Can a squirrel hurt a cat?

In short, yes, a squirrel can hurt a cat. Squirrels have sharp teeth and claws that they can use to defend themselves, and they can give a nasty bite or scratch if they feel threatened by a cat.

Anatomy of Squirrels

Squirrels are small, agile rodents. They have sharp front teeth for gnawing on nuts and seeds. Their incisors grow continuously throughout their lives and must be kept short by constant gnawing. Squirrels also have sharp claws on their front and rear paws that help them climb trees and grip branches.

Here are some key physical features of squirrels:

  • Incisor teeth – Squirrels have four long, sharp incisor teeth (two on top, two on bottom) that they use to open hard-shelled nuts and seeds.
  • Claws – Squirrels have curved, sharp claws on both their front and hind paws to help grip branches and climb trees.
  • Paws – A squirrel’s front paws are very dexterous, allowing them to hold and manipulate food.
  • Limbs – Squirrels have muscular hind legs that power their jumps between trees and branches.
  • Tails – Squirrels have long, bushy tails that help them balance as they move through trees.

So in summary, squirrels have razor sharp front teeth, claws on all four paws, powerful hind legs, and long tails that can be used as defenses against predators.

Squirrel Behavior

Squirrels are highly active, social creatures. They communicate with each other using complex vocalizations and will defend their territory and food sources.

Here are some key facts about squirrel behavior:

  • Territory – Squirrels are territorial and will defend their nests and food sources from intruders.
  • Food hoarding – Squirrels hoard and bury nuts and seeds to save for later. They will aggressively defend these food caches.
  • Nesting – Squirrels build nests high up in trees to avoid predators. They will defend their nest area.
  • Vocalizations – Squirrels use a complex array of clicks, screeches, squeals and chatter to communicate with each other.
  • Aerial pursuits – Squirrels will chase each other through trees, leaping acrobatically from branch to branch.
  • Fox squirrel vs. gray squirrel – Fox squirrels are more aggressively territorial than gray squirrels.

The takeaway is that squirrels are fast, agile, territorial creatures equipped with sharp claws and teeth. They are highly defensive of their homes and food sources and will not hesitate to bite or scratch if they feel threatened.

Squirrel Teeth and Claws

Let’s take a more detailed look at squirrels’ main defenses – their teeth and claws:


  • Incisors – Squirrels have large, curved upper incisors and smaller lower incisors. These are kept extremely sharp by constant gnawing and can puncture skin.
  • Biting force – For their size, squirrels have a strong biting force. Their jaw muscles and sharp incisors can deliver painful bites.
  • Injury – Squirrel bites can cause deep puncture wounds and scratches on cats and other predators.
  • Infections – Bacteria and other pathogens on squirrel teeth can cause infections if skin is broken.
  • Rabies – While rare, squirrels can contract rabies which they can potentially transmit through bites.


  • Sharp claws – Squirrels have curved, extremely sharp claws on both front and hind paws that can grow up to 2 inches long.
  • Scratching – Squirrels will aggressively scratch with their hind legs when defending themselves or their territory.
  • Tearing – Their sharp claws can tear at skin, causing painful lacerations.
  • Eye injuries – Squirrels may target the eyes when scratching, which can cause severe injuries.

So in summary, squirrel teeth and claws can inflict painful bites, deep puncture wounds, and severe scratches and lacerations on cats. Their claws can target sensitive areas like the eyes. They must be taken seriously as defenses.

Do Squirrels Attack Cats?

Squirrels are not aggressive hunters by nature. They prefer to avoid direct conflicts if possible. However, they will fiercely defend themselves, their young, and their territory when threatened:

  • Biting and scratching – Cornered squirrels will bite and scratch cats, dogs, and other predators that threaten them.
  • Defending nests – Mother squirrels are especially aggressive when defending their babies in the nest.
  • Disputes over territory – Squirrels are highly territorial. They will attack cats that encroach on claimed areas.
  • Food protection – Squirrels will aggressively defend food caches and treasured feeders from cats.

While direct attacks are rare, squirrels will bite and scratch cats that get too close. And injuries can become severe quickly given their sharp teeth and claws.

Squirrel Defense Strategies

When confronted by a predator like a cat, squirrels rely on several key defense strategies:

Flicking their tails

  • Squirrels flick their large, bushy tails from side to side to distract predators and warn other squirrels of danger.
  • The flashing tail serves as a distraction, giving the squirrel a chance to escape.
  • It also signals to the predator that the squirrel is aware of their presence and ready to defend itself.

Vocal warnings

  • Squirrels use sharp chatter, screeches, squeals and other vocals to warn of predators.
  • Loud alarm calls alert other squirrels and signal that the squirrel is ready to defend itself.
  • These warning calls can startle cats and discourage them from continuing their stalking.

Staying still

  • Freezing in place helps squirrels avoid detection.
  • Their mottled brown-gray fur blends into the trees and dirt.
  • Remaining motionless also prepares them to spring into quick evasive action.

Running evasively

  • Squirrels can quickly dart up trees and leap from branch to branch to escape.
  • Their powerful hind legs allow them to jump up to 10 feet horizontally.
  • They prefer to flee and reach safety rather than directly fight larger predators.

Attacking as last resort

  • Cornered squirrels will bite, scratch, and claw furiously to defend themselves.
  • They will target the predator’s face and eyes to try to escape.
  • Injuries from teeth and claws can cause cats to break off their attack.

So in summary, squirrels first warn cats away with vocalizations, tail flicks, and standing their ground. If confrontation continues, they will bite and scratch in self-defense. But fleeing to safety is their preferred strategy.

Wild Squirrel vs. Pet Squirrel

It’s important to distinguish wild squirrels from domesticated pet squirrels when assessing potential danger:

Wild squirrels

  • Live outdoors and forage for their own food.
  • Are highly territorial of their nests, food caches and foraging areas.
  • Are constantly on alert for predators and threats.
  • Have not been socialized to trust humans or pets.
  • Will readily bite/scratch to defend themselves if confronted.

Pet squirrels

  • Live indoors and rely on owners for food and shelter.
  • Interact positively with humans and bond with owners.
  • Can be socialized to get along with cat and dog companions.
  • Are less territorial and fearful having been raised in captivity.
  • Are less prone to biting than wild squirrels.

Wild squirrels pose a much higher threat to cats than domesticated pet squirrels who have been properly socialized. Pet squirrels bond with their owners and other household animals. But wild squirrels will view cats as predators and readily attack.

Risks to Cats

Squirrels can indeed inflict injury and harm on cats in several ways:


  • Deep puncture wounds from incisors.
  • Potential damage to eyes, ears, nose and other vulnerable areas.
  • Transmission of diseases like rabies is possible but rare.
  • Bacterial infections from bite wounds.


  • Torn skin, welts and lacerations from clawing.
  • Eye injuries and blindness if eyes are targeted.
  • Loss of fur and skin irritation from scratching.
  • Pain and risk of secondary infections.

Psychological distress

  • Fear, stress and anxiety caused by confrontation.
  • Worsening of existing medical conditions.
  • Hesitance to go outside due to expectation of conflict.

While major injuries are rare, squirrel attacks are painful experiences for cats that can potentially cause lasting medical issues in vulnerable animals. Pet owners should be aware of the risks.

Protecting Cats from Squirrels

Here are some tips to minimize confrontations and protect cats from aggressive squirrels:

  • Keep cats indoors – Don’t leave cats unattended to roam outdoors.
  • Cat enclosures – Build enclosed “catios” so cats can enjoy the outdoors safely.
  • Squirrel-proof fences – Use tall fences with curved overhangs to deter squirrels from entering the yard.
  • Tree trimming – Trim branches back from the house to prevent squirrels accessing the roof and windows.
  • Bird feeders – Place bird feeders on isolated poles with squirrel baffles to prevent access.
  • Remove food attractants – Keep yard clear of open trash cans, pet food, and other items that attract squirrels.
  • Scare devices – Use motion-activated sprinklers and ultrasonic repellents to startle squirrels away.
  • Supervise outdoor time – If cats are outdoors, stay with them to intervene in any squirrel confrontations.

By making the yard less appealing to squirrels and supervising outdoor cats, owners can greatly reduce the risks of painful and stressful squirrel attacks.

What to Do If Your Cat Is Attacked

If a cat is bitten, scratched, or otherwise injured by a squirrel, here are some recommended steps:

  1. Break up the altercation – Make loud noises or spray water to end the confrontation without putting yourself at risk of injury.
  2. Bring the cat indoors – Restrict outdoor access until fully recovered from injuries.
  3. Clean wounds – Rinse bite and scratch wounds with clean water. Apply antiseptic if available.
  4. Seek veterinary care – Have a vet examine injuries and prescribe appropriate antibiotics if needed.
  5. Monitor for infections – Check wounds daily for signs of worsening swelling, redness, discharge or fever.
  6. Verify rabies vaccine is current – An up-to-date rabies vaccine is a precaution against this rare but deadly disease.
  7. Call animal control if squirrel seems sick – Capture and testing of the squirrel may be needed if rabies is suspected.
  8. Reduce squirrel attractions – Secure trash, pet food, bird feeders, and make other deterrents to minimize reoccurrence.

Prompt cleaning and medical care for wounds, rabies prevention, and limiting future squirrel access are key steps following any squirrel confrontation.

Can a Squirrel Kill a Cat?

It is highly unlikely a squirrel would kill a cat:

  • Squirrels are much smaller than cats and instinctively flee from predators.
  • Cats are quick and have their own sharp claws to defend themselves.
  • Squirrels do not actively hunt cats and want to avoid risking injury.
  • Any attack would likely be brief with the squirrel rapidly retreating.

However, while outright killing of a cat is very rare, some high-risk scenarios include:

  • A cornered squirrel could inflict fatal damage on a tiny, weak kitten.
  • A bite could become infected and lead to fatal septicemia if untreated.
  • Extremely rare events like rabies transmission could potentially lead to the cat’s death.

But in the vast majority of cases, cats will survive squirrel confrontations with minimal lasting effects if wounds are properly cared for.

Key Takeaways

  • Squirrels have sharp teeth and claws that can inflict painful bites and scratches.
  • They will defend themselves, young, territory and food caches by biting and clawing.
  • Cats can suffer wounds, infections and psychological trauma from squirrel attacks.
  • Pet cats should be supervised outside and yards made squirrel-unfriendly.
  • Though disturbing encounters are possible, squirrels killing cats is extremely rare.


In summary, squirrels are normally not aggressive towards cats, but they can and will bite and scratch if threatened or cornered. Their sharp teeth and claws can inflict painful and potentially dangerous wounds. While outright killing of a cat is highly unlikely, owners should take steps to protect vulnerable pets from squirrel confrontations. Supervision of outdoor cats, deterrents to keep squirrels away, and prompt medical care for any injuries will help keep cats safe.

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