One morning, you wake up and almost step on a dead mouse next to your bed. You are grossed out and frustrated, and you know that no one else could possibly have done this but your whiskered pal, sitting right next to you, awaiting your praise.
Felines have long been appreciated for their agility and excellent hunting skills. In the past, they were great help with pest control on farms. Some cat owners even share heroic stories of their furry companions striking a deadly snake with their sharp claws and teeth. On the other hand, this hunting instinct can become troublesome when pets start to offer their skills as a tribute to their favorite humans.
And you might be left wondering – why do cats even do this? Do they do it intentionally to annoy their owners?
The reason behind your cat’s thoughtful gifts might surprise you. Keep reading to understand why your cat loves to bring home dead animals, and what you can do to suppress this behavior.
Why cats bring home dead animals
The predator instinct is engraved in cats’ DNA. Even though they are provided with a comfy shelter and plenty of food, their urge to chase and kill remains. Felines enjoy hunting escapades and often bring their prey (usually dead, but sometimes still wriggling), to their favorite humans as ‘gifts’, which you might find rather off-putting.
It might also leave you wondering why your furry companion is so intent on offering you his kills. The reasons might surprise you, and they can be any of the following:
1. Your cat loves you
You may not understand it, but bringing you strange gifts could be your cat’s love language. He is a proud beast and wants to share his amazing catch with you. So the next time you see a dead bird or mouse on your doorstep, do not feel frustrated right away – your kitty just loves and cares for you.
2. Your cat wants to be praised
Most felines want to show off their hunting skills to their human pals. So instead of getting angry, just silently remove the dead animal and praise your companion for being a great hunter.
3. Your cat wants to eat raw food
Your kitty’s ancestors were wild cats that survived by eating live prey. Even though the desire to kill and eat prey becomes less profound for domesticated felines, at some point they might get tired of their dry food or canned diet and start to fantasize about fresh, juicy animal flesh. Presenting you with small, dead prey like birds and rats could be your cat’s way of asking you to change his diet to a raw one.
4. Your cat is teaching you how to hunt
Your cat might see you as a big cat who does not know how to hunt. By bringing you his dead prey, he thinks he is setting a good example and expects you to do the same.
Kittens are normally raised by their mother cat who teaches them how to survive in the wild. Catching prey is one of the valuable skills that a kitten must learn from its mother in order to survive. The mother cat would normally bring home dead prey to feed to the young kittens, and they begin to learn about catching and killing prey when their mother starts bringing injured but live prey for them to practice on.
An adult feline may be inclined to teach the same hunting skills to his human, whom he treats as family, just like a mother cat does to her kittens.
5. Your cat wants to offer his prey as a gift
Big cats in the wild are predators and carnivores by nature and survive on their catch. For domesticated cats, however, the urge to hunt is mostly driven by entertainment rather than survival. Rats and birds caught within the perimeters of your house are simply treated as toys, and your cat may leave them next to your bed or on your doorstep as a way of gifting them to you.
6. Your cat wants to practice his hunting skills
Cats are inclined to hunt despite now being domesticated. Unlike in the wild, where felines chase and consume their prey, domestic cats simply enjoy the hunting experience as they would a game. Small, moving prey excites a curious cat as he uses his sharp claws and teeth to capture and kill it. Most importantly, he can show off and hone his hunting skills and make his humans proud.
7. Your cat treats you as a surrogate kid
When a cat drops its prey on your feet, it could mean that he is trying to provide for you, just as a mother cat feeds her young by bringing home dead animals. Somehow, this inherited instinct to provide for the family carries on, even though it may sound strange to us humans.
How to stop your cat from bringing home unpleasant gifts
Cats act on their inherent drive to hunt, despite being domesticated and well-fed. With their sharp claws and teeth, they can be efficient killing machines that will happily execute any moving objects they perceive as prey. While this hunting behavior can be helpful for some farm owners to control rodent infestations, cats might also become a threat to wildlife when they kill small animals and birds within their vicinity.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to curb this predatory behavior. Here are some creative ways to redirect your cat’s predatory drive:
- Provide toys that your cat can chase and catch, to simulate actual prey. Keep in mind that your feline companion is hardwired to hunt and there is nothing you can do to suppress this behavior. Instead of killing wildlife, you can keep him busy with laser pointers, stuffed animals, moving toys, feather wands, and other small objects that resemble prey. Your cat will not be able to resist them!
- Have lots of playtime and bonding time. A cat that goes out to hunt might be feeling bored. Without mental stimulation and plenty of exercises, he might satisfy his urges by pouncing on your feet as you walk by, bruising your furniture, or attacking your indoor plants. An outdoor cat who regularly engages in hunting birds might bring even more dead animals to your doorstep. Bonding with your feline through playtime can help curb the predatory instinct while keeping your cat physically active.
- Use a bell collar for your cat. With a bell hanging on his collar, birds and other potential prey are warned ahead of an approaching cat. This will help them escape before the sharp claws reach them.
- Keep your cat indoors, especially at night. Cats are naturally nocturnal animals and they love going hunting when the sun goes down. Keeping them inside will prevent you from waking up to a gross surprise next to your bed.
Cats are naturally born predators. Your cuddle buddy might be well-fed and pampered, but this does not stop him from doing what he is originally designed to do. Felines are proud beasts and love to show off their hunting prowess to the people they care for, so it should not surprise cat owners to see dead lizards, rodents or birds left lying around the house.
If you often find your cat bringing dead animals into your home, there are ways you can redirect his predatory instinct to other objects. Toys and lots of playtimes are often effective to keep your feline from threatening other animals. You may not be able to completely suppress his drive to hunt, but with the right alternatives, you can minimize the chances of him leaving unpleasant gifts on your carpet.
Image: istockphoto.com / FotoGablitz