Cannibalism in dogs and cats
Cannibalism in pets
Cannibalism, that is, eating members of your own species in nature, is much more common than you might think. It can occur both due to the natural conditions of a given species and in special situations, such as excessive population growth or hunger. Sometimes it can also occur as a result of a power struggle in the herd, when the dominant male devours male babies, which could be its competition. Although in the case of insects or arachnids, eating representatives of their own species is not shocking to anyone, hardly anyone realizes that such behavior also occurs in our beloved pets.
Cannibalism among cats
Cats are breaking popularity records, both in social media and at homes. These animals are known to be distinguished, proud, maybe a bit cocky, but also protective of their young and very friendly towards humans – if, of course, they are properly fed 😉 However, cases of cannibalism have also been recorded among cats.
Of course, they are found much more often in the wild, but there are also reports of acts of cannibalism in domestic cats.
Usually, the reason is the extreme weakness of the female, which after giving birth is not able to feed all the kittens. The problem is exacerbated with a large litter. Then the female cat may decide to eat the weakest of the kittens, and if necessary, the next ones as well.
According to scientists, in most cases it is related to natural selection – an adult female cat is able to give birth to new litters, and therefore struggles for its own survival. At the same time, the instinct towards kittens tells her to feed and bring into adulthood at least part of the litter, and therefore she sacrifices the weakest individuals so that they can survive the strongest, which will have the best chance of reaching sexual maturity and giving birth to the next generations.
Domestic cats that are fed do not usually choose to do this, but in isolated cases it can happen.
Another example of cannibalism among cats is miscarriage. If the mother gives birth to dead kittens or those whose congenital or acquired defects make it impossible to survive, there is a certain probability (again higher in the case of wild cats) that she will choose to feed her young so that she has a chance to survive.
Cannibalism among lions
In the case of cats, there is also the practice of killing small males by adult males who are concerned about their position. However, it is much more common in the case of wild domestic cat cousins, i.e. lions. There, the dominant male in the herd can kill the young that he has not begotten, and the acts of cannibalism that most often fall on the young occur when the pride is unable to provide itself with sufficient food.
Although lions and cats are separate species, in many cases their modus operandi is very similar. After all, domestic cats were once wild too, and the instinct in animals determines many aspects of their lives.
People fall into two categories. Some are proponents of the previously described cats, while others prefer dogs. Regardless of which four-legged friend we choose, there is a risk that we will find out how brutal the animal world can be.
Although dogs appear to be faithful keepers, creatures who are extremely devoted and often value the welfare of another creature above their own, cases of cannibalism have also been observed among this species.
Here, too, the danger particularly concerns the eating of young by a malnourished mother. As has been proven, dogs can also experience postpartum shock, which may result in eating the pups.
Another situation for the occurrence of cannibalism may be the inexperience of a bitch giving birth for the first time. After giving birth, the bitch eats the placenta and umbilical cord, but there may be times when she does not sense the appropriate border and begins to eat the puppy as well.
Cannibalism among adult dogs
In the case of dogs, however, it was possible to observe acts of cannibalism in adult individuals. In the Arctic and Antarctic regions, during the expeditions, the sled dogs were often fed meat from individuals that did not survive the expedition.
A dog, being a carnivore, can also include carrion in its diet. While in the case of two living specimens, eating one by the other may arouse food inhibition (as long as the dog is properly socialized), carcass, even if it comes from the same species, does not arouse such resistance.
Scientists also confirmed that in the event of a life-threatening situation, one dog may devour the other, but these are exceptional situations.
One of such cases was the situation in the quadruped breeding farm located in Zbylitowska Góra (Poland). A representative of an organization that aims to protect animal rights has been notified of the possibility of ill-treatment of dogs.
After the inspection, it turned out that the dogs are malnourished and the conditions in which they are kept leave much to be desired. The situation was so dramatic that even acts of cannibalism were found – the weaker dogs were eaten so that the stronger ones could survive.
According to the inspection results that appear from time to time and are eagerly publicized by the media, these are not isolated cases.
Pets are often treated as man’s best friends, and sometimes even humanized. Therefore, acts of cannibalism among dogs and cats (especially in the case of domestic ones) can be really shocking.
It is worth noting, however, that in each case this phenomenon can be explained in some way. In some cases, eating the pups may be the result of something like postpartum shock, but most often it is about survival.
The animal has been programmed by nature in such a way that, above all, it tries to survive and give birth to young, as well as introduce into adulthood as many offsprings as possible. Sometimes the price of this is the life of some representatives of their own litter, but in such situations, the animal instinct prevails.
An earlier article in this series, discussing the issue of cannibalism in animals, can be found here: Cannibalism in Nature.