Domestic Cat Hunting Behavior

This post on domestic cat hunting behavior is written for children and people who want to read plain language.


Here is some information about what true domestic cats get up to when they go out hunting in the countryside or in suburbs (places near towns).”True domestic cats” mean sterilized cats that have a home where they are cared for properly but are allowed out to roam. “Sterilized” means neutered (male) and spayed (female) so they can’t have kittens. Some types of cat might hunt more than domestic cats. For example, barn cats might hunt more than true domestic cats. We don’t know for sure.

Some time ago I wrote an article about my late lady cat and her lack of desire to hunt. She did hunt sometimes but hardly ever. So cats like to hunt and some don’t. It is part of their character. You would have thought that all domestic cats would instinctively hunt, but no. Although we know that if a cat does like hunting it does not depend on being hungry. Cats hunt when they are full-up.

The researchers of the National Geographic and University of Georgia Kitty Cams Project discovered that about one third of cats hunt. And the desire to hunt does not depend on the age and sex of the cat. This comes from one piece of information gathered from a project in one place in America. The results could be different in other places. The place is Athens in Clarke County, Georgia, USA. Fifty-five cats (55) were fitted with video cameras around their necks on collars.

Charts

Here are some charts. The authors are the scientists running this project. Click here for their website. The sort of cats in this survey were:

  • 30 neutered males
  • 25 spayed females
  • The ages of the cats were from 6 months to 19.5 years.

The cats had video cameras fitted around their necks and an average of about 37 hours of video was recorded for each cat. The videos showed exactly what the cats were doing when left alone and roaming around.

Domestic Cat Prey Item Numbers

Domestic Cat Prey Item Numbers

The scientists running the project make the point that assessing domestic cat hunting by using video cameras attached to a cat’s collar is more accurate than seeing what the cat brings back home because cats sometimes leave prey out there where it was caught.

Perhaps the interesting thing is that the most common prey is reptiles and amphibians such a lizards and frogs. The roaming cats of Athens liked to attack leopard frogs (see picture) and skinks.

Domestic Cat Prey Profile

Domestic Cat Prey Profile. Picture of leopard by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region.

Cats that did hunt behaved differently when they had caught prey:

As can be seen, a large amount of prey is left at the place where it is killed. This is a reason why surveys that are based on counting prey brought home can give wrong results.

The scientists who managed the project say that even though the number of birds killed by one cat is small, in Athens alone the total number of birds killed every year is an about 40,000 based on their figures. The questions I have are:

  1. How big or small a percentage to the overall population of birds is 40,000?
  2. How many birds do people kill directly and indirectly each year through human activities such as habitat destruction?

People’s Ideas About Cat Hunting

People have different opinions about whether cats should be allowed out. About half of Americans believe that domestic cats should be allowed out to roam. So half the cats are let out and the other half are kept inside the owner’s home.

Most people, more than 6 out of every 10 people (65%), think that there needs to be a better system to control stray cats left to roam including feral and community cats. “Community cats” are cats that are domesticated but roam from house to house and live outside a lot. Many people believe that feral cats deserve a better life and that more should be done to help them.

People who are interested in birds think that roaming and stray cats are bad. They believe they kill lots of birds. Other people have different ideas and think that people kill far more birds than cats.


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