By Adam Lee-Smith
Published: 01/28/2021, edited: 10/26/2022
Is the tiny tiger in your life bringing you lots of unwanted "presents"? Pet parents with feline fur-babies will be all too familiar with tales of cats bringing back their kills home and gifting them to their horrified household. Despite being semi-domesticated for thousands of years, cats' hunting instincts remain as strong as ever. But why exactly do cats bring you their kills? Here's what we know.
Any pet parent with a cat will be aware of the strength of a cat's hunting instinct. Whether they're attacking your ankles or pouncing on your feet under the covers, there's no denying cats love to stalk and catch prey. So when your cat is out exploring, they'll undoubtedly try their hardest to catch an unsuspecting bird or mouse.
Cats are solitary hunters and, due to their size, only have the power to hunt small mammals and birds to satisfy their hunger. A cat that receives no food at home may hunt as many as 10 to 15 times a day. Additionally, cats are opportunistic hunters, meaning they will catch prey even when they're not hungry to save for later.
Cats also enjoy variety in their diet. Cats are neophilic, which means they inherently search for new food sources and territory. These natural hunting and eating instincts may explain to some extent why your feline continues to hunt despite receiving regular meals at home.
However, it's likely a different kind of instinct causes your cat to bring you unwanted "presents." As domesticated cats form social groups with their human families, the most likely reason they bring you dead animals is so you can share or show off their kill.
You may also find your female cat is more likely to bring you their bounty than your male cat. The reason for this behavior is your female cat is trying to teach you how to hunt in the same way they would their kittens. This instinctual behavior is especially prominent in neutered females, as they are trying to pass on important life lessons they’re unable to teach their own offspring.
Overall, it seems bringing home kills is less about being hungry and more about teaching. For example, your cat may gift you their favorite piece of string or mouse-shaped toy in the same way to show you how to hunt and survive in the wild.
Tired of your cat bringing you unwanted "gifts"? You're not alone! Although it's instinctual, this behavior is unpleasant, to say the least. Luckily, there are several things you can do to make these unwanted presents less frequent.
One of the best ways to stop your cat from bringing home dead animals is by attaching a bell to their collar. Studies show that placing a bell on your cat's collar decreases their chances of catching birds and mice, as it acts as a warning system for unsuspecting prey. When buying a bell collar, ensure it has a quick-release mechanism in case your cat gets snagged while out exploring.
Another way to avoid this behavior is to encourage your cat to stay near your home by keeping them well-fed and taken care of. While your cat will still be able to attack birds, they're less likely to encounter helpless prey near home. If your little lion is an adept hunter, consider keeping them inside around dusk and dawn when their prey is most active.
As cats are used to small meals in the wild, consider feeding them small meals throughout the day to simulate their natural diet. Also, consider changing up their diet, as they may have become bored of their current food due to their neophilic traits. Try and provide your feline with plenty of stimulating toys and play with them for at least 30 minutes a day, which may help reduce their hunting instinct.
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