SAVAGELY ... THE THUDS CHANGE TO THE FRANTIC SCRAPING OF A HEAVY SNAKE IN AGONY ... THE CAT'S SUSTAINED GROWL IS MUFFLED ... SHE'S GOT A MOUTHFUL OF SNAKE

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) ... and sank her razor-sharp teeth just back of the ugly head -- sank 'em until they crunched bone. With tooth and claw, she clung, as the monstrous snake flailed and lashed on the floor -- striving to get those hideous coils around her, trying to break her hold, to shake off the slow and certain paralyzing death ...

SOUND:
THE STRUGGLE SLOWS

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) ... that gradually crept over him, and at last -- stilled his struggles forever.

SOUND:
THE STRUGGLE ENDS

MUSIC:
SUSTAINS BACK

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) I took a deep breath -- the first in minutes. The cat lay on her side on the floor, panting -- resting from the fight just over. Well, she had a right to rest. That mangy, brave, beautiful alley cat had just saved my life -- and maybe others as well. But as I turned toward the stove, I suddenly became very humble, and I knew all at once what a small thing a human being really is. There were three reasons why that cat had fought and killed the world's deadliest snake.

SOUND:
MEOW OF THREE KITTENS

CHRIS:
(NARRATES) And those three reasons came tottering out from under the stove on shaky little legs -- three kittens with their eyes bright with wonder and their tails stiff as pokers. Up on the decks, hundreds of passengers were waiting for the news that the days and nights of terror were ended. Well, they could wait a little longer. I pulled open the doors of the cabinet and found a can of milk and a saucer.
The radio show was based on a short story in which the cat, although not bitten, unfortunately did not survive the battering it took while clamped to the thrashing shake's neck. The kittens did survive, and it was implied they were well taken care of forever after.
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