What my cat brought in while I slept
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I am sure that I’m going to give cat haters and ornithologists ammunition to criticise me and domestic cats. But I have an answer to that. My cat, Gabriel, is the only cat that I have shared my life with who has attacked and killed birds. My previous cats were not particularly interested in hunting. Indeed, they were not particularly good at it either. But Gabriel, who was born a feral cat and who lived as one for the first seven weeks of his life, is a dedicated hunter. He acts like one and behaves like one. He will hunt until he drops given the opportunity. The bird in the video looks like a blackbird.

Prevalence of cats killing birds

I don’t think that hunting by domestic cats is as prevalent as ornithologists make out. I know that on the Internet there are very many statistics about domestic cat hunting but they are estimates and I doubt the numbers.

Thankfully Washington DC are carrying out an extensive survey on the number of feral cats in their jurisdiction which will allow them to ascertain more accurately the impact that they have on the environment and on the lives of residents.

We need accurate information before being overly critical. On this occasion my cat brought a bird in either last night while I slept (which would be difficult or perhaps impossible, I don’t know) or he brought the bird in while I was at the gymnasium.

There it was under the bed. My first sign that he had killed a bird was when I noticed a single feather floating around the kitchen. At that time I had no knowledge of the bird kill. However, he kept going under the bed and on the last occasion I heard a crunching noise. I’ve heard that noise before. It’s when he crunches down on the head of a mouse and the bones shatter.

No doubt he was nibbling this bird and I picked up the sound of it. The video shows you what I found. It is a shortened version in order to make it upload more easily.

Bird kills

gabs1

He kills quite a few birds. The biggest was a parakeet. He’s killed three pigeons recently. They are exposed to being hunted because they spend quite a lot of time on their feet, on the ground looking for morsels of food that might have fallen from a bird feeder or perhaps insects. This lays them wide open to being hunted by my cat.

Gabriel and Parakeet

I often bang on the window to make them fly away before he can get at them. Like most cat owners I do not like to see my cat hunting and killing animals but it is natural and I have to accept it.

Worms

One reason why I don’t like him eating mice is because they sometimes have parasitic worms in their gut which he ingests and therefore he might acquire a worm infestation. Of course, I also feel for the mouse. I have an admiration for mice who stand up to cats. You hear their squeak as they go up on their hind legs and try and face down an enormous domestic cat with great courage. However, at that point their life is about to end. Sometimes I can save them because they wriggle into tight corners or my cat takes too long to kill.

Saving mice

I save mice by throwing a towel over them and then scrunching up the towel around the animal. I then take the towel out to the garden and releasing the mice at the base of the garden where I hope that my cat will not find them. I feel that I’m quite adept at saving the lives of mice. The main reason, now that I think about it, is that my cat, like all domestic cats, takes his time to kill them which leaves a window of opportunity for me to save lives.

Torture?

Cats do not torture mice as is often stated. They don’t take pleasure from torture because they don’t know what the word nor the action means. They take their time because often they have scarce opportunity to exercise their natural hunting desires and therefore they wish to extend the moment. Or sometimes they are cautious because they are badly practised and they want to avoid being bitten.

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What my cat brought in while I slept — 6 Comments

  1. A refreshingly honest documentary on nature. I must have had about 30 cats over my life; the majority didn’t hunt. However, Titian (that’s his tabby color) is one. Recently, as I awoke and put my feet on the floor I had to rub my eyes to find a black snake curled on the floor within 2 feet of mine. That shocked me awake! It wasn’t moving but I couldn’t be sure if Titian took it’s life or if the cold-blooded reptile was slowed by the coolness of the tiled floor. I slowly and smoothly got a bath towel and threw it over the snake. Immediately the head of the creature appeared from under an edge of the towel. I quickly grabbed the cold snake at the base of his head so that it could not turn to bite me. It opened its mouth but I held it firmly and lifted it free of the towel finding it to be about 3 feet long. Without hesitation I carried it through my house and out the door, examining it for signs of exterior trauma, of which I did not find. I placed it gently but ever so quickly at the edge of my lawn where the wild bushes grow. It laid still for a few seconds then disappeared into the underbrush. I’ve resuscitated frogs, as well. I have a pet door to my screened porch – I just need to repair a couple of tears in the screen, goodnessgracious! – 62 year-old woman who lives alone – with 3 catkids.

    • Pretty scary. I think you did great to get the snake out of the house. You respected the snake as it was unharmed and free to live in the wild. The wild ancestor of the domestic cat (Near Eastern Wildcat) is an excellent snake hunter so the domestic cat has inherited this skill. Thanks for your story Erika.

  2. Nice work Gabs.

    He is being ‘cat’ What he does is no different to the behaviour of tigers, lions or panthers. Do we hear the omnivorous cat haters, who have never visited an abattoir stun/kill line, raging about how ‘our’ prey animals are despatched? No, of course we don’t. Haters are usually massive cowards as well as being hypocrites.

    The domestic or wild cat ‘playing’ with their kill is part of the predation sequence. It is essential. Many prey species can play dead, or their breaths are very shallow and certainly not visible to the human eye. Cats have no Fovea in their eye and this allows them to detect the tiniest of movements, such as very shallow breathng, or even pulse n small reptiles.

    If a cat were to bite down on a caught species, as you rightly say, they may get injured if the prey were not dead. Establishing that the prey is dead is not ineptitude, it is determined, learned skill.

    Great piece Michael, this is good to openly and honestly speak about the true nature of domesticated predators. Gabriel is stunning. A mighty hunter.

    • Thanks Jane for the extra information. He is a mighty hunter. Last night he ate mouse under my bed at 2 in the morning. The crunching woke me up. As usual all that remains is the gall bladder – no blood.

  3. Cats are natural hunters and some do kill to eat. Most only kill to eat. I have several cats who live outside and they kill very few animals that I have seen. I did have one she is gone sadly but when she was young in the 2 to 6 weeks old range a squirrel would make what sounded like laughter every time she would fall down or do other things that were funny to see. Well when she was 6 months old she climbed the tree that squirrel lived in and she killed it. She got revenge and then she got lunch. It is GOD’S way for Cats to live .

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