“Stop bring sticks back” says the cat’s owner immediately after her cat has popped through the cat flap and deposited a twig on the doormat. What is going on? The cat is described as ‘not normal’. I’d disagree. Everything a cat does is normal under the prevailing circumstances. It is just a question of figuring out why it is normal.
— Nicky O (@ChubbyoPablo) March 3, 2019
Well, it looks very much like this quaint cat believes that she is bringing in prey. Everything about this behavior is identical to domestic cats bringing prey home to their owners to their chagrin. Cats do this because they are trying to train their ‘kittens’ (the owners) how to hunt. In the cat’s mind, the home is the ‘den’ where she is raising her kittens to be independent. As she has no prey and no kittens she has substituted sticks for prey and humans for kittens.
It’s logical really. There is this innate drive to be a mother and it’s expressed in what looks like abnormal behavior to humans but which is perfectly normal for the cat. We see this form of behavior in cats carrying plush toys in their mouth. They ‘steal’ toys and carry them home. It is the same feline behavior.
The big question, though, is why doesn’t the cat realise that the stick is not a mouse and that the human is not a kitten? This is where we try and get inside the head of domestic cats and it is to a large extent guesswork because there is still lots of work to do to fully understand domestic cats.
A good starting point is to remember that they are barely domesticated and therefore retain the characteristics of their wild forebears. They live in an unnatural environment, the human home. Doors confuse them as do mirrors. A lot about the home is strange to domestic cats. They adapt well but use the home as if they are living outside as wild cats. For example they might scratch furniture when it would be a tree in the wild. They have no concept of carpets. For domestic cats carpets are no different to a dirt track outside.
You have to conclude that domestic cats are confused about cat domestication and the home environment in which they live. This is not to disrespect or criticise. Cats just don’t get it. This is one reason why they can become stressed. The confusion coupled with the drive to train kittens to become independent has led this cat to treat twigs as mice and their human companion as a kitten. The former is unusual but the latter is often encountered.
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