Why do cats bring “gifts” for their hoomans?

Cats are born hunters whose predatory nature can’t be stopped even by the prospect of napping on the comfiest cat bed in the world. Stalking, watching, chasing, catching, playing – whether the prey is a small creature or a favorite toy, hunting is the thing that tigers, both wild and domestic, love the most. And though they are solo artists by nature, sometimes they wish to share their prize with their beloved Carer and bring us many “gifts”. Why? Today we’ll try to answer one of the most intriguing questions of the cat world, fabCats! 

Cat on a hunt

Cats hunt both for food and for fun. They’re born hunters whose natural day cycle is based around the hunting cycle – observing the prey, chasing it, catching it, followed by eating, grooming and sleeping. Even thousands of years of living alongside people didn’t change the wild cat nature and still to this day, cats who live outside, the outdoor-indoor cats and our typical couch potatoes indulge in hunting in their free time. 

Cat usually hunt for small creatures – at home it’s usually the tiny insects that come through the window, but if the cat has an option to do so, they will gladly go chasing a mouse, a mole, a small bird or your neighbors guinea pig. And cats are incredibly successful in their hunts too – even if they decide not to eat what they’ve caught, they will catch it just to play. Their abilities came useful to people in the past – cats were domesticated by living alongside people because they had their paws full of work catching mice in places where we stored our food. Today cats don’t need to work for their hoomans but still, led by their instincts, they like to catch things and share the effects of their labor with us. 

Why does my cat bring me “gifts”? 

Let’s start with the facts: cats bringing us “gifts”, whether it’s a mouse they’ve caught or their favorite toy they’ve been chasing around the house, is perfectly normal and should be praised, not punished. Though the sight of a small creature caught by a cat is never a pleasant sight, reacting after the fact won’t do any good and won’t teach your cat a thing – if we don’t want them to hunt wild animals, we shouldn’t let the cat outside loose. If we arrange the house with our cats’ needs in mind, provide them with playtime and tend to their natural needs, we can make our cats happy without letting them out. But that’s not the topic for today.  

Why do cats bring us gifts? 

One of the common theories is that gifts are the love language for some cats – their unique personality trait. Some furs get joy from making their Carers happy and not only hunting, but sharing the fruits of their labor with their hoomans. As a result, a cat can bring us their favorite toys, socks they’ve found around the house, trash they’ve pulled out of the bin, candy wrappers – if they get praised for what they’ve done, they feel content. Not all cats will be happy to play fetch, of course, and many cats don’t get used to bringing back the toys we throw them even if there are snacks at stake. But there are those who will do so out of their own will, without any training, motivated by the smile they see on their Carer’s face. 

Another theory says that hunting cats bring their prey home as a sign of trust. Cats hunt alone and they generally don’t share their food (unless it’s a mother with her young), which is why bringing anything they caught home shows us that they feel safe here and don’t think we’d steal their reward. And if they bring us a toy? Well, in that case it’s about trust as well – after all, they’ve just left their most valuable possession in our hands. 

The last theory about cat bringing us gifts is them encouraging us to play. As we mentioned before, cats hunt not only to get food, but also to have fun. In home environment they can go hunting for their toys and bring them back to us or find their favorite wand toy and bring it to our feet to show they want to play. If our reaction is to pick the wand up, throw the toy around and engage in playtime, the cat will be more than happy to copy that same behavior in the future.

How to live with a hunting cat?  

If our cat brings us gifts, we have to make peace with it and appreciate their efforts – we can’t tell a cat not to be … a cat! But what we, Carers, have input in is the availability of items they can hunt for. If we let the cat outside unsupervised, the damage they make to the environment are huge – cats are an invasive species and are responsible for cutting down the numbers of small rodents and birds that are crucial to our ecosystems. And we can change that 🙂 Cats who live at home and go outside only in a secured, fenced area (a balcony, a patio, a garden) can still enjoy the outdoors without harming the nature around them and it’s us, their Carers, who take care of providing our cats proper playtime that fits their hunting nature and personal needs and preferences.

Your cat loves anything that flies? Awesome! A toy wand that you can move to resemble a bird, flying between shelves and landing on the couch is a great place to start. Or maybe your cat’s love is for small mice? You can find toy mice everywhere and if you move them using a string, you can make it look real. Playing with a cat requires some imagination and engagement, but if you do your job well enough, hunting on living creatures won’t be necessary for your cat to be happy. 

We recently posted an article on how to combat cat boredom and get them playing – read it here if you haven’t yet: https://blog.mykotty.pl/en/2022/09/05/how-to-combat-feline-boredom/ 

And what do your cats think about hunting, fabCats? Do they show their claws while playing and always bring you various gifts, or are they the type that waits for their prize after pawing at the wand toy once and being done? Keep the discussion going in the comments. 

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