Why Do Cats Bring Dead Animals Home?

Many pet owners ask “why do cats bring dead animals home even after being fed?” If you’ve ever been woken up at 5.30 am by your kitty depositing a dead mouse on your bed, you’ll know what I mean!

My cat goes outside just before light as he loves to explore and hunt. Fortunately, little gifts are not that common, but I always feel upset when he brings any home.

I’ve had the pleasure of owning many cats over the years and noticed some are keen hunters whereas others are laid back and too lazy to get off the sofa!! Older kitties tend to spend more time sleeping than playing, and hunting isn’t on top of their agenda!

However, many young kitties love the thrill of hunting and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. In this post you’ll discover the real reason your cat delights in bringing home gifts. In addition you’ll learn why you should never shout at her for this generous act, and what you should do instead.

Hardwired to hunt

cat stalking prey in field

Cats are built for hunting and your sweet kitty is no different. She may look cute and cuddly, but her instinct to hunt and kill is only a whisker away. Cats have been evolving for thousands of years and their origins go back to hot desert regions of the world. This is why your kitty is more active at dawn and dusk. Cooler temperatures and plenty of prey during these times make hunting easier.

Domestication hasn’t stifled a cat’s natural desire to hunt. It’s hardwired and part of their survival instinct. Feral cats depend on their ability to hunt for food, but your well fed feline doesn’t need to go foraging for her next meal.

However, in no way does this curb her instinct though. The only difference being, a feral cat will eat her prey, whereas your kitty will just play with it. To us humans this can seem very cruel to kill a mouse or bird for no reason. However, you have to remember, your cat is only acting on instinct.

Is your cat trying to teach you?

In the wild, parent cats teach their offspring to hunt by bringing dead prey home. Just think, your kitty may see you as a useless human, unable to hunt! Maybe she even sees your shopping trips to Sainsbury’s or Tesco as a futile hunting expedition!

Bringing dead animals home could be your cat’s way of teaching you to hunt. That poor little field mouse on your kitchen floor is just a lesson in hunting and not meant to offend you!

Apparently, neutered females are far more likely to bring home presents than males. This could be a mothering instinct, and as your kitty doesn’t have babies she’s teaching you instead! You should take this as a compliment as your kitty sees you as a close family member. Cats hunt to provide food and nurture, so maybe now you’ll see your feline friend’s antics in a different light:)

Your home is where she feels safe

cat bringing prey home

In addition, the fact your kitty brings her spoils home shows she feels safe and secure. In the wild your cat would be at risk of predators and snacking on a dead mouse in the open a very risky thing to do.

This is why cats instinctively bring their prey indoors. It’s safe and away from any dangers. Unfortunately for you, your bed cover or living room floor is where your little hunter sees fit to deposit your gift.

She probably feels very proud and can’t understand that look of horror on your face! Shouting at your cat is not recommended. You’ll only end up scaring her and probably hurt her feelings as well. Imagine how you’d feel if a gift you took time and trouble over was rejected by your family.

How to redirect your cat’s hunting instinct

Most cats love hunting and it’s not always about killing prey. Stalking, and play provide great entertainment for a cat, and you can recreate this with toys. Such basic instincts can’t be repressed, and if your kitty catches a mouse she’ll probably just toy with it anyway.

The most likely outcome if the poor thing is still alive is for your feline friend to bat it with her paws or chase it around the house. You could liken this to a Tom and Jerry cartoon:)

Cat toys are an excellent way of redirecting your cat’s hunting instincts. You can get very realistic looking felt mice which are ideal for throwing around. This is a far better way to encourage hunting. In addition, cat toys such as laser pointers or self rotating balls provide safe and fun ways for your cat to hone her stalking skills.

Swimming fish and puzzle toys are also great for stimulating your cat’s hunting instinct and getting her to exercise at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your cat to go outside, in fact I believe it’s cruel not to. Of course, there are exceptions. Living near a busy main road, or in a high rise apartment are just a few.

How your cat hunts

Hunting involves multiple skills which your kitty is constantly honing. Cats unlike many other mammals are obligate carnivores which means they need meat to survive. As a result they can’t snack on fruits or berries if no meat is available.

Kittens are born with a natural hunting instinct, but the mother has to show them how to eat prey. This is why your cat doesn’t eat the dead mouse she bought home. She knows how to hunt, but clueless what to do with her spoils!

Cats have evolved to become lean, mean, hunting machines. In fact they have a much shorter digestive tract than other mammals. Long digestive tracts are needed for a diet high in roughage which cats don’t have.

Shorter digestive tracts also mean lighter body weight and faster running! Your cat’s teeth are also built for hunting. Her sharp incisors at the front are great for killing prey and tearing flesh. In addition, little spines on the tongue’s surface help tear meat, and molars help grind tiny bones.

Your cat’s hunting techniques

why do cats bring dead animals home- cat stalking

By nature, cats are opportunist hunters, limiting their activities for when prey is more available. As previously mentioned, dawn and dusk are times of greatest activity, but that doesn’t mean to say your kitty will ignore a bird or other small creature if it’s within her sights.

Stalking is the initial activity your cat displays when getting ready to pounce. She’ll crouch on all fours and approach her prey with stealth and precision.

When she feels the time is right, she’ll sprint and pounce on her prey. Fortunately for your local wildlife, cats are only successful less than half the time. Most birds are quick to fly off, and are alerted by others when a cat is around. This is why you often hear chirping sounds when your kitty is roaming outside.

It’s usually weak or injured animals that fall prey such as baby birds falling out of the nest. Some cats are better hunters than others, and not all have a strong desire to hunt. My last cat was very lazy, and I don’t remember her catching anything! Mind you, she was pure white and hard to miss except in the snow, ha ha!

Once captured, a well fed kitty will be unlikely to kill it. at least deliberately. However, those sharp teeth and claws could cause serious injury. I’ve rescued many birds and mice from the jaws of cats over the years. Some lived, but others didn’t.

Can you stop a cat from catching prey?

The only way you can prevent your cat from catching wildlife is either by keeping her inside or by fitting a collar and bell. The latter is more humane, but you must only ever use collars with a safety release.

If your cat is a prolific hunter you may want to consider a collar, but for many cats I don’t think it’s necessary. Of course, if you want to track your cat, or give her a key with access to a catflap that’s a different matter.

Is your cat a hunter?

Now you know the answer to “why do cats bring dead animals home” I hope it’s helped you understand your feline companion a bit better. Finding little gifts on your doorstep can be upsetting and one of the very few downsides of owning a cat. It should never put you off adopting one of these beautiful and intelligent creatures though.

If you’ve enjoyed this post please share:) Also, if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

8 thoughts on “Why Do Cats Bring Dead Animals Home?”

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    • Thank you for your kind comment Ali:) I’m glad you enjoyed this post and learnt from it. I did indeed write this post myself, and get pleasure from sharing my knowledge:)

  2. Very interesting post. I have had no idea that cats sometimes do this to teach us how to hunt! That is indeed a piece of information that is hard to believe and yet it has a lot of sense. I found this article interesting and very helpful too. Thanks for sharing great tips once more.

    • Thank you Ivan:) Glad you found this post interesting, and yes, it’s surprising how resourceful cats are in that they try and teach us to hunt!

  3. Hi,

    What a great article!

    There were so many things you wrote about that I didn’t know. I’ve had cats all my life and just assumed that they were bringing me a gift home when they bought in a dead mouse.

    I didn’t know that my cat expected me to get out and find a mouse myself lol! Now that you’ve told me, it makes perfect sense.

    I also didn’t know why cats never ate the mouse, I had no idea they needed to be taught how to do this by their mothers.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this, and I’ll be back for more.

    • Thank you Judy:) Glad you enjoyed this post. I’m not sure if your cat actually expects you to catch mice, but probably giving a broad lesson in hunting lol! Yes, it’s amazing to think kittens learn to eat prey from their mothers. It’s always assumed to be a natural instinct. Thanks for your input:)

  4. Very insightful article Kathy! Thank you for that. I learned so much stuff from it. I wasn’t aware of many of them unless you mentioned it and now, it all makes more sense. For instance that cats do love dawn and dusk( I couldn’t get it why my cat was going outside in the night -;) I like your very funny point of a cat bringing the dead animal home is a gift from the shop, do you think this is really true? I think many cat owners would find your article and tips on how to eliminate or adjust the cats killer instincts. Great work!

    • Thank you Julius:) So glad you enjoyed this article and learnt from it. I’m not absolutely sure if cats are that generous, but it would be nice to think so! Instinct drives an animals behaviour, and it’s highly possible cats bring dead animals home to provide their family food:)


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