Why does my cat hunt?

All cats are hunters, and this applies to your cat too, even if they are kept indoors or they choose not to go outside very often.

Your cat’s motivation to pounce on small things that move is always there, so providing them with plenty of opportunity for ‘predatory play’ rather than the real thing can help fulfil this natural instinct as well as helping them keep mentally and physically fit and healthy.

Why does my cat bring animals or birds in for me?

This instinct to bring prey back to a safe environment before eating it is a natural behaviour in cats and actually shows that your cat feels secure at home.

Although this isn’t always that pleasant, you shouldn’t punish your cat for fulfilling their natural instincts. There are certain types of games you can play with your cat that mimic hunting. Encouraging them to play in this way can potentially lessen their desire to bring things in.

Why does my cat bring mice home alive and then play with them?

This may look cruel, but cats are not doing this for entertainment.

By confusing the mouse or other small animal and tiring it out, your cat is essentially making sure that they can kill it without getting injured themselves.

Why does my cat hunt if they are well-fed at home?

Your cat’s motivation to hunt is not influenced by whether or not they are hungry.

The only thing that might change is the intensity and duration of their hunting; cats that are not hungry will still catch prey but may not kill or eat it.

Why does my cat hunt?

How should I play with my cat to simulate hunting?

Cats hunt using two basic methods:

  1. Stalk, run and pounce – this is very active and uses lots of energy in a short space of time.
  2. Stationary, sit and wait – which requires the cat to remain motionless for long periods of time and pounce only when the prey emerges from its hiding place.

Both styles can be simulated indoors by toys and games.

Stalk, run and pounce games

Toys that encourage your cat to use the more active hunting method are ones that move rapidly and randomly, mimicking the behaviour of a small prey animal. Fishing rods with a small toy or feather at the end can be very appealing for your cat.

You will find that your cat plays in short bursts, maybe for only seconds at a time. This is perfectly normal as it uses up a lot of energy and isn’t behaviour that they would naturally keep up for long periods.

Stationary, sit and wait games

Placing small toys inside a box with holes in (so they can see it and possibly use their paw) can help keep their interest and stimulate their brain, even if they aren’t burning too many calories!

You could also use a stick with a feather on the end under a blanket or rug. Poke it out every now and then for your cat to see, before withdrawing it quickly to the hidden space under the rug.

How can I encourage my cat to play?

Rotate your cat’s toys on a regular basis so they are always playing with a ‘new’ toy. Keep things fresh and exciting for your cat by storing all toys out of sight when they’re not being played with.

Download the advice on this page as a handy advice sheet and to use as a reminder:

Advice sheet

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