I’ll never forget the day when my old cat Iggy popped in through the open window right on to my desk and dropped the neatly decapitated head of a sparrow on my keyboard. I’m sure my startled scream was heard across New York City. It was sad. It was gory. I was horrified. But Iggy seemed to practically quiver with pride, and all I could do was squeamishly remove the “trophy” and work on the task of forgiving her for her generosity.
According to Arden Moore in The Cat Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2007), cats have novel ways of showing that they love us; and that they are worthy hunters. Whether these “gifts” are dead birds, rats, or crickets, our cats are displaying their hunting instincts. We may keep their food bowls full, but that won’t stop them–our domesticated cats are not hunting out of hunger.
Some cats do bring their prey back home with plans to snack later, but most just leave the carcass lying around. Experts in feline behavior speculate that cats brings us these “gifts” in an effort to train us. Perhaps they have realized what lousy hunters we are. Or maybe they do it because they want our approval. They can’t go out and buy expensive gifts or knit a scarf for us, so they hunt and offer us what they value as presents.
In any case, you can’t snuff out a cat’s need to hunt. It’s hardwired in their brains. Instead, give those prey critters more of a fighting chance by putting a bell on your cat’s collar. If your cat goes outdoors, you probably shouldn’t put up bird feeders–keep those for indoor cats to enjoy watching form the window. As an alternative, offer your cat some fake prey to stalk and chase in your home, such as battery-operated toy mice that move erratically.
Does you cat bring you gifts from the hunt? Have you found a way to discourage it? Tell us your stories in the comment section below.