Why do cats like to torture mice?

Why do cats like to torture mice? People sometimes criticise the domestic cat for torturing their prey, usually mice. They do this by pouncing and pausing and when the mouse is disabled through injury and trauma the cat throws it in the air and toys with it until dead.

It is unpleasant to see even for a cat lover. But this is not about a cat “torturing” prey. It occurs because the usually well fed domestic cat is not hungry enough to start eating her prey immediately but nonetheless has a powerful hunting urge which cannot be denied and which drives her to repeat the pounce and pause routine which has all the appearance of human torture.

Kitten with mouse
Photo: Pinterest
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To describe domestic cats as torturers is misplaced anyway. It is only humans who engage in torture. It is a human concept and a word created by humans for humans.

This is the anthropomorphization (the humanising) of domestic cats. Humans do this a lot in all kinds of ways because we regard the domestic cat as a family member, usually a child and often relate to him or her as such.

In wild or feral cats this form of playing with prey occurs less often. There is a different reason for it because wild and feral cats are often hungry. It occurs because the cat is apprehensive about the bite that a rat can deliver; the cat may be unsure if they are attacking a rat or mouse. The cat will swipe at the rodent to stun it and do it again to make sure that it is safe to grab and bite.

An alternative scenario is that of a female with kittens. She may have partly killed a mouse to enable her to bring it back to the nest for the kittens to train themselves in hunting.

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