Does feeding a domestic cat blunt their desire to hunt?

To rephrase the title, you might ask the following question: “Do well-fed domestic cats hunt as much and with the same conviction as cats that aren’t fed?”

The best answer that I can find on this topic is from Dr. Jon Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense.

He is far more nuanced in his response compared to what you might see on the Internet which is very black and white when experts say that cats hunt in the same way whether they are fed or not because there is no link between feeding and the desire to hunt. I’m going to explain that this is not entirely correct.

Domestic cat predation
Photo by Nastia Rodionova
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Size of the area called the home range in which they will hunt

The typical domestic cat who uses their owner as a food source is going to have a considerably reduced home range compared to a cat that is not fed by a caretaker because these cats have to travel far further to food. The well-fed domestic cat will still have a desire to hunt because it is inherited, it is part of their DNA, but the important point to make on this topic comes from Dr. Bradshaw when he says:

That the ranges of well-fed owned cats are so small suggests that many are not deliberately hunting at all. If the opportunity presents itself, they may grasp it; but without hunger goading them on, they may not do so with single-mindedness.” This, I believe, sums up the situation nicely. And it makes a lot of sense.


He admits, as we all know, that “the cat’s brain does not link hunting and hunger together tightly, and for good evolutionary reasons.” Those reasons are that a cat depending upon hunting to survive has to make sure that they can achieve enough kills to survive for the next few days. A domestic cat instinctively cannot wait to start each hunting trip when they felt hungry. If they did so they would be unlikely to get enough to eat. So even a well-fed cat seeing a mouse within the area of their operation is likely to grasp the opportunity.

The answer then in conclusion is that feeding a domestic cat might blunt their desire and/or their commitment to hunt but they will still hunt; perhaps at a reduced rate if they’ve been well-fed.

Not a black-and-white behavioural trait

An important point to make, I think, is that you will see a lot of websites saying that there is absolutely no link between feeding a domestic cat and their hunting commitment. They are saying that even when a domestic cat is well-fed, they will hunt in exactly the same way as a domestic cat who is not fed at all. This is untrue, I believe. A well-fed cat is likely to hunt with less commitment, which is logical.

Although, of course, there will be variations in hunting commitment and predatory behaviour between different cats. It is part of their character. And females have smaller home ranges than males across all the cat species.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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