The cat’s instinct to hunt means that it will go after almost anything that moves, from a bee to a bird. Some owners report that their cat has even brought a frog into the house. Given that frogs are now quite rare, and that they do not fit into the list of prey species the domestic cat usually hunts, this behaviour is, on the surface, rather puzzling. What could it be about the frog that the cat finds so appealing? Frogs don’t spring to mind immediately as the kind of animals that cats hunt. However, cats will probably chase after and kill them. Just as cats don’t always eat birds they catch, they rarely eat the poor frogs they catch.
Q. My cat is fascinated by the frogs that appear in our pond every year. Are they harmful to cats in any way?
Toads do have poison glands in their skin which is a worry for cat-owners who have toads in their garden. The toad’s poison glands secrete toxins that irritate the mouth and skin. However, in the common toad they are unlikely to cause any more harm than this. The cat that has caught one toad may well be put off trying to catch purpose of the glands. Another, which is the
Cats rarely eat frogs but if they do, they won’t be harmed. Toads, however, are poisonous and will irritate the mouth. This will cause a cat to dribble, but little more harm than this.
Watch a cat go after a length of string or a ball of wool rolled along the floor, and you can not only see how agile it is, but also how it is attracted to, and seemingly fascinated by, movement.
THRILL OF THE CHASE
This instinct to chase after objects and prey is fundamental to hunting success. And in animals that rely on small prey for food, the urge to hunt is vital for its survival. Viewed in this light, it does not seem unusual for a cat to stalk a leaping frog or toad, or to gaze with great intent at a frog swimming in the water, and take a swipe at it.
A FROG IN THE HOUSE
Once the cat has seen the frog and gone after it, the next step is to catch it. This is probably as easily done as the capture of a bird or mouse. The question is, once caught, what happens next?
The cat’s usual method of killing prey is to give a deadly bite to the back of the neck, severing the spinal cord. However, in frogs and toads the head is continuous with the trunk – there is no neck. It would therefore appear to be difficult for a cat to kill a frog, which may explain why some owners have been startled to find that their cat has brought home a frog, and that the two have just sat staring at each other. As one owner put it, both the cat and the frog, like her, seemed to be very surprised by the situation and neither seemed quite sure about what to do next.
Cats capture and eat other creatures besides frogs and toads that their owners often find astonishing. For example, they seem to be able to swallow a bee without any harmful effects, and they will also snap at and swallow flies.
Research has revealed that a cat’s urge to hunt may be influenced by sex hormones. A queen with high levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in her blood, seems keener to hunt than when the hormone oestrogen, which is produced when the queen is ‘in heat’ , is present. A torn is more likely to hunt when his body produces increased levels of testosterone.