Why Letting Your Cat Hunt is A Huge No-No
Alright, I’m just going to say it. Cats are probably one of the most adorable creatures in the world. I mean, seriously! Who doesn’t almost have a stroke when a furry little kitty gives their leg a head-butt, right? However, let’s not forget that aside from being incredibly cute and cuddly, cats are also natural-born hunting machines. Believe it or not, they’re even better at it than dogs! Yep, that includes sassy little Fifi over there!
Cats are wired to hunt—it doesn’t matter whether they’re indoors or not. They hunt wherever they are, and whatever they can. That’s why they like chasing after moving feet or hands, and basically everything that moves. It’s an amazing skill, really, but allowing your cat to do so can do more harm than good in the long run.
Since cats love the thrill of the chase, they’ll go after almost any animal that catches their attention. That means, they’re most likely to go after common backyard critters such as rodents, lizards, frogs, squirrels, birds, and snails—all of which are common carriers of the very nasty liver fluke!
What’s A Liver Fluke?
The liver fluke, also known as the cat liver fluke or Opisthorchis felineus, is a type of parasitic flatworm that mainly attacks the liver, but also affects the biliary tract, small intestines, and pancreatic ducts. It resides in warm, freshwater lakes and rivers in tropical and subtropical areas, such as Florida, Hawaii, Central America, Eastern Europe, and South Africa.
How Exactly Can My Cat Get Liver Flukes?
Like most parasites, liver flukes follow a particular life cycle that begins in—wait for it—feces! Infected cats spread tiny liver fluke eggs in the environment when they poop. Then, the baby liver flukes are ready to infect their first intermediate host: a snail. Once they mature, they move on to their second intermediate hosts which can be anything from lizards, geckos, and frogs, to rodents, squirrels, and skunks. The liver flukes then stay inside their second intermediate’s host’s bile ducts and wait to be eaten by an unsuspecting cat.
Symptoms of liver fluke infestation in cats include fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, extreme weight loss, jaundice, enlarged liver, immobility, and abdominal swelling. If you suspect your cat has liver flukes, contact your veterinarian immediately so that your cat receives treatment right away.
How To Prevent Your Cat from Hunting
You know what they say, “You can take the cat out of the jungle, but you can never take the jungle out of the cat.” And boy, is that true! Training a cat to stop hunting is impossible! However, there are things you can do to prevent them from chomping on outdoor critters that can infect them with liver flukes and other parasites.
1. Keep them indoors
Keeping your cat indoors is the best way to stop them from going after outdoor animals. Always remember to keep your doors closed—doggie doors, too, if you have those—and your home environment clean. Also, refrain from leaving food out on tables and counters, especially near balconies and windows, to avoid attracting outdoor critters inside your home.
2. Get them a collar with a bell
Bell collars probably won’t do much in terms of physically stopping your cat from pouncing on a moving animal, but it can sabotage their attempts to catch one. The ringing bells can serve as an alert signal for your cat’s animal of choice and give them a chance to escape—hopefully.
Safe Ways To Satisfy Your Cat’s Hunting Urges
Like we’ve mentioned earlier, cats are wired to hunt. It’s in their nature to do so, and therefore, it needs to be a part of their daily routine. Hunting keeps them physically healthy and helps them stay mentally sharp and alert as they grow older.
So, as a cat parent, instead of allowing your cat to run around the yard and chase squirrels, get them several good-quality interactive cat toys. The best ones are those that they can hunt and bat around like real prey.
Don’t know which cat toy to get? Check out some of our top choices here!