What Animals Eat Cactus Plants

Most desert animals rely on cacti as a rich source of fluids and as an excellent place to find shelter. Camels, rodents, rabbits, reptiles, coyotes, and specific species of birds like the Gila Woodpecker are among these creatures. Saguaro and prickly pear cacti are the two most popular varieties.

What eats the cactus plant I have?

Do mice consume cacti? They do, without a doubt, and they relish each and every meal. Many rodent species, including rats, gophers, and ground squirrels, like eating cactus. Although it would appear that spiky cactus would deter rodents, the hungry animals are willing to face the dangerous spines in order to reach the delicious nectar concealed beneath, especially during extended droughts. Rodents eating cactus can cause major issues for certain gardeners. One approach is to use poison, but you run the risk of endangering wildlife including birds. Continue reading for more tips on how to prevent rats from eating your cacti.

Are squirrels cactus eaters?

Prairie dogs use cactus pads to break them down, support themselves using their hands, and select the pieces that are edible. Typically, they would begin nibbling on the top or bottom of the cactus and only the surface, chewing each bite carefully before moving on to the next.


The seeds and fruits of cacti plants are a favorite food of ground squirrels, which are rodents that dwell on the ground.

Do you believe that squirrels exclusively enjoy nuts? You’ll be shocked by how much they enjoy eating cacti. Despite the fact that there are numerous squirrel species, ground squirrels are the most common and are frequently found near their favorite cactus.

Ground squirrels have a variety of fur coat hues, ranging from reddish-orange to different tones of brown and gray. These ground squirrels eat cacti since they are the ones who reside there. When the environment is too dry for them to find other sources of food, they are also more prone to dine on cactus.

Due to their high level of sensitivity, squirrels stay away from cacti plants’ thorns and spines. They only consume the seeds and fruits of cacti, with prickly pear cacti being their favorite.

Ground squirrels use their tiny claws to grasp the cactus pads. They prefer to delicately nibble and chew off the cactus’s surrounding thorns and spines, especially if they are enormous, rather than taking giant bites out of it.

Can rabbits consume cacti?

Me: Prior to yesterday, I had never heard of the venomous rabbit saliva theory. This makes me wonder where Science Neighbor Lady got the idea. Having never spoken to the research topic directly, I have the following unscientific theory, which I suppose makes me the Pot calling the Kettle Black.

She noticed that, during the hot desert summers, rabbits and a variety of other gnawing rodent-type pests will eat cacti in her yard, occasionally even highly prickly ones. She was probably shocked when she saw it because she probably thought cacti were virtually unkillable (I was shocked when I first came to Arizona and began experiencing attacks within a few days of setting my newly-relocated-from-Colorado plant collection outside!). That claim, which I frequently hear, is untrue. In actuality, the general category of succulents, which includes cacti, is not very difficult to exterminate. Here is why.

Anatomically, most cacti only have one growth point at the tip of each stem, and they have relatively few stems compared to trees, which have tens of thousands of apical stems at the end of each tiny branch. For these reasons, it is quite easy to permanently damage a cactus’ growth. The cactus’ future growth is immediately stunted when the apical cells where the plant grows are removed, and it only needs to happen once to set the plant back for years. Additionally, cacti lack underground buds at a ground-level crown or along the roots that might sprout, in contrast to many herbaceous or woody plants. As a result, when all top growth is removed, they are fatally killed with no chance of survival. As long as you physically attack a cactus, it doesn’t take much to destroy it for good.

Cacti and succulents are often slow-growing plants physiologically because they have internal water-saving mechanisms for arid climates. As a result, they are incredibly effective at conserving water, but at the expense of growing much more slowly than plants that need more water. Due to their ability to store water, they are also attracted to rabbits and other animals during dry spells when there is frequently no free water available and animals must eat cactus flesh in order to survive. Until the slow-growing, one-apex-per-stem plant is severely damaged, a hungry and thirsty rabbit overwhelmed by the summer heat will return to the cactus they find time and time again and nibble more off of it every day. Cacti and succulents are killed by rabbit activity, which works in conjunction with innate plant physiology to prevent speedy recovery from such injury. not poisonous spit.

What creatures inhabit cacti?

The saguaro cactus are home to a wide range of creatures. The pulpy flesh of the saguaro is where the gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker excavate nest chambers. Elf owls, screech owls, purple martins, finches, and sparrows might relocate into a woodpecker’s abandoned cavity.

The saguaro also serves as a breeding and hunting perch for large birds like Harris’ and red-tailed hawks. The huge saguaro’s arms are where they build their stick nests. The abandoned hawk nest may then be taken over by ravens and great horned owls.

Animals can benefit from the saguaro cactus as a valuable source of food. Saguaro blooms in the early summer offer bats with nectar and pollen, and the bats in turn pollinate the flowers. In Saguaro National Park, the Mexican Long-tongued and Lesser Long-nosed bat species are responsible for pollinating the saguaros. Ripe fruit provides moisture and an energy-rich food source for birds, bats, mammals, reptiles, and insects during the middle of the summer when food is scarce.

Pack rats, jackrabbits, mule deer, and bighorn sheep will also consume the juvenile saguaro’s flesh in dry sections of the Sonoran Desert if alternative water sources are not available.

Who or what is consuming my succulents?

Examine the soil and the area around the pot to see whether birds are consuming your succulents. Do you notice any feces? Birds will produce little, rounded droppings. Additionally, you might notice tiny white faeces; those are urates, pee that has solidified. Small holes rather than large bitten portions are more likely to be found since birds like to eat succulent foliage.

It might have been a larger animal if there are more portions removed or if you observe chew marks. The larger rodents like voles, possums, mice, squirrels, and others can consume succulents. Even cats and dogs will occasionally eat succulents, but they frequently quit after only one bite. Make sure your succulents are not hazardous to dogs or cats if you have pets, and keep them out of their reach if you do. Succulents can also be harmed and eaten by smaller insects like snails and slugs.

But don’t assume that your succulents will only be damaged by birds and other animals. Small vermin can consume your succulents or at the very least sap their juices. These include, for instance, aphids. Aphids are tiny insects that are frequently colored green, black, or yellow. Spider mites are tiny and come in a variety of hues. Additionally, they absorb plant liquids. Succulents might suffer unfavorable effects from scale bugs as well. Succulents can also be harmed by slugs and snails.

Always be sure to inspect your succulents’ roots for damage, pests, and discolouration. You can use natural remedies to get rid of pests if your succulents are afflicted. Neem oil, horticultural mineral oils, and insecticidal soaps are a few examples.

Are cactus plants eaten by deer?

Deer will at least try something once when their typical food sources are scarce; the key word here is “try.” That means that a hungry deer is more likely than a well-fed deer to eat a piece of your prized delicacy.

Apart from this, however, several succulent species appear to be resistant to deer. These include plants like cactus and succulents with natural defenses like their spikes.

There are a few varieties of succulent plants that are worth taking into consideration if you want to grow succulents outside but are concerned that deer would devour them. These include hens and chicks, yucca, agave, sotol, and prickly pear cacti.

Be aware that deer-resistant and deer-proof are not the same thing. The succulents mentioned above are still edible by deer. It seems unlikely that these creatures will eat these plants, though.

How are cacti eaten by rats?

Many little rodents rely on prickly pear cactus as part of their food, so to them, a clump of cacti is like a five-star restaurant. Prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) pads, fruits, and seeds are consumed by some species of rats, mice, gophers, and ground squirrels, who also seek refuge and safety among the spiny, densely growing plants. Some rats and mice use the water that is kept in the tissue of succulent plants as a supply of liquid. After consuming the fruits, rodents leave the seeds behind in their waste, which aids in the spread of prickly pear seeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zones 4 through 11 cover a wide range of prickly pear species, and the specific zones vary by species.

What species of birds consume cacti?

In many settings, birds are the most evident animals since we frequently overlook them despite their ubiquitous presence. The desert is no exception, as cacti and succulents are frequently associated with birds of all kinds.

The Details

Finding supplies might be challenging in a dry environment. Birds require a place to perch, a place to nest, protection from the elements, and cover. Perhaps most crucially, they require food. All of these requirements can be met by cactus, and birds make the most of this.

One of the most well-known bird species connected to cactus is the Geospiza, which includes numerous species that spend a portion of the year feeding on the flowers, fruits, and seeds of Opuntia. The most well-known of the Galapagos Island birds that are connected to opuntias is G. scandens, or the common cactus finch. The finch feeds on the pollen, nectar, and complete blooms of opuntia when they are in bloom. G. scandens will consume fruit and seeds later. For a significant portion of the year, it depends on opuntia.

How can I prevent bunnies from consuming my cactus?

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A rabbit is easily identifiable in the garden and doesn’t require a description to be understood. They are widespread herbivores that are active during the day.

Almost any plant that a rabbit can get its teeth into will be consumed. That comprises all leafy plants, as well as bark, twigs, roots, and the majority of fruits.

Most rabbits won’t cause any additional harm to your yard besides munching your plants.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia Cactus)

One of the cactus that bearded dragons like to eat is the prickly pear. Despite being an American native, it has been spread over the globe by people. The plants are raised for human use and utilized as houseplants. Some folks, however, grow these plants only for their lizards.

These cacti are excellent for your animals since they are rich in calcium, moisture, and nutrients. There are numerous variants of the plant. They significantly differ in terms of color, shape, and environmental needs. While some, like purple prickly pears, have some color, the majority are green.

Beardies adore the fruit of the prickly pear. Unfortunately, the plant has sharp spines that could harm your lizard. However, a prickly pear cactus can be bought having the spine removed.

This cactus needs to be pruned frequently to prevent it from becoming too large for its environment.

Christmas Cactus

Given that its pads are smooth, this cactus would be ideal for your bearded dragon. It’s a lovely plant that requires little maintenance. Like other sedum cultivars, it is secure and does best in cooler climates. They require a lot of water, therefore you will need to water them thoroughly.


These unusual small cacti have flowers that resemble stars. Depending on the species, the blossoms can be either purple or red. Their blossoms may have a fragrant aroma or a more pungent one. They favor some light or partial shade.

Dragon fruit

A resilient cactus with fragrant white and yellow blossoms, the dragon fruit. It’s a beautiful plant for your house and requires little maintenance. It grows best in full sunlight. The shell of the edible fruits is either red or brown, and they feature a red or yellow prickly covering. A fruit that resembles a dragon’s egg is produced by the cactus.

Do squirrels in the desert eat cacti?

The diminutive Harris’ antelope squirrel is frequently mistaken for a chipmunk, however chipmunks are creatures of higher altitudes, whereas the Harris’ antelope squirrel lives in stony deserts. The Harris’ antelope squirrel has a bushy black tail that it frequently carries arched over the back and a white stripe on its side but not on its face. White covers the underside.

The ground squirrel with a round tail is a gregarious creature. Although the two creatures resemble one other and have some similar characteristics, they are unrelated. The light beige round-tailed ground squirrel has a long tail with a black tip. It merely has a 6–7 ounce weight (170-200 g).

It is the biggest ground squirrel, growing to a maximum weight of 11/4 pounds (0.7 kg). The rock squirrel has a big bushy tail and greyish-brown fur that is mottled.


Although their ranges frequently overlap with those of the round-tailed ground squirrels, Harris’ antelope squirrels prefer the rockier desert settings. Most of the time, open, flat parts of valleys or lower alluvial fans are the habitat of round-tailed ground squirrels. For their three foot deep burrows, they require deeper soils. The driest parts of southern Arizona lack Rock Squirrels, despite the fact that they can be found in different habitats throughout the area, including at high altitudes in the highlands. the majority of

Usually found in rocky outcrops, boulder piles, or canyon walls, but because of their extreme adaptability, they also employ suburban lots, tree roots, and a variety of other locations.


The fruits of cholla, prickly pear, and barrel cactus, seeds, mesquite beans, insects, and occasionally mice make up the majority of the Harris’ antelope squirrel’s diet instead of green plants. The round-tailed ground squirrel feeds primarily on grasses, mesquite leaves, ocotillo blooms, young spring wildflowers, cactus flowers and fruit, and seeds as well. Additionally, it will benefit from carrion, even roadkill of its own kind. The rock squirrel is an omnivore that eats a variety of fruits, including those from prickly pears and barrel cacti, as well as seeds, mesquite beans, buds, insects, eggs, and birds.


The Harris’ antelope squirrels prowl the desert, digging up seeds they find buried. Their activity is indicated by the abundance of little divots in the ground. Despite the spines, these ground squirrels also scale barrel cactus to reach the fruit. Most of the time, round-tailed animals don’t need to leave their burrows because there is sufficient local flora, grass seed, and cactus to meet their needs. They alternate feeding sessions with resting or sunbathing intervals under the cover of shrubs.

Rock squirrels are excellent climbers, but they also scavenge for food on the ground in their habitats. When a plant is just beginning to leaf out, they frequently climb into mesquites, willows, and ocotillos to feed on the sensitive new foliage. They also scale agave flower stalks to eat the sensitive tips. They also kill tiny birds and rats while hunting.

Life History

All through the year, the Harris’ antelope squirrel is active. Numerous 2 inch (5 cm) diameter holes under shrubs, cacti, or amid rocks, as well as nearby food scraps like cactus fruit, are typical signs of Harris’ antelope squirrels. Even amid the sweltering summer midday sun, this squirrel can stay active. It keeps its tail arched over its back to provide shade, which keeps the animal cooler. In hot weather, the squirrel seeks for a cooler, shaded location and lies down, spreading all four legs out, probably to release heat from its body (it is regularly seen doing this on shaded tile patios in desert suburbs).

Ground squirrels with round tails live in small colonies and are sociable. They spend the winter months in hibernation, emerging in early February to benefit from the upcoming spring growth and put on the weight they lost throughout the winter. Shortly after emerging from their hibernation, round-tailed birds begin to reproduce; an average of 6 to 7 young are born in the middle of March or April. By May, the kids are coming up with the mother. In the morning, mother squirrels emerge first, scanning the area for predators before calling the young ones out. After wrestling, playing, and feeding the young for several hours, the family retires to the burrow until late in the afternoon when the weather once more begins to cool. In order to obtain a better vision while keeping an eye out for their numerous predators, round-taileds frequently stand on their hind legs. These squirrels hibernate during the summer drought for a few weeks until the summer rainy season again produces new growth, as they are particularly reliant on succulent plants for moisture.

During some of the long, chilly winter months, rock squirrels go into dormancy. They gather and store food during this season, go underground, and occasionally emerge on warm days. In the spring, they become active and can be spotted basking in the sun on high rocky ledges, keeping an eye out for hawks, roadrunners, coyotes, snakes, and other predators. They issue warning calls like whistles.

Spring mating season is early for rock squirrels. Squirrel babies are born in March, and a second litter may appear in August or September. Rock squirrels can live in groups or alone.

When a rock squirrel sees a snake, it faces the snake and stamps its feet and waves its tail in all directions. With its front paws, it also tries to put sand or mud in the snake’s face.