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Why does your cat bring a mouse home to you as a ‘gift’?

Ginger cat chasing a mouse advice

Why does a cat bring a mouse home to its owner?

© Shutterstock

Why does your cat bring a mouse home when they have a bowl full of food? That's the question that baffles many cat owners.

By Zoe Monk

Furthermore, the animal may not even be dead. That means you then have the additional worry about whether it'll survive or have to chase it out of the house. It’s an all too familiar story for cat owners. But why would your cat need to kill when they are fed regularly at home? Are they just greedy or a cold-blooded killer? The truth is, cats are far more complex than that.

Each year cats in the UK catch around 275 million items of prey. Most cat owners would have experienced that feeling of dread when something small and likely to be dead turns up in their house. Your feline may leave their ‘gift’ on the doorstep, somewhere in the house, or even bring it right to your feet. It’s likely that by bringing you that dead mouse, your cat thinks it will make your day.

Cat's head on top of a table with a mouse
That looks yummy! ©Shutterstock

Why did your cat bring a mouse home?

Most cat owners will agree that their felines are extremely cuddly, cute and sometimes lazy creatures. But in addition to that, they are also lethal predators and a natural-born predator. First domesticated almost 10,000 years ago, cats have kept their feline hunting instincts of their wild ancestors. Cats lived by this hunting ritual for so long, that it’s ingrained in them and they still feel the need to do it. When they bring a bashed-up sparrow or mouse to you, they are trying to teach you how to kill too.

If they bring you a live animal, it might just be that they think you already have the skills to finish the job yourself. It may also be that they simply like playing with animals. But there still remains an element of your cat wanting to bond with you, or even impress you. Some cats have even been known to drag in random objects to give to their owners such as socks, leaves, gloves and sponges.

Does my cat hunt because it is hungry?

While cat’s stomachs can digest raw meat, many cats don’t actually eat their prey. In fact, today’s domestic cats don’t actually hunt for food. It’s down to their hunting instinct and bringing home a gift for you. In a study of cats allowed to hunt mice, it was found that fullness did not stop cats from hunting. It did stop them from eating their pretty, but they still killed and brought the animals home.

cat lying next to mouse toy
Stimulate your cat's hunting instinct ©Shutterstock

Why are female cats more likely to bring a mouse home?

Spayed female cats are the most likely to bring their owner a gift in the form of a dead animal. Out in the wild, a mother cat would teach her babies how to eat their food by bringing injured or dead prey home to them. Domestic cats still have this same instinct. When your cat leaves a dead animal on your doorstep, or perhaps on your kitchen floor, they are actually acting out a natural role as teacher and mother. She knows that you would not be able to catch that mouse on your own, so she’s done the hard work for you. Today, many female felines are spayed and have no kittens to teach to hunt but haven’t lost the instinct.

How can I stop my cat bringing prey home?

Hunting is a natural feline instinct. Unless you decide to keep your cat as an indoor cat, it’s unlikely that you will be able to stop your cat from hunting down prey. However, you can make their hunting attempts unsuccessful. For instance, make sure your cat has a collar with a bell. As successful hunters as cats are, they won’t be able to get far if they aren’t completely silent. The tinkling sound of the bell will alert any potential prey who will hopefully be able to escape.

mouse toy with a cat
Toys can help your cat stimulate his hunting instinct ©Shutterstock

You can also give your cat more playtime and let them be a successful hunter indoors playing with you. For instance, use a toy on a string and replicate the natural movements of a mouse. Let your cat enjoy stalking it, before pouncing and catching it. This should help to fill your cats need for this type of mental stimulation while also satisfying their hunter’s instinct.

What owners can do to stop their cat bringing home a mouse

Whether it’s a gift or not, making the grim discovery of a dead animal on the floor of your home is not pleasant for any cat owner. But even for the most well-fed, well-cared-for domesticated moggy, hunting is an instinct deep within cat DNA. Ensuring your cat always goes out with a bell on their collar (or even two) can help to dampen their chances of making a successful hunt. Meanwhile making more of an effort to play ‘hunting’ games with your feline at home can help to satisfy their natural instinct to hunt. Good luck.