We live too far north to see lizards (though we do get the occasional snake), so my cats have never been exposed to them. But for people who live with cats and near lizards, it’s definitely not uncommon to find a dead lizard in their house and a very smug cat.
Lizards make good hunting for cats – many of them are too slow to evade a cat, they aren’t very big, and their skittering triggers the instinct to pounce. And sometimes you won’t find a dead lizard; you will find parts of a dead lizard and a cat who doesn’t really need its breakfast.
If this happens to you, you are probably and understandably, concerned. After all, many lizards are toxic, plus there’s an ‘ick’ factor. So, can cats eat lizards?
Short answer: Yes, cats can eat lizards, but it’s a risky meal. Lizards are low fat, high in protein, and apparently taste quite good to cats. On the other hand, lizards can also carry dangerous parasites or be toxic.
Do Cats Like Lizards?
Cats will generally go after lizards because they are a good source of protein, and they are relatively easy to hunt. Outdoor cats in particular will happily eat them, but since lizards can come indoors, your indoor-only cat may come across them as well.
In general, cats will quite happily eat lizards, though a well-fed indoor cat may present it to you as a gift instead.
It’s really going to depend on the cat though. I cannot picture my geriatric cat eating (or even bothering to hunt) lizards and she probably wouldn’t have done it even when she was younger. My young cat on the other hand would probably eat a lizard quite happily, if she was given the opportunity.
Do Cats Hate Lizards?
Some cats probably can’t be bothered to hunt lizards. If your cat is already well-fed and doesn’t feel the need to chase things, lizards are probably safe around it. And some cats may just not want to eat a lizard. If this is your cat, you don’t really have to worry about it missing out on something.
Domestic cats do quite well on their diet of cat food, and they don’t really need to hunt and eat other animals. Plus, as you’ll see, a cat that doesn’t bother with lizards also doesn’t have to worry about the risks.
Can Eating Lizards Kill My Cat?
Here’s where things get tricky.
Some lizards like geckos, savannah lizards, and Nile water monitors are generally safe for cats to eat since they aren’t toxic and they don’t run very fast or have much of a bite.
This is in contrast to Mexican Bearded, Gila Monitor, Komodo dragons, salamanders, and blue-tailed skinks which are venomous, have nasty bites, and in some cases (like Komodo dragons) will attack cats right back.
Skinks and salamanders have to be kept well away from cats because they are easy prey, but can kill your cat quite quickly due to the venom they secrete.
Symptoms of poisoning from eating lizards include:
- Yellow gums and crossed eyes
- Foaming and excessive drooling
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Excessive thirst
- Lethargy/weakness or hyperactive and nervous
- Appetite loss
- Seizures or tremors
- Erratic movement
If you notice your cat exhibiting these symptoms, get it to the vet as fast as possible and try to bring information on lizards (and toads) in your area that your cat may have eaten.
This will help your vet figure out which toxin your cat may have ingested and be able to help your cat flush it out of their system.
So much for the poison side. But even non-toxic lizards can hold danger for cats, primarily in the form of parasites or by passing along salmonella.
The parasite in this case is liver flukes which infect the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. Symptoms of infection include:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal distention
If left untreated, liver flukes can be fatal, so if you see that your cat is exhibiting some or all of these symptoms, and you know or suspect it ate a lizard or a toad recently, it’s important to get it to the vet as soon as possible.
Lizards can also carry salmonella on their skin or in their stomach. In cats, this can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, headache, nausea, and stomach pain. There is a vaccine for salmonella though, so having your cat vaccinated greatly reduces the risk of them getting it.
So, while lizards make easy prey for cats and are a good source of protein, the risk of toxicity, salmonella and/or parasites may not make it worth it as far as you’re concerned!
The best thing to do is to try your best to keep cats and lizards separated by keeping your cat indoors, make sure that lizards cannot get in, lock up pet lizards, and even train your cat not to eat lizards (though that can be an awfully expensive endeavor).
How Many Lizards Can a Cat Eat?
If left to its own devices, cats will probably only eat one or two lizards and may not even eat that. Lizards might be fun for cats to hunt and kill, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to eating it – some cats will just leave the dead lizard where it lies while others will bring it home as a gift to you.
You really shouldn’t feed your cat lizards at all. While they are a high-protein food source, cats get all the protein they require from their usual food, and you don’t want to risk your cat getting sick from a lizard. There isn’t a way to make lizards ‘safe’ either, so it’s best to just not let your cat eat them at all, as best you can.
Kittens can also eat lizards and some of the slow ones (like geckos) make for good hunting practice. But kittens, like adult cats, shouldn’t eat them regularly as it increases the risk of them getting sick and lizards don’t have all the nutrients that a kitten requires to grow up healthy.
Lizards are fairly easy for cats to hunt, and they do pack a good punch of protein without being high in calories. On the other hand, they can carry salmonella and parasites, and many of them are poisonous.
It’s probably best to try to dissuade your cat from eating lizards as much as possible because the potential for serious illness outweighs the benefits.
If your cat has eaten a lizard, monitor it for a day or so afterward to make sure that it didn’t come to any harm as a result of its successful hunt. And if your cat brings a lizard as a gift to you, praise your cat for showing its affection and then dispose of it when your cat leaves.
Does your cat eat lizards? Or do you get lizard gifts?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.