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Why cats like to bring home “gifts”

 by lucy on 12 Oct 2016 |
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Every cat owner has come home to find a dead mouse, bird or other hunting prize strewn across the stoop, often with Kitty waiting proudly beside his bounty. While this type of gift giving is one of our feline friends’ more off-putting habits, it is simply your cat’s way of showing he is a worthwhile hunter and offering affection to his human family.
Cats are natural-born predators, as evidenced by data showing they kill billions of birds and small mammals every year in the United States alone. Their sharp claws and teeth make them well adapted to this carnivorous lifestyle, but unlike their big cat relatives, our domesticated pets do not need to hunt to survive. As lions drag prey back to their dens for a meal, then, our feline friends also bring their bounty home— but are more likely to share it with us, their beloved owners.
Experts have found that spayed female cats are the most likely culprits behind these “gifts,” offering further explanation for Kitty’s behavior: In the wild, mother cats teach their kittens how to hunt and eat their food by bringing dead or injured prey back to the den. Domesticated cats still have this instinct, but fixed females have no young to teach. By leaving dead critters on the back porch or in your bedroom doorway, then, your cat is simply fulfilling her natural role as caretaker and teacher. She is welcoming you as a member of her family and working to take care of you— especially given your lack of hunting skills.
Though dead mice may be less than appealing, it’s important to remember why your cat brings home these treasures. By offering prey, he is working to prove he is a worthwhile hunter and showing he cares about you as his family. It is important not to chastise your cat for gift giving, then, but instead, give him praise with words or a pet. Be sure to remain calm and keep your disgust to yourself, too, as cats can read body language. If Kitty isn’t keen to let you dispose of his gift, try distracting him with a toy or treat instead of hurting his feelings. If there are other people around, ask them to help distract your pet while you dispose of his hunting prize.
Because hunting is hardwired into cats’ brains, there is no way to prevent your pet from bringing home gifts. Indoor cats have less opportunity to track down prey, but will still find mice or small bugs to offer you. When all else fails, housecats will even offer their toys to their owners. Just remember that sharing is caring when it comes to your cat’s hunting prizes.


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