• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

how do I teach my cats to kill these rabbits, and/or do it myself?

 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 401
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The cats are bringing in young wild rabbits several times a week. I'm happy about that, but they don't seem to know how to kill them. The cats are rescue cats less than a year old, and I started feeding them in the autumn (6 months ago) so maybe they never killed a rabbit before.

The first couple of rabbits I found were either dead and whole, or dead and half eaten. Not sure which cat did that. I had to cut the whole one open in order for one of the cats to know what to do with it, but once I opened up the belly he was ecstatic.

Now I'm finding them in the house with live rabbits and they're pretty clueless (the cats), which makes me think the dead ones died of shock eventually rather than the cats killing them. One they had outside the other night was screaming for 5 mins while they tried to figure out what to do, so I ended up knocking it on the head to kill it (the others I've let go). But I don't know what I am doing either and would like a less traumatic end for the rabbits (by me or the cats).

So two questions.

1. what are some of the more efficient ways of killing young rabbits, esp ones for someone still semi-squeamish? They're young rabbits with soft skulls. I looked up instructions on the internet, but would rather have a conversation with someone who knows what they are doing. I'm guessing the right tool and the right technique would help. It's late spring here, so I guess over the summer they will bring in older rabbits.

2. any ideas on how my cats can learn to kill the rabbits themselves? I've heard that the mother cat usually half kills the rabbits and lets the kittens finish it off and that's how they learn. I assume that means she draws blood and they attack the rabbit until it dies. Not sure I am up for that tbh, but open to suggestions. It's possible that if I fully kill some of the rabbits myself, the cats will catch on. I'd also be interested to know how cats kill rabbits in the wild.

 
Andy Moffatt
Posts: 93
Location: New Zealand
3
food preservation goat hunting
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
They aren't hungry enough, stop feeding them.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 401
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Andy Moffatt wrote:They aren't hungry enough, stop feeding them.


How long for?
 
Andy Moffatt
Posts: 93
Location: New Zealand
3
food preservation goat hunting
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Our cat gets up to a tablespoon of biscuits a day we keep her lean, not skinny or half starved. She kills plenty of mice and rats l and eats them, if she is full she brings them inside and plays with them till they die or escape into the furniture.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1032
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
89
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Well, maybe don't stop feeding them entirely, because they will not allow you to do so.

But if you feed them only vegetarian food they might be more inspired to catch and eat meat themselves.

But cutting back on the food or the quality of food you give a cat is not easy. They can be very persistent in letting you know it's not as good as what you used to give them!
 
Andy Moffatt
Posts: 93
Location: New Zealand
3
food preservation goat hunting
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cats are carnivorous keep them on a proper meat based diet just feed smaller amounts
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 401
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I underfed the cats for 3 weeks and they lost weight, one of them is too skinny. Both were wild undernourished kittens with health issues so while I agree that if they were starving they would figure it out I'm reluctant to go hard core on them by witholding food drastically. In terms of ongoing strategies, there isn't enough wild food here for them to eat that daily. My guess is they would start scrounging again which is part of what they were doing when they were wild.

Plus, they do eat the rabbits they are catching, once I cut them open, so I don't think it's case of them not being hungry. I really think one of them at least is clueless on how to kill them. Maybe it's a stalemate and I will just have to kill the rabbits myself.

I agree they need meat daily.
 
Lynn Garcia
Posts: 15
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Having had cats for most of my life I can tell you the most likely reason your cats aren't killing and eating their presents to you.  Cats don't naturally kill, they LEARN it, from their mothers.  This learning begins early but they don't usually really learn the lesson until around 8-12 weeks of age sometimes even later.  So if you want a mouser you need to let the mother teach them, which means not taking the kitten away before 12 weeks of age.  Also this is further complicated by whether the mother is a mouser.  IF the mother has learned to hunt and kill she will train the kittens properly.  IF she has never killed AND eaten anything she will not teach the kittens properly.  That said it is possible that a cat who did not learn in this time frame can learn it later, but it will probably have to be taught by example from another cat who DOES kill and eat their prey.  Further complications are that some breeds of cat have lost the hunting instinct.  Best bet is to get from a farmers mouser litter after 12 weeks.

Best of luck!

PS. Also as far as rabbits go it depends on where you are living if the rabbits/hares are small enough for the cat to even kill.  The various Cottontails of North America are easily within the size that a cat can and will kill. The larger species of rabbits and hares have as much chance of killing the cat as the cat has of killing them.
 
Peter Ellis
Posts: 1311
Location: Central New Jersey
36
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rebecca Norman wrote:Well, maybe don't stop feeding them entirely, because they will not allow you to do so.

But if you feed them only vegetarian food they might be more inspired to catch and eat meat themselves.

But cutting back on the food or the quality of food you give a cat is not easy. They can be very persistent in letting you know it's not as good as what you used to give them!


Obligate carnivore.  Vegetarian cat food is a slow death by starvation for the cat.

As for the OP's question(s) a) most cats will only go for baby or juvenile rabbits.  Adult rabbits are too big for a domestic cat to bring down (typically, please no stories about pet cervals or such.  Domestic felines are not normally going to take adult rabbits)
b) reducing their food may encourage them to be more aggressive hunters, or it may encourage them to go find new humans to feed them.  c) efficient killing the rabbits yourself?  Grab by hind feet and head.  Pull sharply.  Rabbits have weak necks and it is easy to fatally dislocate their necks in this manner.  While efficient and probably easier on the rabbit than bashing them on the head, I won't try to say it is easy on you.
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8810
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
610
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My perfectly normal sized domestic cat used to bring back full sized hares, much to my disapproval.

They would last her four days - she'd eat the head the first day, the shoulders the second, the abdomen the third and the back legs on the fourth and final day.

I swore I'd never have another cat after that.

She'd also bring mice into the house for me and persisted until the day I managed to pick one up and fling it out of the open window when she wasn't looking.  She was so proud, and relieved, when she thought I'd finally learned how to kill and eat them myself and stopped bringing them in for me. 

I dug out some photos, because I haven't looked at them for ages.  This was over thirty years ago, back in Wales.



 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 401
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lynn Garcia wrote:Having had cats for most of my life I can tell you the most likely reason your cats aren't killing and eating their presents to you.  Cats don't naturally kill, they LEARN it, from their mothers.  This learning begins early but they don't usually really learn the lesson until around 8-12 weeks of age sometimes even later.  So if you want a mouser you need to let the mother teach them, which means not taking the kitten away before 12 weeks of age.  Also this is further complicated by whether the mother is a mouser.  IF the mother has learned to hunt and kill she will train the kittens properly.  IF she has never killed AND eaten anything she will not teach the kittens properly.  That said it is possible that a cat who did not learn in this time frame can learn it later, but it will probably have to be taught by example from another cat who DOES kill and eat their prey.  Further complications are that some breeds of cat have lost the hunting instinct.  Best bet is to get from a farmers mouser litter after 12 weeks.

Best of luck!

PS. Also as far as rabbits go it depends on where you are living if the rabbits/hares are small enough for the cat to even kill.  The various Cottontails of North America are easily within the size that a cat can and will kill. The larger species of rabbits and hares have as much chance of killing the cat as the cat has of killing them.


Thanks Lynn. That matches what is happening. I had always heard that cats have an instinct to hunt but that eating the prey was taught. I've just found one of the cat's rabbits dead but not opened up. I gave it to the cat I haven't seen eating a rabbit yet and she played with it but didn't seem to know what to do. Neither cat was particularly hungry. I cut the rabbit up and fed her bits - she eagerly at the kidneys, liver, small intestine (not large), and had a fair go at a leg. I think next time I will just cut the skin open a bit and let her figure it out. I agree with what others are saying too, that if they were hungry enough they'd get there, but am not willing to starve them to do that.

These cats came out of the wild as older kittens. Not tame then, and I'm guessing they'd never had to kill anything larger than mice, skinks etc. All the rabbits so far have been young ones.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 401
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Peter Ellis wrote:
As for the OP's question(s) a) most cats will only go for baby or juvenile rabbits.  Adult rabbits are too big for a domestic cat to bring down (typically, please no stories about pet cervals or such.  Domestic felines are not normally going to take adult rabbits)
b) reducing their food may encourage them to be more aggressive hunters, or it may encourage them to go find new humans to feed them.  c) efficient killing the rabbits yourself?  Grab by hind feet and head.  Pull sharply.  Rabbits have weak necks and it is easy to fatally dislocate their necks in this manner.  While efficient and probably easier on the rabbit than bashing them on the head, I won't try to say it is easy on you.


Thanks Peter. Not sure I am ready for the hands on kill yet. Might work up to that.

My question now is if they bring in a dead rabbit and don't eat it because they're not hungry, what's the best way to store it for them to eat later? I'm ok with butchering, but not very skilled yet. I'd like to leave the skin on, for them to eat, and to keep the rabbit as close to their kill as possible. But what should I do if I want to leave it over night or until their next feed? Gut it? Hang it? Is it ok to leave it in a bucket (easiest way to keep flies off it if I've gutted it). Leave it whole and open it up just prior to them eating?

Should I be checking the rabbits for disease or poison?
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 401
Location: Otago, New Zealand
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Burra Maluca wrote:My perfectly normal sized domestic cat used to bring back full sized hares, much to my disapproval.

They would last her four days - she'd eat the head the first day, the shoulders the second, the abdomen the third and the back legs on the fourth and final day.


Nice photos Burra. What did your cat do with the uneaten bits in the meantime?
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
Pie
Posts: 8810
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
610
bee bike books duck forest garden greening the desert solar trees wofati
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rose Pinder wrote:Nice photos Burra. What did your cat do with the uneaten bits in the meantime?


She'd leave them next to the open bale of hay in the barn. I think it was a favourite spot for her as it always had nice fresh hay to sleep on. 
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic