Categories: predatory behaviour

Why do cats torture their prey?

I have written on this topic before. I am returning to it because I have another idea. There are different situations which require different explanations.

Cat ‘tortures’ prey? No, it is not torturing but something entirely different. Warren Photographic have given me permission to use their photos on condition I link to their site – click here.

Kittens at play

When kittens play with toys they seem to be preparing for an adult life of torturing prey. They pounce on their toy, fling it up into the air and leap after it or they flip it over their shoulder, spin around and trap it.

The kitten is practicing three distinct killing methods. In the first the prey is a mouse, the second is an act of practicing catching a bird and the third is the final killing strike for catching fish.

Adult cats

Adults cats seem to be doing something similar when they attack prey. This feline behaviour is considered to be a despicable act of torture by the cuddly family cat. It is a much criticised aspect of cat behaviour but it is not an act of torture. Cats don’t have the faintest idea what torture is as it is a human creation.

When adult cats appear to be torturing prey by playing with the poor, barely alive or profoundly dead creature – often a mouse – they are acting out their powerful hunting urge despite being well fed and therefore in no mood to eat. The cat is not hungry enough to start feeding and so acts out her hunting rituals to pounce and pause over and over.

There is a third scenario for experienced set-feral and feral cat hunters or wild cats. These cats are hungry enough to kill and eat promptly but don’t do so because they are being cautious due a fear of suffering an injury such as a nasty bite from a rat. They prefer to swipe at the prey again and again until they feel it is safe to grab the prey in their teeth.

A fourth possible situation explaining why domestic cats appear to torture prey is when a mother cat half kills a mouse and brings it back to the den for her kittens to finish off the job as a lesson in killing.

This act of killing about which many people are rightly squeamish is entirely natural for the cat. It is a pleasure for them. If they were humans we’d label them psychopaths but that concept too is entirely human.

As feline ‘torture’ is considered bad cat behavior, below are some links to more bad cat behavior. Note: feline behavior is never bad in an absolute sense. It is only perceived as bad by humans.

Why do feral cats attack humans?

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My cat got locked outside and now she’s spraying the doors

The title describes unwanted feline behavior and the cat's owner wants to know how to deal with it. As you ...
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Woman living near Toronto Canada says that her front door is a toilet for cats

You wouldn't believe it. This woman, Monika Nelson, who lives in the Town of Orangeville, says that her front door ...
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Lanolin and early weaning is why cats suck wool

"Wool-sucking is the act of feeding at a ghost-nipple....[and] lanolin acts as a powerful unconscious reminder of the mother's belly..." ...
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What can I do to stop my cat from spraying?

What can I do to stop my cat from spraying? It can take patience and keen observational skills to get ...
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What just happened? Cat attacks owner when it discovers her in a suitcase

This video will leave you wondering what just happened. A video quickly going viral on social media shows an owner ...
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Delightful Cat Deemed Unadoptable By Animal Shelter Stress

By Grace Andrews - a Reader's Forum article. Although I am not set up as a non-profit rescue, I have ...
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If your cat’s behaviour is driving you nuts try timeout

This is a snippet of advice from Jackson Galaxy. I've never tried it because I've never had cause to but ...
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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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