Cat Day: Why cats actually bring live mice

International Cat Day
Why Cats Bring Home Live Mice – They’re Not ‘Gifts’

Cats hunt more when young and train their offspring to hunt with live prey

© Eibner-Pressefoto / Picture Alliance

When a cat goes hunting, it often brings home live mice or other animals as well. Many believe that these are gifts. But the reason is apparently different, as some experts suspect.

When a cat catches a mouse, it often happens that its owners witness the chase. With great fanfare, the skilled hunter jumps and dances around her prey and plays with the mouse for a while before they eat it.

Many people are fascinated that their pet has such subtle, rustic hunting instincts – and quite a few feel sorry for the poor mice, birds or frogs and find their cat’s behavior cruel. But catching prey is part of the cat’s nature, the instinct being sometimes more intense, sometimes less, depending on the character of the animal. Some cats or kittens hunt a lot – others have little interest and rarely bring home prey.

Why does it have to be a live mouse?

It often happens that cats bring home live mice or other animals such as birds. But why do cats really do this?

If you ask a cat owner, the answer might go something like this: The cat also wants to bring people a gift. Maybe out of worry. If humans provide cats with food, cats can do the same in reverse. But for this purpose a dead animal would suffice. So why one that is still alive?

No cat has yet answered the question of why it drags live mice or other small animals through cat flaps or open doors and then lets them run back onto the living room carpet. But behavioral biologists are on the trail of the phenomenon.

The cat wants to teach “their” humans to hunt

One explanation given by experts is that cats are not gifting humans with live prey, they want to teach humans something: namely how to hunt. A skill cats may find vital. It serves – at least instinctively – to nourish and also take care of the offspring.

German and British ethologists explain it as follows: Cats hunt more when they are young. As the kittens grow, the more often it happens that the adult animals present their prey alive to their offspring. Because the little ones have to fend for themselves and learn to hunt and catch their prey.

Cats also seem to transmit this behavior to the household they live in, meaning the people there.

Apparently, cats find humans completely incapable of catching mice. The cat instinctively wants to teach “her” humans to hunt themselves. From this behavior you can also see that the cat sees itself as the head and the person in charge of a household, the experts write at ‘Tiergesund.de’.

Some people can actually catch mice

Many pet owners can certainly attest that cats define how things are in a household. So the next time your cat or hangover brings home a live animal, you know it’s for educational purposes.

Some people actually manage to capture the live mouse – and then release the rodent back into the wild without harming it. The mouse must be very happy about it. One can only imagine what the cat thinks about such behavior.

Sources: “Tiergesund.de”, “Pet-Happy-com”



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