Are all domestic cats hunters?

Technically yes, all domestic cats are hunters but it is quite clear that many domestic cats really don’t have an urge to hunt as one might expect although they might be curious about the presence of a mouse in the home. I, myself, have lived with a female cat who only caught one mouse her entire life and she had no interest in eating it. And there is a cute story in the online news media today about a female cat, Misty, who shares her food with a wild mouse as you can see in the photograph.

Cat shares food with a wild mouse showing no desire to attack.
Cat shares food with a wild mouse showing no desire to attack. Image credit: Gilly Rudrum via Kennedy and News Media.
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Misty lives in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, UK. The mouse entered her home and started to eat from one of Misty’s food bowls. The picture was snapped by Gilly Rudrum, her owner with her husband Tony. They thought it was a real-life case of Tom and Jerry. Not quite because Misty had no interest whatsoever in chasing the mouse. And this is not a mouse which was raised with Misty. These two animals are not socialised to each other. This is a wild mouse and a domestic cat.

Gilly thought that her cat might have become vegan. She said: “She wasn’t hungry enough to eat the mouse, so she might have just thought it was a little someone for her to play with.”

Well, that’s not quite right either because we know that the urge to hunt is not linked to hunger. Domestic cats hunt instinctively when provoked by the sight, sound or fast movements of suitable prey animals.

Misty must be aware of the mouse. But she is disinterested. I believe that this is because she doesn’t have the urge to hunt. She might occasionally have the urge to chase a mouse but my guess is that she is not that bothered a lot of the time.

It’s a question of character or personality. Each cat is different. Gilly and Tony’s former cat who passed recently, Molly, was a committed killer apparently.

The couple adopted Misty who has a friendly character after she started to hang around the farm where they live and she’s made herself at home. They say that she has made friends with the local wildlife and it is reported that she shares her food with rodents. This isn’t a one-off event.

You have to conclude that this is an example of cat domestication gradually eroding the firmly embedded instinctive desire to hunt anything that moves provided it is of the right size.

It is said that the cat’s body, it’s morphology, is a reflection of its diet. All cats are meat eaters and they are specialised in capturing and killing live prey. They’ve evolved to the size and shape they possess in order to be efficient killers and of all the carnivores the cat is the stealthiest, most silent and still in this pursuit. Domestic cats are patient killers.

They use their highly developed senses of smell, sight and hearing. They select a suitable spot and wait for a mouse to emerge. The slightest sound or movement is detected. The hunter might freeze and watch or stalk. If the prey looks as if it might come towards them, they freeze and wait but if the prey moves away from them, they will move forward while barely making a sound in short quick but silent advances pausing frequently and watching.

That’s the way domestic cats hunt but some just don’t want to do it and you wonder if in a thousand years’ time whether there will be any domestic cats left who have this inborn instinct to kill.

Below are some articles on domestic cat hunting.

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