Would a lion attack a housecat?

Say I put my cat into a lion’s cage. Would the lion attack the domestic cat? Do big cats only attack animals that they know are herbivores? Do they somehow have an instinct not to attack their fellow felines? Or would the big cat kill the smaller one and eat him up?

As male lions are known to kill and eat the cubs of other males after taking over their priade, I’m pretty sure your cat would be kibble.

Captive cats are well fed and mostly don’t hunt very vigorously.

A deer jumped into a lion enclosure at the National Zoo and the lions couldn’t be bothered killing it.

Also, I think the lions wouldn’t recognize your cat as prey.
In this story, a captive leopard quietly watches mouse in the act of stealing his dinner.

In nature, lions predominately prey on medium to large ungulates native to the areas where they live. Housecats, humans and other critters that are not part of their normal diet are not in real danger.

In a cage, lion life isn’t normal and things could well be different.

ETA: It’s widely thought that male lions kill cubs in order to bring females into estrous. In the unlikely event that your housecat appeared to be under the motherly care of a lioness, it might possibly be in danger for this reason.

They will take on a tiger in a zoo setting. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/czechrepublic/6610896/White-tiger-killed-by-lions-at-Czech-zoo.html

A zookeeper at Taronga Zoo (in Australia) once told me that the leopard used to catch possums that ventured too near.

I can’t remember if the lions did as well, but its a reasonable possibility to think that they might (and a possum is a similar size to a housecat).

I do remember that the chimpanzees used to catch and kill possums too :frowning:

Lions have a reputation for killing other predators when and if they can, especially cubs ( and vice versa - predators like hyenas and leopards will kill lion cubs given the chance ). In particular there are often cited as one of the biggest perils to cheetah cubs - one study in the Serengeti found that up to 73% of cheetah cubs are lost to predation and the great majority of that to lions.

I think a housecat would be toast under most circumstances ( an inordinately tame, tolerant, well-fed, captive-bred lion might be an exception ).

Chimpanzees are reasonably effective predators. In the wild they’ve been known to take small antelope.

Nice little article on chimpanzee predation.

I am reminded of a crappy little zoo upcountry in Lopburi province. There was a tiger pacing back and forth in a cage, and for some reason there were two dogs inside, medium-sized I believe, just sitting there and looking out at everyone in a bored manner. They didn’t seem at all worried about the tiger, who did not touch them.

  1. They only predominantly prey on those creatures in the sense that they make up the bulk of the diet. In terms of the number of kills animals like spring hares, wrthogs and meerkats are the predominant prey of lions. IOW lions mostly kill animals in the same approximate size range as a housecat.

  2. As others have noted, lions will kill any other predator that they can catch. Leopards, cheetahs, meerkcats, servals, jackals, hyaenas. If a lion can catch one of those it will kill it on the spot. It’s had to believe that a lion will go out f its way to kill a meerkat or a serval, but wont touch a housecat.

Far from having an instinct not to attack their fellow felines, the lion’s natural instinct is to attack and kill any other predator on sight.

Animals are opportunists, if an animal comes to near, it’s a free lunch, normal prey or not.

Given time they adapt, for instance, I knew a person with a family type farm and it had a big ant hill out in the far fields where the cows often grazed. One day a cow found it and decided in additon to grass she liked ants. Pretty soon her friends joined her and the cows would eat grass but make regular trips out to the ant mound too. I guess to these cows, which are herbivores, ants can be tasty


(Tiger with cats.)

A housecat will attack a black bear. Link.

Note that for predators which might be competing with it for “normal” prey, this behavior makes a great deal of sense. Other non-feline predators sometimes do this as well, and they won’t necessarily eat the competitor if they aren’t hungry.

Another factor is that the lion might attack other predators to take their kill. Leopards may drag their prey up into a tree to prevent being chased off it by a lion or hyena, which they are probably going to lose in a fight with (lions CAN climb trees, but not as well as leopards, and they usually choose not to). Some sources claim that in areas where hyenas aren’t prevalent, leopards adjust their behavior and stop dragging carcasses up trees, simply consuming them on the ground. Cheetahs get the short end of the stick here:

I still don’t think you can in any way compare what a wild lion and a zoo-living well fed lion would do.

I think that any housecat with any sense, even one without any hunting or other wild experience, will head straight up the nearest tree as soon as they found themselves in the same enclosure as the lion. Lions don’t climb, do they?

They can, but usually don’t. Obviously, the housecat will be able to get out on smaller branches that wouldn’t bear the lion’s weight anyway.


Some populations of lions are more known for it:


Sorry to correct you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth:


Not only would the lion kill the kitty in the cage, but would also kill it in the wild as it would be seen as a potential competitor for food. Cats are pretty fast, and can hide easily, my money is in more cases than not, the kitty would be able to escape even though the housecat is not the fastest feline.

You mean that video clip entitled “Baby Deer Escapes Lions.” The deer was euthanized by human beings. The Lions barely raised a paw to it - they just batted at it a little, causing injury. The lions had plenty of chances to kill it and didn’t.

That’s how felines sometimes hunt, especially if they are not hungry, though these lions did more than just “barely raise a paw”. In the video I posted, the lion jumps on the back of deer, and the deer screams in pain, so the lion was clearly hurting it. If you freeze it at :10, you can see the side of the deer is all clawed up and is clearly injured.

In this video, which actually takes place before the one I posted, at the very beginning you can see the lion actually go into the drink to get to the deer, which again, is screaming in pain (and in water like this, lets be honest, advantage: deer):


Even though the deer was in the water, swimming for it’s life, the lions never stopped stalking the deer, waiting for it to get out so they could maul it some more.

Now, I will be fair and find common ground with you in that if these were wild lions, they would have stopped fucking around, and probably ripped out Bambis neck and eaten it in a matter of seconds. I agree that these big cats are fed, and aren’t as hungry and wild lions, and that their hunting skills aren’t quite as sharp as they could be. :slight_smile:

But make no mistake, the reason they euthanized the deer is

  1. The lions fucked it up, bad. It probably would have died had it gotten away.
  2. The lions didn’t get a chance to kill it yet.

Any notion that you can lock up an animal and Simba would just lay down with it, lick its ears, and be it’s Mommy is delusional. Your cat’s nine lives would be used up, and damn quick.