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Why Your Cat Brings You "Gifts"

By: Virginia Wells

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Consider this family scene: It's your birthday and you sit on the couch, your cat perched at your feet, surrounded by family and friends. Every person is bearing a colorfully wrapped birthday gift for you. You open each one in turn, show it around, and the assembled throng emits the anticipate ooh's and ah's. You thank everyone for their kind offerings. Suddenly your kitty leaves the room and heads for the patio, only to return moments later with a dead lizard that he proudly deposits on your lap.

A fun-filled activity for a birthday party? Probably not. A damper on your appetite for cake and ice cream? That's more like it. But before you fault your kitty, before you scream, or jump on a chair, or punish your cat, keep in mind that this is normal behavior; your cat has brought you a gift of his own.

Hunting is an entirely natural behavior for cats, even when they are well fed at home. Most cat owners can live with that – even when our ankles become the prey. But what do you do when your sweet, gentle, purring ball of fur deposits a dead carcass at your feet?

Try to keep in mind it's a trophy he is giving to you – whether it takes place in a birthday party setting or in the middle of the night. He's proud of his hunting prowess and wants to share his victories with you. He considers your home a safe and secure den, worthy of being his lair.

Your cat evolved from wild cats, a long line of hunters and predators, and is designed for stalking, hunting and killing. So far, no amount of evolution or domestication has taken the fun out of hunting. Cats enjoy the whole process, stalking patiently and carefully, until they are close enough to pounce.

Finding a Place for Your Trophy

Cats hunt a variety of creatures. Your cat may bring you anything from rabbits to squirrels, and from lizards to snakes. Whether or not you've been able to celebrate the "gift" you are brought, you still have to do something with it.

Be careful how you handle it. Wear gloves and wrap the remains in several layers of plastic before disposing it. If the animal is still alive, you can invert a bowl, basket, or bucket over it to keep it contained. Depending on what it is, you might have to call Animal Control for help.

Fixing the Problem

If you wish to redirect your cat's energy, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Keep your pet indoors. This is best for your kitty anyway. Cats face too many dangers when they are outdoors, such as fighting with other cats and dogs, getting hit by a car and being exposed to disease.

  • Get a bell. You can attach a bell to your cat's collar so that the prey will hear when your cat is stalking. A little noise might be just enough to prevent success.

  • Keep your cat well fed. A full tummy should dull your cat's hunting instincts.

  • Get another cat. Two cats may be able to satisfy some of their hunting instincts by engaging in predatory play together.

    Again, keep in mind that that your cat's hunting behavior is instinctive and that it's part of his genetic makeup. However, as with any behavior, if it becomes dangerous or too bothersome, discuss the problem with your veterinarian.

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