Your cat may meow with a toy in its mouth for several reasons. It could be trying to show you affection, protecting its toys, inviting you to play, presenting you with a trophy, or teaching you how to hunt. It is also possible that the toy is broken or odd-smelling, or they are trading the toy for food or attention.
Playtime is part of a cat’s daily routine and a chance for your cat to interact with you. So if your cat approaches you with a toy in its mouth while meowing and you want to learn more about this behavior, keep on reading.
What does it mean when my cat brings me a toy and meows?
Knowing the exact reason why your cat brings you a toy and meows requires trial and error. This is because it has many possible meanings such as:
1. Demonstrating affection
Cats do not instinctually share toys, because they are territorial by nature and claim everything they can as their own. When your cat presents you with a toy, this is your cat sharing his prized possession with you. Your cat is bestowing a great honor upon you. You can reward this willingness to share with food or attention.
Try playing with the toy you have been given, as this will please your cat. This shows the cat that you appreciate the gift.
2. Protecting its toys
Cats do not recognize toys the same way humans do. For a cat, a toy is a trophy. This is why cats like hiding their toys. Cats bring their toys to their food or water bowls because to them, it is a safe territory where the toy will not be stolen. They move their toys the same way they move their kittens.
If your cat trusts you, it may present you with its toys for safekeeping. The cat considers you responsible enough to do this. But make sure to keep the toy somewhere the cat can access it, or else it will bother you every time it wants the toy.
According to studies, cats are natural imitators, so if you place its toys in a basket, your cat will do the same. Before you know it, your cat will tidy its toys on its own.
3. Inviting you to play
Your cat may present you with a toy because it wants to play. Look at your cat’s tail when it does this. If their tail is pointing upwards and curls like a question mark, your cat is looking to play.
As much as possible do not ignore this invitation. Studies confirm that cats who regularly play with toys show fewer behavioral problems. Play is important for cats because it provides entertainment, exercise, hunting practice, and undivided attention from the owner.
If your cat presents you with a toy, it is a subtle reminder that it is playtime. It is advisable to schedule at least two daily playtimes into the cat’s routine. As long as the routine is kept consistent, your cat will be willing to wait to play only during those specific times.
Take note of how your cat likes to play. Try different toys to know which ones stimulate it the best.
Regular playtime can make a big difference to a cat’s quality of life. If your older cat has lost interest in their toys despite being completely healthy, this could just mean that they are looking for a new, less energetic play style.
4. Presenting you with a trophy
Play simulates hunting for your cat, so capturing a toy gives it a sense of achievement.
Your cat is showing you that it has managed to capture its prey and it wants to be praised.
Most domesticated cats do not hunt for sustenance because they know that cat food will be given. But hunting is still part of a cat’s instinct that they display when playing with toys.
The toy may also be presented as a gift. Your cat may expect a reward, such as petting. If you ignore the gesture this might hurt the cat’s feelings. Make a show of picking up the toy and thanking your cat for it.
It can become annoying if your cat does this too often, but try not to show visible irritation because your cat might start hunting live prey. Try using tangible toys that your cat can actually capture. Laser pointers are fine from time to time, but your cat will feel more accomplished with a toy mouse. If it has nothing to catch, it could turn its attention to live animals.
If you are struggling with your cat’s gift-giving and need for approval, divert their attention somewhere else. Open a window’s blinds where they can spend hours just staring at the people and animals outside.
5. Hunting lessons
Mother cats feel the need to teach kittens how to hunt. They do this by bringing live prey to their young. If a cat presents a toy to you, it may be teaching you how to hunt.
This is a sign of affection that means your cat views you as an equal. Cats set aside their solitary nature when they bond with you. The cat trusts you to take care of mutual interests, such as food.
Your cat wants to be assured that you will be okay feeding yourself if they are not around to feed you. Playing with your cat will show them that you have learned from them.
6. Broken or odd-smelling toys
Cats will be drawn towards some toys and not others. Cats are near-sighted and rely more on their senses of smell and hearing.
If your cat’s toy is stuffed with catnip, they will notice that the scent does not last forever. They might bring the toy to you to inform you that it no longer smells “right” to them. Remedy this by replacing the stale catnip with a new batch.
An odd smell from its favorite toy could be from a different cat playing with it. They might bring the toy to you to demand answers as to why their favorite toy is no longer theirs.
If your cat’s favorite toy needs to be replaced, find a close replica to the old one. If it does not like the new toy, that is okay; try a different toy until one strikes its fancy.
7. Trading the toy for food or attention
Your cat could be trying to bargain with you. Studies suggest that cats value food and attention higher than toys. Though cats prefer to take what they want, they are aware that they cannot do that with you. They know that they are at your mercy.
When your cat wants food or attention, they will start by simple meowing. If that does not work, they will let out an elongated meow as a firm request. If you still cannot take a hint, that is when they bring you a toy to make a trade.
Your cat brings you toys while meowing because it is sharing to show affection, asking you to look after its favorite toy, inviting you to play, presenting you with a “hunting” trophy, teaching you how to hunt, asking you to inspect or repair their favorite toy, or looking to trade you its toy for food or attention.
Image: istockphoto.com / Yuliya