Why do cats bring you dead animals?

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There are some harsh realities of owning pets. For dog owners, it’s picking up poop. For cat owners, it’s dealing with the dead or dying animals they bring back to your house on a regular basis. But why do they bring their prey back to your house?

They’re proud hunters!

Although cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, they still retain their natural hunter instinct, although it can be more of a playful hunt than life or death (which is why they’ll also ‘hunt’ a piece of string, or any number of non-edible items).

Cats are built for hunting. They’re small and agile, they can move silently, they have razor-sharp claws and teeth and have great senses. Cats hunt because every aspect of their being has evolved them into perfect hunting machines. Just because their pet humans take care of them doesn’t mean they want to stop flexing those muscles. When they bring you their prey, it can be to show off to you – to prove that they are skilled hunters and worthy of your attention!

They’re adept teachers!

Female cats in particular are natural teachers and while in the wild they may bring food for a younger litter, they will eventually begin to bring home live prey for their young to hone their own hunting skills. Cats adopt a natural role as mothers and teachers, so they often try to teach their useless humans a new trick or two.

They want to bond with you

When an animal displays more selfless behaviours, it’s can be to build a relationship with the human. There’s an element of trust required for this to happen, so when your cat begins displaying bonding behaviours, it means it wants to help you learn to hunt.

It also means your cat thinks you’re a bad hunter. So maybe work on that.

They don’t know what to do with it!

It could be the case that while cats have an innate predatory nature and like to hone those skills, due to their domestication they don’t really know what to do with their prey when they’ve got it. Their urge to hunt isn’t directly linked to hunger, so they don’t always think to eat their prey. They just know they’ve got to catch it.

As the Pet Happy blog says;

So your overfull cat may have caught a mouse but won’t eat a bit. What to do with it? Bury it? Nah, only dogs do that. Throw it away? After all that effort? Why not leave it over there in case an idea pops up? Yes.

Or maybe they’re just dicks…

I mean, they’re cats. Let’s not kid ourselves and pretend there’s some deep, noble meaning that spans back thousands of years. They’re better than you in every way and they know it.

So, what should you do if your cat brings home a dead animal?

First of all, don’t panic. As gross as it might be, you need to keep in mind it’s a sign of affection from your cat. If you react badly, then it could easily hamper the relationship between you and your cat. Depending on the cat, a negative reaction may be difficult to overcome – some cats are great at holding a grudge!

  • Avoid shouting or chastising the cat.
  • Accept the ‘gift’ as a normal part of owning a cat.
  • Try to redirect your cat’s hunter focus with toys.

There are loads of cat toys that have been developed to help coax cats away from hunting animals, while fostering their primal instincts. Think about any soft toy or chase toy – they’re all designed to replicate the ‘thrill of the hunt’. If your cat is bring home dead animals, trying spending time with them each day with a toy to try and get it out of their system. If they’ve satisfied their need to hunt in a safe way with you, they’re less likely to go out hunting the local wildlife.

And it’ll be a great opportunity to prove to your cat that your own hunting skills are good enough – then they might be less concerned about teaching you!

Comments 2

  1. My Hazelnut had brought me a pink child’s slipper, but only one so it’s useless. And a pineapple magnet, among with more gross stuff I don’t want to talk about. Not to mention a live winged cockroach between her teeth as she leapt in through the window.

  2. My Theo used to bring dead birds into the kitchen all the time (we have a cat flap), but as he’s gotten older he doesn’t do it anymore. Not sure if its his age or our reaction to the dead birds that changed the behaviour though!

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