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What is a Cat Snake?

Marjorie McAtee
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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The cat snake is a type of tree snake with cat-like, vertical-slit pupils. There are numerous species of cat snake, indigenous to all continents. These nocturnal snakes are venomous, but the venom is normally too weak to harm humans. The various species of cat snake typically feed upon lizards, frogs, toads, small mammals, birds, and eggs.

Species of cat-eyed snakes can be found all over the world. Cat snakes of the genus Boiga, native to Asia, Africa, and Australia, can reach lengths of 1.6 to 9 feet (0.5 to 2.8 meters). Cat-eyed snakes of the African genus Dipsadoboa may reach lengths of 1.6 to 4.5 feet (0.5 to 1.4 meters). Species of the genus Telescopus, often found in Europe, may be 1.6 to 4 feet (0.5 to 1.3 meters) long. New world cat-eyed snakes of the genus Leptodeira are generally smaller, reaching average lengths of 1.6 to 2.6 feet (0.5 to 0.8 meters).

The varies species of cat-eyed snake often have very different markings. Asian cat snakes may have gold bands or yellow bars, while new world species often have indistinct dark blotches set against a lighter background. All cat snakes, however, are fairly slim. Their heads are usually triangular and often wider than their bodies.

All species of cat snake normally share the vertically-slit, cat-like pupils that give them their common name. These snakes are usually nocturnal, and do not generally become active until dusk. While the pupils of cat-eyed snakes may appear slit-like during daylight hours, they often widen and become rounder once night falls. Widening of the pupils improves the cat snake's night vision, by allowing more light into the eye. Cat snakes typically spend their days curled amongst the leafy branches of trees or bushes.

While female cat snakes can lay anywhere from three to 15 eggs per clutch, depending on their species, most cat snakes lay an average of seven eggs per clutch. They typically feed on small reptiles and amphibians, though they have also been known to hunt small mammals, including mice. Cat snakes may also feed on the eggs of birds and reptiles.

While most species of cat snake do possess venom, that venom is considered largely harmless to humans. The venom of these rear-fanged snakes is, however, usually strong enough to paralyze prey animals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Cat Snake?

A Cat Snake is a colloquial term for a group of slender, nocturnal snakes belonging to the genus Boiga. They are known for their vertical pupils, which resemble those of a cat, and their ability to climb. These snakes are found in various regions, including Asia and Australia, and are often characterized by their mild venom and unique hunting techniques.

Why are they called Cat Snakes?

They are called Cat Snakes because of their distinctive cat-like eyes. The vertical pupils of these snakes allow them to have excellent night vision, which is crucial for their nocturnal hunting habits. This feature is a key adaptation that helps them track and capture prey in low-light conditions.

Are Cat Snakes venomous?

Yes, Cat Snakes are mildly venomous. However, their venom is not typically harmful to humans. These snakes use their venom primarily to subdue small prey such as birds, lizards, and rodents. The venom's potency varies among different species within the genus Boiga, but it is generally not considered a significant threat to human health.

Where can Cat Snakes be found?

Cat Snakes can be found across a wide range of habitats in Asia and Australia. They are adaptable and can live in forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. Their distribution includes countries like India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, showcasing their ability to thrive in diverse environmental conditions.

What do Cat Snakes eat?

Cat Snakes primarily feed on small vertebrates, including birds, lizards, frogs, and rodents. Their diet can vary based on their habitat and the availability of prey. They are skilled climbers and often hunt in trees, using their agility and stealth to ambush unsuspecting prey from above.

How do Cat Snakes behave?

Cat Snakes are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. During the day, they tend to rest in sheltered areas such as tree hollows or beneath rocks. They are known for their climbing ability and often ascend trees or shrubs in search of food or to escape predators. Their behavior can also include defensive posturing when threatened, but they are generally not aggressive towards humans.

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Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee , Former Writer
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.

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Marjorie McAtee

Marjorie McAtee

Former Writer

Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
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