Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Tell What Kind of Animal Killed Your Cat: 10 Signs to Look For

Written by: Patricia Dickson

Last Updated on June 24, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Cat sleeping

How to Tell What Kind of Animal Killed Your Cat: 10 Signs to Look For

We all know that cats are predators, but they can also be the prey of other animals at times. While it depends on your location, it’s good to know which animals are apt to attack and what the signs are if something happens to your feline friend. If you have the unfortunate task of dealing with a dead cat, there are a few ways that you can tell which animal was responsible. In this guide, we list animals that commonly attack cats and the signs that point to specific species.
cat + line divider

What to Do When Your Cat Is Killed by a Wild Animal

Finding your dead cat can be a traumatizing experience. The first step is to determine what species killed them. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to tell what kind of animal may have killed your pet.

  • Look for physical evidence. This can include bite marks, claw marks, or tufts of fur. If you find any, take a close look at them, and try to identify the type of animal they belong to.
  • Examine the body carefully. Take note of any unusual wounds or injuries. This can help rule out certain animals.
  • Check for environmental evidence. This can include footprints or scat (droppings). You can try to identify the type of animal based on this evidence.
  • Talk to witnesses. If anyone saw the incident, they may be able to provide valuable information about what happened and who (or what) was responsible.
  • Call in a professional. If you’re still unsure what killed your cat, you can always call a professional (such as a veterinarian or wildlife biologist) to help you investigate. A necropsy can be performed to determine the cause of death. This should be done as soon as possible before the body starts to decompose.

Predators That Attack Cats

Several predators attack and kill cats, including dogs, coyotes, foxes, and other cats. To determine which animal killed your cat, it is essential to look at the evidence. The type of wounds inflicted, the body’s location, and the remains’ condition can all give clues as to which predator is responsible.

To help determine the culprit, first take a close look at the wounds. If they are puncture wounds, they were likely caused by teeth. If the wounds are lacerations or contain bone fractures, they were likely caused by claws. Next, look at where the body was found. If it was in an open area with no cover, the cat was likely killed by a coyote or fox, as they often drag their prey out into the open to consume it.

If the body was found in a thick brush or under a deck or porch, they were likely killed by another cat or a skunk, as they prefer to take their prey into hiding to eat it. While it is unlikely a skunk will attack an average-sized adult cat, it wouldn’t be impossible for them to kill a kitten.


The 10 Animals That Most Commonly Attack & Kill Cats

1. Coyotes

Coyote sitting in stone
Image Credit: Spykerf1, Pixabay

Coyotes are part of the Canidae family, and you can find them all over the United States. They live in packs and alone, and they have been known to prey on cats, especially during the season when they are trying to feed their young.

You must watch out for lone coyotes and those that run in packs during this time. Coyotes can run at speeds of 40 mph, so a cat would have difficulty outrunning one.

If your cat has been attacked and killed by a coyote, it’ll be pretty easy to tell. However, if you’re unsure, you can talk to animal control technicians to find out. If you suspect there are coyotes in your area, it’s best to keep your cat inside or only let them out in an enclosed area with a top that coyotes can’t get into.

Coyotes typically leave puncture wounds on a cat’s head or neck. Cats that coyotes have attacked are often left with their abdominal cavity open and the organs cleared out.

2. Snakes

cat staring at snake
Image Credit: Pedro Hamilton Oliveira, Shutterstock

Snakes are more of a threat in warm weather than cold weather but can be dangerous in either climate. Rural areas are more likely to have more snakes than suburban neighborhoods. Cats are curious animals, and your cat will quickly approach a snake to see what it is. Unfortunately, the snake could strike before your pet realizes it’s a threat.

Although some snakes aren’t venomous, it’s best to take them to a vet immediately anytime you suspect your cat of being bitten by a snake. If a snake bites your pet, you’ll see two puncture marks, and in most cases, the area will be swollen and bleeding. Take your cat to the vet right away for treatment.

If the snake is poisonous, it is a medical emergency, and the cat might display vomiting, neuroligical signs, respiratory distress, bleeding, weakness, tachycardia, increased thirst, salivation, convulsions, paralysis, respiratory paralysis, sloughing of skin/tissue, and sudden death.

3. Skunks

Striped skunks in the yard
Image Credit: Karel Bock, Shutterstock

Often, a run-in with a skunk will only leave your cat incredibly stinky. However, their spray can damage their eyes, and their claws can cause lacerations.

4. Raccoons

raccoon on grass
Image Credit: edbo23, Pixabay

Raccoons will leave bite and claw marks behind. Usually, they are located over the entire body.

5. Wolves

wolf mouth, wolf teeth
Image Credit christels, Pixabay

Wolves are also a part of the Canidae family and kill cats because they are opportunistic hunters. You have to worry more about a wolf attacking your cat when it’s cold and when they are raising and feeding their young.

As with coyotes, you can tell if a wolf kills your cat just by the damage left behind. The best way to protect your cat from wolves is to not let them out as much during the winter season and keep a close eye on them.

6. Foxes

fox standing on snow
Image Credit: AlainAudet, Pixabay

Like coyotes, foxes leave puncture and bite wounds around the face and head.

7. Scorpions

Young cat fighting with scorpion
Image Credit: sinsamut ku, Shutterstock

Scorpions usually only use their venom for two reasons: to defend themselves or to hunt prey. While scorpions don’t prey on cats, cats are curious and may play them. If the scorpion feels threatened, it will strike with its tail, which has venom in it.

Since cats are so small, the amount of poison in the tail could be lethal, depending on the species of scorpion that stung them. Even inside, your cat can run across a scorpion if you live in an area where they are prevalent. Scorpions are more likely to be found inside your home during the rainy season. removed

Stung cats may drool, have abnormal heart rate or dilated pupils, or even present tremors.  Most cats will hide after they are stung. The area will be painful, raised, and swollen. If you get your cat to the vet right away, it is unlikely that they will die, but if you are not around to assist them in time, the site wound will be the only sign that a scorpion killed your cat.

8. Porcupines

Porcupines have quills all over their body for protection. If your cat gets too close to one, they will erect and loosen their quills, which will be stabbed into your cat. The quills can be very painful, and while the porcupine won’t go out of its way to attack your cat, it will defend itself if it feels your cat is threatening it.

The sign that a porcupine killed your cat is pretty apparent. You’ll find quills sticking in the cat’s throat or other areas of their body. However, this is an unlikely scenario, as it will require a great many quills and for the wound to get infected or otherwise prevent your cat from feeding. If you find that your (alive) cat got stabbed by a porcupine, please take them to the vet as soon as possible.

9. Birds of Prey

white tailed eagle flying
Image Credit: Albert Beukhof, Shutterstock

There are also a few birds of prey that can quickly kill a cat. Hawks, eagles, and owls have razor-sharp talons. However, birds of prey attacks on cats don’t happen often. Rodents are more likely to be carried away by large birds, so you probably don’t have anything to worry about. That said, while they don’t often attack adult cats, birds of prey like owls, hawks, and eagles could go after tiny kittens.

Hawks and eagles will leave talon marks behind. Owls kill their prey by picking it up and dropping it from high elevations. Birds of prey usually fly away with their food. Therefore, it is more likely that you won’t find a body.

10. Dogs

Image Credit: BORINA OLGA, Shutterstock

You probably already know that some dogs can kill cats. Large dogs with fierce prey drives are the ones that most often attack cats, but almost any medium-sized dog can hurt or kill a cat. While a dog is less likely to eat a cat than a coyote, some dogs have aggression problems, and others simply have a strong prey drive.

yarn ball divider

Final Thoughts

Losing your cat to a wild predator is devastating, but identifying the predator can prevent other animals from seeing the same fate. Hopefully, this article can help you determine the cause of your pet’s death. Cats that roam outside are unfortunately at high risk of predator attacks.

The only way to keep your cat safe is to keep them indoors or within cat-proof enclosures. If you feel that any of these animals are in your area and a danger to your cat, it’s best to keep your pet indoors. Never try to control or capture a wild animal on your own, since you could be injured in the process.

Featured Image Credit By: bones64, Pixabay

PangoVet Image Speak With A Vet Online

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.