Domestic Cat Hunting

by Michael
(London)

Reproduced under creative commons copyright Sean Dreilinger

Reproduced under creative commons copyright Sean Dreilinger

Domestic cat hunting is rarely on my cat's agenda. This is for three reasons. First she is overweight. Second she is old. Third there's not much to hunt around here.

In the sterilized world of clean suburban living the rodent population is reduced.

When domestic cats hunt and catch prey they often (correction, always, as far as I can see) seem to play with it. It seems that a sadistic and unwarranted side to our cat's character is shown, which is rather unpleasant.

This is not the case, apparently. There are two reasons why a cat plays around with a poor little mouse before killing it unless the mouse dies before your cat gets around to it.

First, there is less chance for your cat to indulge in what comes instinctively to her, hunting. So when the chance does present itself she maximizes the enjoyment and plays out the game as long as possible.

Your cat will hunt whether she is hungry or not. The urge to hunt is independent of hunger. Perhaps also she may not be hungry enough to get "stuck in" and kill the animal as quickly as possible.

Secondly, she may just be a little fearful of getting a bite from the prey so she plays safe. She does this by battering the animal with her front paws.

As a mouse is small, the animal is chucked around the place as a consequence. Some prey, though, can harm a cat and if your cat is a little rusty (due to the reasons mentioned above) she may want to proceed more cautiously.

There is apparently a third reason for the female domestic cat to delay killing prey. She needs to teach her young how to kill. This is instinctive. She will therefore bring the mouse home and kill the animal in in front of her offspring (whether she has them or not) to demonstrate the how the fatal bite is delivered.

Update 29th March 2012.. I thought I would add at this late stage that wild cats also play with prey - dead or alive. It is important for cubs to play with prey as a learning process but even adult wild cat species play with their prey. Servals living in the Serengeti apparently play with their rodent prey.

There are three types of prey-play (a) restrained which is catching prey but reduced in activity (b) overflow play (the most common), incorporating chase and catch and which is sometimes carried out by hungry cats and (c) play that is an expression of relief at having caught a large prey without being injured. (source: Leyhausen 1979)

Updates Nov. 2010: is a great picture that is a classic cat hunting situation and which is by Laura Sammons the daughter of Joyce Sammons a contributor to PoC and a regular visitor:

And here is a picture I took a little while ago of my cat with a mouse she caught. It is pretty much the only one she has caught in the 18 years of her life!

Some serious stuff about domestic cats hunting and playing.

Michael Avatar

Comments for
Domestic Cat Hunting

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Mar 29, 2012 Crows NEW
by: Ruth (Monty's Mom)

I enjoyed the comment to this article about Stryker the cat getting one of the crows who was tormenting him. Monty has had a run in with a mean crow in our yard. He was sitting on the back porch and it was dive bombing him. I wondered how the crow could be so foolish. Monty was looking up, his whole body in a "ready" stance when I let him in. I think if the crow had had the chance to try it again he would have been in for a nasty surprise. Even so, it upset Monty and he refused outside time for nearly two full days.

Monty catches the occasional bird, although I try to prevent this. He had one run in with a mouse, but it was smarter than him. The mouse was charging him, then it played dead. Monty happened to see it moving toward the bushes, but he leaped high into the air instead of following close on its heels and so he lost track of it. I saw it climbing up the fence behind him, but I let it go. The mouse got away, fair and square. It wouldn't have been sporting to tip the cat off as to its whereabouts.

When Jeff plays with Monty using Monty's stuffed dog he makes it "attack" him, so that it is charging at the cat sometimes. I said to Jeff, "Monty likes that game, but prey would never do that." I guess I was wrong about that, because that little mouse was charging at my 12 pound cat and the cat was backing off.


Mar 15, 2012 Cat love to hunt NEW
by: Bandera

A domestic cat can run at speeds of 30 mph. Here u can see one that is ready to run http://tinyurl.com/7we4kcp


Jan 26, 2011 mouse hunter
by: minky

our young cat has started killing at least one mouse a day. sometimes i have rescued them but usually they are dead. not a sight i like to see but you can't do much about natural instincts.


Jan 19, 2011 Update Jan 2011
by: Michael

Please check this out:

Domestic cat preying unlikely to effect population size of prey species

Michael Avatar


Jan 17, 2011 Link
by: Michael

People who dislike cats criticise the cat for sometimes catching prey, killing wildlife and then not eating it. It seems so wanton and unnecessary.

This short Blogger post endeavours to explain it:

Cat Preying A Priority Over Eating - new window.

Michael Avatar


Dec 04, 2010 Way to go, Binnie.
by: Snow White, Denmark

What a great catch. Wish it was me, but there doesn't seem to be any mice in this house. Plenty of birds in the garden, but my human won't let me get near them.
But I still practice my mouser skills and when the day comes that one of them stray in here, I'll be ready and my big paw will come down like a hammer. That'll teach 'em to respect the tuxedo!


Nov 11, 2010 I love mice
by: Furby

This is the 3rd one me and my cat mama Lola have caught. We live inside so it's harder. Lola had to teach me how to hunt. She was an orphan who lived outside with her adopted mama and her mama taught her to hunt before Sissy brought her home. I was too little when mama found me. So Lola taught me all I know.

I didn't listen to a lot of it. It's easier to let her catch the mice and then I steal them from her.

We love to run after anything little that moves. Sissy plays with us with a string and we chase it. Mice are SO much better. There's no string and they smell good too. And they're soft and fun to bat between my paws.

Did I mention they smell good too? If only Sissy would quit taking them away. Just because they're dead doesn't mean I'm done with my playing.


Oct 27, 2010 Eating Crow
by: Anonymous

My cat, Stryker, caught a crow in mid-flight as it swooped down on him. There was a murder of crows in the trees in our backyard, and they were taunting my cat as it sat in the middle of the yard. The crows were swooping down over the cat and were low enough to hit him with their talons. He just sat there cowering in the grass. At one point,Stryker happened to look over his left shoulder just as a crow was launching of the tree branch. just as the crow approached, the cat spun around, leaped in mid-air and wrapped his paws around the crows body to pull it down out of the air. He did this in one seamless movement and I was totally amazed at the agility that he showed.

I saw this scenario unfold when I happened to turn around in the yard to face the cat. He quickly pounced on the crow and held it down as he bit it. The crow's wing was broken in the melee. I put the cat back in the house and the crow hobbled to the woods, never to be seen again.


Oct 06, 2010 killer cats
by: Anonymous

my cat brought a squirrel home today and killed it! have photos but its not pretty.
his a great hunter.


Jun 28, 2009 my cat
by: Anonymous

My cat Harley bought in a bird the other day it was still alive but died when I took it to the vets.... poor thing this is the first time he's done it. He's 1 next month is he capable of bigger and better things?


Jun 18, 2009 my cat
by: bags

my cat has started to hunt daily and we can't get her to come in at night until she's ready. Its not pleasant cleaning them up but its what she's good at!


Dec 13, 2008 My cat
by: Anonymous

My Cat kills and eats a rabbit nearly everyday, they're a pest around here and Its good, my other two cats will bring in the odd mouse but this one is a great hunter and kills alot of Rabbits, Birds, Mice, Rats, you name it


Dec 12, 2008 Thanks Rachel
by: Anonymous

Hi Rachel

I know its almost a year since you made a comment but thanks for making it. I love the picture and the page has been successful for a long time in terms of being found by Google.

Thanks again.

Michael
POC Admin


Jan 29, 2008 great picture
by: rachel

thanks for the info on domestic hunting. it always irritates me when our cats bring live animals into the house and i'm usually the one to catch and dispose of them. it helps to know that they are just doing what nature has designed them to do... hunt.

oh, and by the way, that's my cat!

:)


Dec 22, 2007 Nice one
by: Anonymous

Love the photo an a nice concise and informative article - thanks.



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  1. Pingback: Domestic Cat Hunting Behavior | Pictures of Cats

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