Monday, April 6, 2009

Why Do Cats Hunt?

Has your cat ever left you a present on your door mat that you stepped on by accident? Has your cat ever presented you with the remains of a mouse or bug? The best thing to do in this situation is to praise your cat and make a happy fuss over the remains, before disposing of them as discreetly as you can without your cat seeing you do it. Believe it or not, all cats hunt whether feral or domesticated, outdoor or indoor.
Yes, even those wonderful purring machines that love to sit in your lap and cuddle, hunt. My cats never used to go outside, so I was presented with all sorts of odd things when they were “hunting” in the house. They would bring me twist ties, buttons, pencil stubs, bottle caps, and the occasional fly or ladybug that had been unlucky enough to get in the house. They brought whatever they happened to find that they could carry to me. While I thought this was very entertaining, I never really gave it much thought. After all, I had taught them to fetch toys and things, so I thought that was what they were doing, except that some of the things they found I had not tossed for them. Now I know better, they were bringing me the bounty of their hunt.
There are a few schools of thought as to why they will bring you their prey. Ethologist Paul Leyhausen proposes that cats adopt their humans into the social group. As humans, he believes that we are at the top of the pecking order and therefore rate to share the “kill”. Desmond Morris, the author of “Catwatching”, believes on the other hand that they are trying to teach us to hunt much as they would one of their own kittens. Still a third idea is that this behavior is a relic of a kitten trying to gain the approval of its mother, as to its hunting prowess.
There are also some misconceptions about cats hunting. A cat that has been declawed can still hunt, I know I owned one. Keentya used to bat any mouse that entered his domain with his front paws. It seemed to me that he had stunned the mouse with this activity. It never went farther than that if I was around; I would rescue the mouse and put it outside. But Keentya was no slouch when it came to hunting without front claws.
While mother cats (queens) teach their kittens to hunt, the instinct to do so is hard-wired into the kitten. The mother teaches the kitten to hunt, to augment their skills and become a better hunter. I have seen orphaned kittens that are unbelievable hunters, using just as much stealth and cunning as their adult counterparts.
Cats do not necessarily prefer birds or mice; they hunt where the opportunity presents itself and will hunt the trail of least resistance. For example, if my cat Munchkin can get to a mouse on the ground, she will do that as opposed to climbing up the barn roof to try to catch a pigeon that can fly away from her. We have had an issue with the occasional bird, but thankfully those events are few and far between, as the cats know I am displeased when they bring a bird home.
Living in the country now, I spend as much time outside in nice weather as I can and so do the cats. They hunt grasshoppers and other insects, mice, voles, elephant shrews, and rats. Sometimes I am gifted with an entire mouse, sometimes just a bit of what is left. I don’t think they are trying to teach me to hunt, I think they are bringing me a trophy. They don’t seem to be distressed after the trophy is missing; they just go and get another one. 
I have become philosophical where the cats are concerned. If I continue to let them outside they will continue to hunt, no matter how well-fed on CANIDAE Cat and Kitten they are. However, they are ridding us of vermin that are not welcome in our garden, chicken house or home. Because of the skills of my feline family I don’t need to use chemicals or bug repellants to get rid of the mice, rats or other things we find around the farm and for that I am truly grateful.
So if your feline friend brings you home a treasure one day, remember to smile and show how proud of them you are. They could just be saving your pantry.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...