If you keep a cat that’s permitted to travel outdoors, chances are you’ve received a special ‘gift’ from them at one point or another. It can be anything from a dead mouse to a dead spider that your cat proudly presents. Either way, this is likely to be one of the less attractive aspects of being a cat parent.
So, why do cats bring you dead animals? Is it just their way of showing you they love you, or is there more to it than that? Let’s take a closer look at why your cat brings you dead animals.
Why Do Cats Hunt?
Cats were thought to have been first domesticated around 10,000 years ago. That sounds like a long time, right? Well, compare that to dogs who were first domesticated around 30,000 years ago, and it’s nowhere near as long.
This means that they still retain many of their natural instincts, such as hunting. Hunting is probably one of the cat’s strongest instincts because back when they were still wild, it was essential to ensure their survival.
Also Read: How Do Cats Hunt?
Even though most of our pet cats don’t need to hunt to be able to eat and survive, the instinct to chase and kill is still strong, and this can be seen even with indoor cats who enjoy chasing and ‘killing’ toys. For outdoor cats, birds, small mammals, spiders, lizards, and sometimes even larger prey such as rabbits and squirrels, are all examples of animals that your cat might bring home to you.
Often, these prey species will be dead by the time you ‘receive’ them, but there are some cats that enjoy bringing home live presents for their owners.
Also Read: Why Do Cats Chase Their Tails?
Why Do Cats Bring Dead Animals Back To Their Owners?
There are several different reasons why your feline friend might be presenting you with dead animals.
They’re Acting As Nature Intended
In the wild, a mother cat would bring home dead prey animals to her kittens. Not only does this provide them with the nutrition they require for healthy growth, but it also teaches them what food is and prepares them for adult life when they need to fend for themselves.
Wild female cats also bring back live small animals to their kittens and teach them how to hunt and catch.
Also Read: How To Tell If A Cat Is Pregnant: Labor Signs, Behavior, And Timeline
They Feel Safe With You
Cats will bring back their dead prey to an area where they feel safe. This stems from their natural survival instinct. A cat is vulnerable to being preyed upon while eating, so in the wild, it makes sense that they might not eat their catch straight away but instead bring it back to their territory where they feel safer.
They Are Sharing With The Rest Of Their ‘Colony.’
In the wild, cats usually live in a colony of other cats. They will often share their food with the rest of the colony. If your cat brings you dead animals, he likely views you as part of his family pack. He’s probably well aware that you wouldn’t be able to catch a mouse without his help!
How Can I Stop My Cat From Bringing Me Dead Animals?
Your cat might enjoy bringing you back dead animals, but chances are, you’re not so enthusiastic about receiving these ‘presents.’
Domestic cats can also be problematic to wildlife numbers, particularly less common species. There are a few things you can do to try and discourage your cat from bringing you dead animals and protect the local wildlife.
Put A Bell On Your Cat’s Collar
This is one of the easiest ways to prevent your cat from successfully killing his prey. A bell will give your cat’s game away and signal to small mammals and birds that he is approaching, giving them a chance to escape.
Only put a quick-release collar on your cat as these are designed to easily break open should he get stuck on anything, preventing him from being strangled.
Also Read: What Is Best Flea Collar For Cats?
Change The Times When Your Cat Is Allowed Outdoors
Wildlife such as mice, voles, and birds tend to be more active at night and early in the morning. Preventing your cat from going outdoors during this time will reduce his chances of a successful kill.
Having said this, cats are naturally crepuscular, which means that they are most active at dawn and dusk, and so may become frustrated in the house at not being allowed out during these times.
Move Your Bird Feeders
If you have a killer cat, try to reduce his chances of hunting birds by moving your bird feeders away from areas where there is a cover for your cat to hide, such as a nearby hedge.
Avoid putting feeders too near the ground as this encourages birds that are more accessible to your cat! If your cat is determined and still keeps bringing you dead birds, it is probably best to remove the bird feeders from your garden altogether.
Also Read: 6 Reasons Your Cat Makes Weird Noises At Night
Play With Your Cat
As we’ve learned, it’s part of your cat’s natural instinct to hunt. You can mimic this prey drive through the use of cat toys, particularly dangling toys on wands or toy stuffed mice. If your cat’s desire to chase, pounce, and catch is fulfilled through the use of toys, he might be less inclined to hunt wildlife.
Although your cat can chase laser pointers, they cannot catch the laser and so these can be very frustrating for your cat. They do not satisfy the ‘killing’ aspect of your cat’s natural instincts so stick to using physical toys instead.
Also Read: 8 Purrfect Games You Can Play With Your Cat
Should I Tell My Cat Off For Bringing Me Dead Animals?
You should never verbally or physically punish your cat for bringing you dead animals. They won’t understand why you are angry and it will probably only make them scared of you.
Remember, your cat is only doing what comes naturally to him. Instead, try the above suggestions to discourage your cat from bringing you dead animals.
Do Cats Bring Back Things To Their Owners Other Than Dead Animals?
Sometimes cats will bring their owners things they perceive they have ‘killed,’ such as a toy or other item they have been playing with.
This is obviously more desirable than an actual dead animal! Indoor cats are more likely to bring their owners toys or other household items than outdoor cats. Some cats will learn that toys equal playtime and so will bring you their toys to encourage you to play with them.
It isn’t unusual for cats to bring their owners’ dead animals. Although you may deem it unpleasant, try to remember that they are doing it because that’s what their instinct is telling them to do.
Never tell your cat off for bringing you dead animals, but there are ways in which you can discourage your cat from bringing you these ‘gifts’.
Put a bell on their collar and move your bird feeders away from places where your cat might hide and lie in wait. Try and play with your cat more frequently as this can help redirect their hunting instinct to their toys instead.
You can also limit your cat’s access to the outdoors, particularly during dawn, dusk, and overnight when wildlife is more active. Failing this, you might have to accept that the occasional dead animal dropped at your feet is simply part of being a cat parent!
Also Read: The 7 Best Cat Collars
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do cats bring you presents?
There are several reasons why your feline friend might bring you a present such as a toy, or worse, a dead animal. Most of the reasons stem from his natural instinct to share his catch with his family pack i.e., you! Cats will sometimes bring you their cat toys in an attempt to initiate play, particularly if this tactic has worked previously!
How do I stop my cat from bringing home dead animals?
Try to fulfill your cat’s natural instinct to chase and kill by playing with him instead. You can also try and protect the wildlife in your garden by putting a bell on your cat’s collar to alert them of his presence, and moving your bird feeders away from places where your cat can lie in wait unseen.
Do cats give other cats gifts?
It is normal for a mother cat to bring her kittens live animals to practice their hunting skills with, or dead animals for them to eat. Occasionally a cat might want to share his prey with another cat that he has a particularly close bond with.
One of my cats was not happy with what I put down for breakfast. She went out, caught herself a nice, fat dove and brought it back into the house. She brought it to me, showed it off, then went under the dresser and began plucking it. Within an hour there was nothing left but a pile of feathers and the wings. She is my uber hunter in the group. She has always brought in “presents”: bugs, lizards, geckos, birds. And she is very proud of herself. She was feral born and has a lot of ‘wild’ still in her.
Thanks for sharing, Jere! My cat Munchkin has taken up a similar habit lately as well. She somehow manages to catch small birds even when I have her attached to a lead outside. Fortunately, she doesn’t do them any harm. She just shows them off to me before I take them and let them go.