21 March 2018 - Updated 23 May 2019

Cat Hunting Behaviour

Written by Didi Thormann
Cat Hunting

Cats usually start their hunt by lurking and sneaking from a hidden spot before they launch their attack on the prey. They only eat their prey when they are really hungry. Otherwise it happens all too often that they present their human with a half-dead mouse on the carpet.

Why do domestic cats hunt prey?

Domestic cats are no longer dependent on the wild. Nevertheless, as a predator hunting is one of their primal instincts. Regardless whether a cat is hungry or not, the sight of potential prey awakens their hunting behaviour. It does not matter whether it is an outdoor, indoor or a wild cat. Their hunting instinct is inherited and thus passed on from generation to generation. Up until recently cats were used as pest control and only the best hunters where able to live longer and reproduce. This means that the modern pet cats are descendant from good hunters.

Cat hunting

Why do cats bring prey home?

It is not uncommon for cats to bring gory gifts to their owners. These are usually small mammals or birds. Some cats can even bring larger prey such as rabbits home. No one really knows why they do this. Many suspect that the usually small animal is a present. However, some animal behaviour experts argue that it is the cat’s instinct, not generosity that makes them bring home dead animals. In the wild, mother cats teach their young hunting by bringing them dead animals to eat or even living animals for them to kill. Whatever the reason, you should never punish your cat for this behaviour as it is very likely to be instinctive. Punishing them won’t have any effect apart from scaring and confusing them.

Cat playing with a dead mole

How do cats catch their prey?

Cats begin their hunt by stalking. From a hidden spot they carefully watch their potential prey. This involves the cat being in a crouched position, head stretched out and eyes dilated.  When they are close enough, they prepare to jump by briefly stopping, tensing up and attacking. Pet cats do not always kill. Often they play with their prey or simply bring it home and leave it.

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