Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are burrowing rodents that can become nuisance animals around homes and farms. If you’ve spotted a groundhog in your yard, you may be wondering if these critters pose a threat to pets like cats.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: while extremely rare, there have been isolated reports of groundhogs attacking and killing small pets and livestock like kittens and chickens. However, groundhogs do not typically hunt cats for food – their diet consists mostly of vegetation.

As long as you don’t leave pet food outside that could attract groundhogs to your property, your cats are unlikely to be seen as prey.

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are herbivorous foragers that eat a variety of green vegetation. As opportunistic omnivores, they will also eat insects, grubs, and other small animals if the chance arises. So do these burrowing rodents ever see cats as a tasty snack?

Herbivorous Foragers

The groundhog’s diet consists primarily of herbaceous plants, including wild grasses, clover, alfalfa, and dandelions. They will voraciously feed on vegetable gardens, devouring beans, peas, carrots, and cabbages. Farmers even consider them a nuisance due to the damage they inflict on crops.

During warmer months, groundhogs spend up to 6 hours a day grazing on greens and plants near their burrow. They will stuff their cheek pouches full of vegetation to bring back to their underground chamber for nighttime nibbling.

This herbivorous nature and adaptations make the groundhog well-suited to a vegetarian lifestyle.

Opportunistic Omnivores

Though plants make up the majority of their diet, groundhogs are opportunistic feeders. If insects, grubs, or other protein sources make an appearance, they will readily eat them as a supplement. Baby birds and eggs are also fair game if discovered.

According to a study published on Wildlife Damage Management Conferences Proceedings, groundhogs were observed carrying dead cottontail rabbits into their burrows. Though it’s unclear if they killed the rabbits or simply scavenged carcasses, this shows their flexible palate.

So could domestic cats end up on the groundhog menu? Unlikely, unless already deceased. Groundhogs do not typically hunt prey – their herbivorous teeth and claws are ill-suited to capturing and killing an agile feline.

And a cat’s speed, agility and sharp claws pose significant danger to a lumbering groundhog.

Are Groundhogs Aggressive Toward Cats?

Groundhogs are not typically aggressive toward cats without provocation. However, they can pose a danger to cats under certain circumstances:

Territorial Defense

Groundhogs are solitary animals that become territorial during mating season from early spring through summer. A groundhog defending its burrow may chase or attack a cat that wanders too close. Signs of an aggressive groundhog include loud tooth chattering, stomping feet, and charging at threats.

Mother Groundhogs Protecting Young

Female groundhogs raising a litter can be very protective. A mother groundhog may attack a cat she sees as a danger to her babies. Mother groundhogs with young are most aggressive from spring through early summer when the babies are small.

Risk Higher for Kittens and Small Cats

Kittens and small cat breeds face the most danger from groundhogs. Larger adult cats are less likely to be viewed as prey or a direct threat. However, groundhogs have attacked larger cats when defending burrows or young.

Documented Cases of Predation Are Rare

There are few documented cases of groundhogs killing and eating cats. Groundhogs prefer vegetables, fruits, nuts, and sometimes insects. They are omnivores but not primarily predators. Reports of groundhogs preying on pets and livestock are unusual.

How to Keep Cats Safe from Groundhogs

Don’t Leave Pet Food Outdoors

One of the best ways to deter groundhogs from approaching your home is to eliminate any outdoor food sources. Groundhogs are opportunistic feeders and will readily eat pet food left out for cats or other animals. To protect your feline friends, keep all pet dishes inside and feed cats indoors.

Groundhogs have a keen sense of smell and will quickly zero in on any kibble or canned cat food left unattended outside.

Use Exclusion Fencing

Installing exclusion fencing around your yard is an effective physical barrier to keep groundhogs away from areas cats frequent. Use galvanized hardware cloth or welded wire fencing with openings of 1/4 inch or less and bury it at least 12 inches underground.

This prevents groundhogs from digging underneath and gaining access. Be sure to angle the fencing outward from the bottom to thwart any determined diggers. Check for and repair any holes or gaps regularly. Exclusion fencing gives cats safe outdoor access while denying entry to groundhogs.

Employ Groundhog Removal Methods

Removing groundhogs from your yard is key to protecting cats from harm. Try humane eviction first by using repellents, lighting, or noisemakers. Sprinkling predator urine granules near dens or plugging burrows with soil after groundhogs leave can also encourage them to move elsewhere.

As a last resort, trapping and relocating groundhogs may be necessary with professional assistance. Eliminating their presence on your property helps prevent unwanted encounters with your cats. Just be sure any trapped groundhogs are released safely away from roads and neighborhoods.

The occasional groundhog visitor need not spell doom for outdoor cats. With a little vigilance and some basic precautions, you can maintain a safe space for both species. Keep food inside, set up proper fencing, and use humane removal tactics as needed.

Do this, and your cats can spend time outside without worrying about hungry groundhog run-ins.


While direct attacks are unlikely, groundhogs can still be a nuisance around your home. Following sensible precautions like keeping pet food indoors and sealing up any burrow entry points can go a long way toward preventing conflicts.

If groundhog activity on your property remains problematic, seek help from professional wildlife control services to humanely remove them.

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