Cat Snake

The cat snake lives in the Balkans and Greece. It is found as far north as Bulgaria and the northeast corner of Italy. The snake's range continues east through the Caucasus to western Asia. The snake is considered sacred on some Greek islands.

Although it is more or less harmless to humans, the cat snake does use a weak venom to subdue its prey. It hunts in twilight using its large eyes to see in the gloom. Its vertical pupils allow its eyes to capture as much light as possible.

The cat snake earns its name from the pupils in its eyes, which resemble those of a cat. In strong light, the pupils close into a vertical slit, not into a ring like human eyes. Pupils like this can be opened more widely than round ones, allowing more light in for night vision.

The snake is small and cannot tackle prey much bigger than a mouse or medium-sized lizard. Its favoured prey are small lizards, which it tracks by scent and sight through rocky habitats. The snake generally follows its victims into their hiding places and kills them with a bite. However, a few victims are also stalked. The prey is paralyzed by the venom, which is delivered along a groove in the snake's two fangs. It is weak and slow acting: the snake must hook a small lizard in its mouth for five minutes as it waits for its victim to die. The snake is relatively harmless to humans because its mouth is too small for its fangs to pump venom into the skin.

Distribution: South-east Europe from the Adriatic coast of the Balkans to southeast Bulgaria. It is also found on several Aegean islands including Crete and Rhodes.

Habitat: Stony habitats, such as hilly woodlands, ruins, walls and also sandy areas with bushes.

Food: Small lizards, slow worms and rodents.

Size: 1 m (3.25 ft).

Maturity: 3 years.

Breeding: 5 - 9 eggs laid each year.

Life span: Unknown.

Status: Common.

Gallery of Cat Snake