How to Determine Which Animal Killed Your Cat: A Comprehensive Guide

cat with eyes close

Discovering that your beloved cat has been killed is a devastating experience that no pet owner wants to endure. While outdoor cats enjoy freedom and exercise, they are more susceptible to predators, feral dogs, and automobile accidents. Being nocturnal animals, they are particularly vulnerable to attacks when they come into contact with other creatures that hunt at night.

Determining the type of animal that killed your cat is crucial in order to protect your other pets, your family, and your neighbors from potential future attacks. In this detailed guide, we will walk you through the steps to identify the culprit.

Before You Start

Before you proceed with any investigation, it’s important to contact your local authorities and seek assistance from an animal control expert. If a dangerous animal is preying on house pets in your area, wildlife technicians can investigate the scene and take necessary measures to protect other animals in the neighborhood. Additionally, notifying your neighbors about the incident and questioning them about any predatory activity they may have witnessed is essential.

While it might seem difficult, it is important to document the attack by taking photos of your pet and the surrounding area. Don’t forget to capture any animal tracks or fur that might provide valuable clues.

1. Determine Which Animals are Active in Your Area

House cats face threats from various animals, including humans, but it’s important to rule out predators that are not active or native to your area. For example, if you live in the Southwestern United States, it’s highly unlikely that a Burmese python from Southern Florida would be responsible for your cat’s demise. As urban and suburban regions have become home to many wild animals, it is crucial to focus on the species that are active and native in your area.

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Coyotes are present in almost every state in the U.S., except Hawaii. These skilled hunters can reach speeds of up to 40mph and are capable of easily attacking and killing house cats. While they prefer to hunt away from human developments, the smell of pet food or garbage left outside can lure them into neighborhoods. If you suspect coyotes, it’s important to note that they usually do not consume their prey in the same spot they killed it; the remains of small animals are often found several feet away from the attack site.

Image Credit: Pixabay


Both feral and pet dogs pose a threat to house cats. Large dog breeds with high prey drives are particularly dangerous, but any dog, regardless of size, may attack a cat. Unlike coyotes, dogs are less likely to eat a cat. However, in cases where a feral dog is starving and has limited access to food, it may resort to eating a cat to survive.

Large Cats

Large wild cats like cougars or bobcats can pose significant risks to both cats and dogs. Although house cats are not their natural prey, a large cat wandering into a suburban area can hunt and kill cats. There have been instances where technicians captured large bobcats responsible for multiple cat killings in residential neighborhoods.


While raccoons are unlikely to hunt adult cats, they have been known to kill kittens or small cats. Raccoons are more likely to be interested in garbage, cat food, and dead animals rather than live felines. It’s worth noting that raccoons tend to interact or attack pet cats when pet food is left outside.

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Birds of Prey

Eagles, hawks, and owls have powerful talons that can cause severe injuries to cats. However, large bird attacks are less common than one might think. These birds generally prefer rodents as prey, as they are more desirable and easier to catch. According to experts, birds of prey cannot carry away a pet that weighs over 3 pounds. So, if you have hawks or eagles in your area, they are unlikely to fly off with your cat.

redtail hawk in the tree

2. Consult Wildlife Control Officers

Wildlife officials in your city or private firms specializing in wildlife removal are excellent resources for identifying animal attacks. You can also reach out to your neighbors and ask if they have security camera footage of the night of the attack. If wildlife technicians are unable to identify the attacker through visual inspection, you can request a necropsy.

3. Order a Necropsy

In order to determine the cause of death and confirm if it was a wild animal attack, evidence from the scene, photographs, and video footage may be helpful, but a necropsy is often necessary. Similar to an autopsy for humans, a necropsy can provide conclusive evidence regarding the cause of death. While local government may order necropsies in areas that have experienced multiple animal attacks, they are less likely to cover the cost for individual incidents. Keep in mind that a necropsy can be an expensive procedure, and you should be prepared to cover the associated fees.

4. Consult Your Neighbors to Prevent Future Attacks

Once you have identified the animal responsible for the attack, it is important to discuss preventive measures with your neighbors. Ensuring the safety of neighborhood animals is much easier when pet owners keep their pets indoors.

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Indoor Protection

While cats and dogs may enjoy the outdoors, they are safer when supervised and kept indoors at night. Some pet owners fear that confining their pets indoors is cruel, but it protects them from larger animals, car accidents, rabid rodents, psychopathic humans, and rat poison.

russian blue cat outside its box

Yard Maintenance

Maintain your yard by trimming bushes and trees and removing fallen debris. This reduces the chances of wildlife visiting your property. Nocturnal predators thrive in areas with ample cover to hide their advances. Additionally, eliminate food waste and store garbage in lockable containers to discourage raccoons and other wildlife from visiting.

Pet Food

Wild animals, including coyotes, raccoons, and feral dogs, are attracted to pet food left outside. If you feed your pet outdoors, try to remove the food before dusk to deter unwanted creatures.

Final Thoughts

Losing a pet to a wild animal attack is a heartbreaking experience. By identifying the animal responsible, you can help prevent future incidents and protect your friends and community. As human developments continue to encroach on natural habitats, it is important to be aware of the potential risks outdoor cats face. While they live adventurous lives, they are more vulnerable to wildlife and, unfortunately, have shorter lifespans compared to indoor felines.

Featured Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

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