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When I was a kid my mother's brother had a cat with rather odd body. It was strong and muscular in the front and had a very lean and longlegged rear. He told us kids that the cat can run down a wild rabbit, kill it and even eat it. Then again, he loved to tell imaginative stories, so I always thought it was one of those wild stories. To the child that I was, a cat is a cute furry pet, not a hare-hunting predator. I had my ideals :)

However, all these years his story stays alive in my memory because of how that cat looked like. It was clearly a special cat. And now, just recently, I read another story in Facebook about a cat who can run down a wild rabbit and kill it. This time there's no mention about the cat eating the rabbit. We don't have those cute and slow bunnies living in the wild here in Finland, but these stories are about hunting the wild real rabbits running in the fields and forests. Is it possible for a cat to catch such a rabbit and kill it?

  • Anything is possible, a cat and a rabbit of equal size have about the same tools for fighting. a rabbit is 20% faster. It is not usually for a house cat to acquire a baby wild rabbit. But a full grown wild rabbit of equal size would be a different thing. – James Jenkins May 23 '14 at 11:34
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    I think the average house cat would be in for an awful shock if it tried to hunt down a full grown rabbit... There are exceptions, I'm sure, but rabbits are a little less vulnerable then people realize as their legs have a wicked kick. Still, pound for pound, cats are the best fighters in the world. – John Cavan May 23 '14 at 15:42
  • I have had a few cats catch rabbits, so it is not rare. One cat had no science and would just run at anything like a cheetah. Yet she caught large rabbits almost her length and even birds every so often. – Oldcat May 23 '14 at 21:32
  • My cat caught a rabbit last year that was nearly his size in length. He catches babies every spring, but this one must have been nearly full grown – jalynn2 Apr 8 '15 at 17:31
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    Remember too that most cats are by preference stalk-and-pounce hunters, not chase hunters as dogs are. Speed is less of a factor if you can grab the prey before it knows you're there. – keshlam Oct 4 '15 at 15:18
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I have had pet cats kill rabbits and eat them many times over the years. It isn't rare at all as rabbits thrive in modern subdivisions on the ornamental plants and grasses while mice and rats are less frequent. So in the morning or evenings you will see rabbits hanging out all over the place.

These rabbits are not all young and small, although some were. One cat dragged home a rabbit that was so long she had to waddle her back feet to give room for his body when she had it by the neck. She had no craft in hunting that I ever saw...she would just sprint at prey like a mini cheetah. Yet she got her share of rabbits and even some birds. She was a smallish cat, about 10 pounds.

I haven't often seen any signs of a long fight. Most prey doesn't have many, or any visible wounds. In fact, often enough my cat will bring home a rabbit totally unharmed, over a 5.5 foot wall (or several such walls). The animal is either stunned or shocked, and even when released will stay still for quite some time. Mice recover quicker, which is a problem when an unharmed one is let go and it runs and hides under the furniture.

I don't recall seeing any wounds on a cat I could say for sure were from prey fighting back. Other cats, maybe.

It also sometimes takes only a short time to catch something. I have let the cat out to look around only to have a catch just a few minutes later.

6

The average housecat can run at speeds roughly 30mph (48kph) though when looking for the fastest housecat I found the Egyptian Mau, which seems to be a part wildcat similar to Bengals and Ocicats. It's said to run at speeds around 36mph (57kph).

The range of rabbit speeds seems to be a lot broader at 30-45mph (48-72kph), but that's because the different species of rabbit vary so greatly I think. If you've ever seen a jackrabbit (hare) compared to a common rabbit, then you'll know why jackrabbits are tipping the scales to 45mph while other rabbits are more likely to run at 30mph.

Hare compared to rabbit (Source)

Based on that, I think it's quite possible for a cat to catch a rabbit. Especially since cats will try to stalk their prey before going into a chase, so that gives them an advantage. Rabbits are also sprinters, whereas cats will be able 'marathon' run to tire them out as long as they don't make it into a burrow.

A jackrabbit might be a harder prey to catch, but I still wouldn't discount the cat from being able to stalk it in order to get close enough.

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    As a side note. Egyptian Mau are said to be so fast, because the have an extra fold of skin that allows their back legs to stretch further back when running. It's a similar fold of skin that's found in cheetahs. – Spidercat May 23 '14 at 21:07
  • I have had a few cats do this. – Oldcat May 23 '14 at 21:29
  • Maus are purely domestic. However, many hybrid breeds were founded in part using Maus and have inherited that flap—and due to longer legs (Savannah) or more muscle (Bengal), can run even faster. – StephenS Sep 25 at 20:51

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