Cat vs. Rattlesnake: Who Would Win in a Fight?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: March 10, 2023
© Natalia Fedosova/Shutterstock.com
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Domesticated cats are common pets that people love. Although we tend to think of them as relatively harmless, the truth is that these animals are adept hunters with very good senses and fighting skills. However, what if a domesticated cat ran into something truly deadly, like a rattlesnake. They share ranges in many places, so it’s possible that these animals would run into each other in a natural habitat, like a backyard in Texas. We’re going to take a close look at a cat vs rattlesnake battle and show which animal would win and how the fight would play out.  

Comparing a Cat and a Rattlesnake

Cat vs Rattlesnake
Unfortunately, cats and rattlesnakes may run into each other in many environments.

©A-Z-Animals.com

CatRattlesnake
SizeWeight: 7-10 pounds
Height: 9-10 inches
Length 30 inches including tail
Weight: 5-10 pounds
Length: 4-8 feet Larger rattlesnakes are possible
Speed and Movement Type– 30 mph
– Very agile  
– 2-3 mph
Sidewinder rattlesnakes can reach 18 mph
– Timber rattlesnakes have a striking speed of 2.9 meters per second
Senses– Great vision in settings with low light
Among the best hearing in small mammals
– Smell that is about 10 times more sensitive than a human’s  
Heat-sensing pits allow them to sense warm-blooded animals
– Poor hearing, but they can sense vibrations
– Flick their tongues to “taste” the chemicals in the air  
Defenses– Highly attuned senses
– Speed
– Agility    
– Camouflage
– The rattling threat display scares many creatures
– Ability to slither into small areas  
Offensive Capabilities– Can bite and claw enemies.    – Deadly venom
– Swift striking speed at almost 3 m/s
Predatory Behavior– Ambush predator and opportunistic predator as wild animals  – Ambush predator that attacks from cover    

The Key Factors in a Fight Between a Cat and a Rattlesnake

A Timber Rattlesnake striking prey
The key factors in a rattlesnake vs. cat fight include speed and size.

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to deciding which animal wins a fight against another, we must consider physical traits along with various mental factors like the ability to fight. That’s why we’re going to consider four elements of these animals’ bodies and then take a look at what offensive capabilities they possess.

By doing so, we’ll get a more comprehensive look at how cats and rattlesnakes are unique from one another and what advantages they have over the other.

What Are Key Differences Between a Cat and a Rattlesnake?

Cats are mammals
Cats are mammals and snakes are reptiles

©iStock.com/Tylinek

The biggest differences between a cat and a rattlesnake are scientific classification, morphology, and locomotion. Cats are mammals from the Felidae family, and they are warm-blooded creatures. Rattlesnakes are reptiles from the Viperidae family, and they are cold-blooded creatures.

Cats have four legs, fur, and distinct heads. However, rattlesnakes have no legs, scales, and somewhat distinct heads without an obvious neck.

Cats use their legs and toes to move, and they use many gaits to reach speeds of 30 mph or more. Rattlesnakes slither on the ground and only reach speeds of 2-3 mph unless they are sidewinders, a species that can reach speeds of 18mph.

The differences between these creatures are vast, and that’s why we’re going to further parse these unique elements to determine which animal wins a fight.

Physical Features of a Cat and a Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes can measure up to 8 feet long
Some rattlesnakes can measure up to 8 feet long!

©Frode Jacobsen/Shutterstock.com

We must look at the physical features of cats and rattlesnakes to determine which creature has an advantage over the other. After all, speed, size, and defense play a key role in the way that an animal fights.

Cat vs. Rattlesnake: Size

Rattlesnakes are longer than most cats, but they do not weigh as much as cats. Cats regularly weigh about 10 pounds, but rattlesnakes’ weight ranges between 5 and 10 pounds, and the latter is rarer unless the snake is especially large. Cats stand about 10 inches tall, and they are about 2.5 feet long.

Rattlesnakes measure up to 8 feet in length, but many shorter variants of them exist. Thus, rattlesnakes and cats can share a similar length. However, cats will always be taller and probably weigh more.

Snakes might be longer, but the overall size advantage goes to the cat.

Cat vs. Rattlesnake: Speed and Movement

Rattlesnakes are slower than cats because of their unique type of locomotion where they slither along the ground. Cats employ several gaits that help them reach a maximum speed of 30 mph, but rattlesnakes only move at about 2-3 mph. However, snakes have a blazing fast attack speed that helps compensate for when they can’t get away from foes.

Cats have the advantage in terms of speed and movement.

Cat vs. Rattlesnake: Senses

Cats are great hunters with amazing senses of sight, smell, and hearing. Rattlesnakes have unique heat-sensing pits, and they can taste chemicals in the air and feel vibrations in the ground around them. Overall, cats have better senses than snakes, but snakes also have some profound abilities to sense the world around them and find prey.

Cats and rattlesnakes are tied in terms of senses that are used for fighting.

Cat vs. Rattlesnake: Physical Defenses

Cats rely on their speed and agility to survive, but rattlesnakes use camouflage, a terrifying threat display with their rattle, and their ability to squeeze into small spaces to escape their foes. A cat’s speed is more effective at getting away from predators than a rattlesnake’s abilities in some cases but not all. Rattlesnakes can avoid some fights, but once they’re in a conflict, they’re usually stuck until the end.

Cats have better physical defenses than rattlesnakes.  

Combat Skills of a Cat and a Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes ruse venom to kill prey
Rattlesnakes rely on their venom to kill prey.

©Gerald A. DeBoer/Shutterstock.com

Cats and snakes are both ambush predators that patiently wait for their prey before striking, and they’re both rather good at landing a quick and decisive blow to end the battle.

Cats use their paws and claws to smack their prey around and grab them, and they usually bite their prey to death by clamping down at the base of the skull. Also, cats are very good ambush predators, and they might be the best hunter mammals for their size. They kill small animals to eat and sometimes kill them to rid themselves of a potential nuisance.

Rattlesnakes kill with their venom, and that usually leaves them open to retaliation if they’re biting a larger foe. While fast-acting, their venom doesn’t instantly kill, so they need time and an increasingly alarming threat display to win a fight against larger animals.

Who Would Win in a Fight Between a Cat and a Rattlesnake?

Cats are very good hunters
Cats are very good hunters, and if they use their agility to their advantage, they’ll kill a rattlesnake

©DragoNika/Shutterstock.com

A cat would win a fight against a rattlesnake. Cats play with their food to tire it out and get the animal to lower its defenses, which is exactly what it would do in a one-on-one fight. The cat would harass the snake from different sides, limiting the snake’s ability to counter. Eventually, it would launch a fatal attack, biting down at the base of the rattlesnake’s skull, killing it.

A rattlesnake could also kill a cat in the right circumstances, but it would probably die in the process. Snake venom doesn’t kill instantly, and a cat that receives a bite will continue its attack against the snake. Thus, the rattlesnake may earn a pyrrhic victory unless the venom takes hold of the cat and kills it quickly.

If you believe your cat has been bitten by a rattlesnake, immediately take it into a pet hospital that can administer antivenom. Common signs of being bitten by a rattlesnake can include difficulty breathing, bleeding, and swelling.

What Animal Can Take Down a Cat?

Coyotes prey on housecats
According to a study carried out at the University of California, housecats have been found to constitute a key part of coyotes’ diets.

©Paul Tessier/Shutterstock.com

A highly adaptable and opportunistic omnivore. One which has not only managed to take full advantage of the sharp decline in wolf populations, in the United States, but to also make itself at home in urban environments: the coyote.

As far as predators go, it is by no means imposing in size. However, compared to a domestic pet of the feline or even canine varieties, it can be outsized and capable of incredible ferocity.

Coyotes can generally grow up to 44 pounds with and have a bite force of 88 psi. While that value might seem pretty underwhelming for a predator, it is capable of inflicting greater damage compared to the domestic housecats’ which is only 70 psi. Housecats also tend to weigh 11 psi, meaning they’re significantly lighter compared to these wild canids.

And while domestic felines are renowned for their agility and have a maximum speed of 30 mph, coyotes are no slouches in that category either. Housecats also have to contend with the intelligence of a species that considers them a delectable treat. A study carried out at the University of California found that housecats constitute at least 20% of coyotes’ diets. A finding which no doubt pet owners everywhere find disconcerting.

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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 . When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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