Why do cats bring their owners gifts?

November 27, 2023

Most cat owners have experienced the strange yet endearing behavior of their feline companions bringing them "gifts". Whether it’s a dead mouse, a bird, or even their favorite toys, cats have been known to deliver these presents to their human friends. But why do they do this? To understand this behavior, we need to delve into the natural instincts of these animals and explore their behavior in their natural habitat.

The Hunting Instinct

Cats are born hunters. Despite being domesticated, they have retained much of their wild instincts, and hunting is one of them.

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Cats, like their big-cat cousins, are predators. They have sharp claws, keen eyesight, and a natural agility that makes them efficient hunters. This instinct is so ingrained in them that even when they are well-fed and taken care of, they will still engage in hunting behavior.

When a cat brings you a dead animal, it is displaying its hunting prowess. It’s their way of showing they can provide and take care of their family. This is not out of a sense of pride, but a deep-rooted instinct to ensure the survival of their family unit. This is why even domestic cats, who have no need to hunt for survival, still exhibit this behavior.

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While it may seem gross or disturbing to find a dead mouse or bird at your doorstep, it’s important to remember that this act is a sign of affection from your cat. They are sharing their ‘prey’ with you because they consider you part of their family.

Gifting Behavior as a Teaching Mechanism

In the wild, mother cats, or queens as they are sometimes called, will bring back dead or injured prey to their kittens. This is not just a way to provide food, but also a teaching mechanism.

Cats are not born with all the skills they need to survive. Hunting is a learned behavior. The mother cat will bring back dead or injured prey, allowing her kittens to observe and learn from her. Over time, the kittens will develop their own hunting skills, ensuring they are capable of surviving when they are old enough to live on their own.

When your cat brings you a dead mouse or bird, they may be trying to teach you how to hunt. From their perspective, you are a member of their family and it’s their responsibility to ensure that you know how to fend for yourself. While this may seem strange, considering that humans don’t typically hunt for food in the modern world, it speaks volumes about the care and concern your cat has for you.

Using Toys as Substitute Prey

Not all cats will bring home dead animals. Some cats prefer to bring their favorite toys to their owners. This is particularly common in indoor cats who may not have access to live prey.

Like with real prey, cats often view their toys as part of their hunting practice. They will stalk, pounce on, and ‘kill’ their toys just as they would a mouse or bird. Bringing these toys to you may not only be a sign of affection but also an attempt to share their ‘prey’ with you.

This behavior can also be an invitation to play. Cats are social animals and they enjoy engaging in play behavior with their owners. By bringing you their toy, your cat is inviting you to engage in play with them.

Paying Attention to the Gifts your Cat Brings

The gifts that a cat brings to its owners can be a good indicator of their emotional state and overall health. It can also provide clues about their behavior and habits.

If your cat is bringing you dead animals, it may be a sign that there are pests in your home or surrounding area. On the other hand, if your cat is constantly bringing you their toys, it could be a sign that they are bored and need more stimulation.

While it may be disturbing to receive a dead animal as a gift from your cat, it’s important not to punish them for this behavior. Instead, try to redirect their hunting behavior towards toys and engage in play activities with them.

Understanding and Appreciating your Cat’s Behavior

Even though their gifts might not be what you’d typically want, understanding why your cat brings you these gifts can help strengthen your bond with them. Remember, when your cat brings you a dead mouse or their favorite toy, they are showing you affection in the best way they know how.

It’s also a reminder of the complex and fascinating nature of these animals. Despite being domesticated, cats have retained much of their wild instincts, and these behaviors provide a glimpse into their natural world.

Showing appreciation for their gifts, even if it’s just a simple pat or kind word, can go a long way in strengthening your bond with your cat. It shows them that you value their efforts and are happy to be a part of their family. This understanding can lead to a more fulfilling and enriching relationship with your feline friend.

Interpreting the Behavior of Bringing Dead Animals

Cats’ behavior of bringing dead animals to their owners can often be interpreted in various ways. It is not unusual for a cat to present its owner with a dead mouse, bird, or other small creature. This might not be the type of gift you would normally want, but from your cat’s perspective, they are sharing their successful hunt with you.

To clarify, this is not a harmful or destructive behavior. It is actually a sign of your cat’s deep-rooted prey drive, a quintessential instinct inherited from their wild ancestors. If your cat, especially if it is a female, has access to the outdoors and starts bringing you dead animals, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern.

This could also be a sign that the area around your house or apartment has a high population of small animals. If you notice an increase in the number of dead animals your cat brings to your doorstep, it might be worthwhile to examine the area around your home. It’s possible that your cat is helping you uncover a pest problem you weren’t aware of.

This can be a teaching moment for the cat owners too. If you have bird feeders in your yard, for example, it might be attracting rodents or small birds, which in turn attract your cat. It may be necessary to rethink the placement or presence of bird feeders in your yard.

In Conclusion: Understanding and Appreciating Your Cat’s Instincts

It is essential to understand and respect these natural behaviors in cats. They may be domesticated, but they still retain many of their wild instincts, including their hunt and prey drive. Bringing gifts, whether they’re dead animals or favorite toys, is just one of the ways cats express their affection and care for their owners.

Displaying a dead animal might not be how we traditionally show affection, but for cats, this is a natural and normal behavior. It’s a way for them to share what they consider valuable and to contribute to the family they have become part of.

Bear in mind that you should not punish your cat for bringing dead animals. This could confuse them and harm your relationship. Instead, appreciate the sentiment behind the gift and try to find ways to redirect their hunting energy towards toys or games.

Our feline friends have their own unique ways of communicating with us, and it’s our job as pet owners to make an effort to understand them. The bond between you and your cat can be greatly strengthened when you take the time to appreciate their instinctual behaviors.

So, the next time your cat brings you a ‘gift’, remember that it’s their way of saying they care about you and see you as part of their family. With patience, understanding, and a bit of humor, you will learn to appreciate these unique aspects of cat behavior.

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