Why do cats hunt when they have food?

Cats hunt when they have food given to them by us because ‘few of today’s pet cats are more than a small number of generations away from feral cats that have had to live on their own resources, and for whom a productive territory was necessary…’ The words of Dr Bradshaw.

Cat hunting instinct
Domestic cat hunting instinct has not faded away yet.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

He goes on to say that if we go back further in time when commercial cat food was not available in the same way that it is today almost all domestic cats would have had to hunt for some of their food. This would have meant defending a home range or territory where he/she had exclusive access to prey.

Too little time has elapsed since domestic cats had to maintain a territory and had to hunt for food for this instinctive need to disappear.

As today’s domestic cats rarely go hungry if cared for properly, their instinctive desire to hunt is dampened but not entirely eliminated. It is not just about having full bellies which demotivates the cat to hunt. Hunting is hazardous. Dangers need to be minimised in the interests of survival.

We know, too, that cats do not link hunting with hunger in an absolute sense. If cats waited until they were hungry before hunting they’d be less likely to obtain enough food to eat. Therefore a well fed cat will take the opportunity to kill prey when it presents itself.

I am generalising. Some domestic cats rarely if ever hunt while others, like my cat, are simply driven to do it even though well fed. He likes the taste of freshly killed mouse. It is astonishing that he can switch from cooked chicken or prawns to eating a mouse he has just killed and enjoy them equally. In fact he prefers mice.

As we know, cats vary in character substantially and that applies to the desire to hunt.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

3 thoughts on “Why do cats hunt when they have food?”

  1. Loved Albert’s comment. Many animals are predatory, cats included. It’s instinctual for them and not so much for the human animal. My cats rarely capture any prey, but a rolling dust ball will put them into a frenzy trying to capture. So, it’s a lot about play as opposed to any hunger.

  2. I’ve watched my cats for almost two decades, and though they rarely catch anything (fewer than one per year) the exercise is beneficial to both prey and predator.

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