All cat owners have been there – we’ve felt our cat rubbing up against our leg and looked down to see her staring up with loving eyes, a dead mouse in her mouth or between her paws.
Why does she do this?
Cats are predators, and the hunting instinct is very strong. And while domesticated cats don’t need to hunt for food, if they get the opportunity, nature very often kicks in and a cat will kill small creatures and birds. There are a couple of reasons why cats then might feel the need to bring these prizes back to their owners.
One theory is that they are trying to teach us how to kill (in the wild a mother cat will bring home kills to her kittens to help teach them to hunt). Another theory is that they think the dead offering will make us happy. Obviously we want to discourage this behaviour – to protect native birds and small mammals and for the cat’s own good (say if the cat tries to eat a rodent that has been poisoned).
There are a few things you can do to stop or at least limit the possibility your cat will kill. These include:
- Ensuring your cat keeps a curfew. You’ll find that small creatures and birds are vulnerable at certain times of the day – such as in low light, at sunrise and dusk. Keep your cat inside at these times.
- Keeping your cat indoors after bad weather – this is often when baby birds fall out of the nest and are vulnerable, so keep your cat inside.
- Making sure she makes a noise, by always having her wear a collar with bells. The noise made by the bells really does work to keep potential victims away.
- Checking out other options if your cat refuses to wear bells (some cats hate them). Check out your local pet shop for other collars that deter birds and animals. These collars come in lurid colours – the theory is that bright colours can be easily seen by birds who then have time to get out of the way.
- Keeping bird feeders out of your cat’s reach. Even if you place the feeder on a branch out of the way, if your cat likes to climb, this might not be enough. Choose a spot your cat just won’t be able to reach.