Predatory behavior in Cats - Lytle Vet

Predatory Behavior in Cats

With the exception of lions, most members of the cat family are solitary hunters that hunt alone and primarily at night. The cat’s earliest association with human beings, about 11,000 BC, was probably uninvited but tolerated because of its usefulness in rodent control. Predatory aggression in domestic cats today continues to provide a valued service. Predatory behavior in cats is both instinctive and learned. Hunting techniques are practiced by most normal kittens in the form of play. For example, kittens born as barn cats learn to hunt by observing their mother and perfect their skills by trial and error. Some house cats without prior experience instinctively react to prey animals that accidentally cross their path. Not all cats, however, are “‘born hunters.” Presentation of Prey to Owners Owners may be horrified when their cat presents them with a half‑eaten mouse, chipmunk, squirrel, or bird, or worse, a wounded one. Prey presentation is neither a gift nor the cat’s token of gratitude for hospitality and care. Rather, this may be redirected maternal behavior, causing a cat to return to its “den” with prey for its young. The queen will normally bring dead prey, even regurgitating half digested food, to her newborn litter. As the kittens grow, she will return with live prey to provide real teaching tools for her kittens’ education. Bringing their prey home may be a remnant of ancestral behavior. A cat’s instinct may be to carry its prey to a sheltered area but not to consume it. Some cat owners proclaim that it is cruel to restrict a cat’s natural instinct to hunt. Yet the same owners may be disturbed by their pet’s success in capturing the birds that gather at the bird feeder or fountain in their own back yard. Prey presentation is neither a gift nor the cat’s token of gratitude Preventing Predatory Behavior The only practical way to resolve undesirable predatory behavior in cats is to prevent it. The instinct to hunt, particularly once a cat has become an experienced hunter, can be so strong that it lasts a lifetime. As long as a cat has the opportunity to hunt, it will hunt. Cats permitted to roam outdoors will express instinctive predatory behavior. Hunting may be part of a cat’s outdoor activities, regardless of how well it is fed at home. Indeed, some outdoor cats prefer to hunt their own food and are finicky eaters at home. It may help to attach bells to a breakaway collar (in addition to important identification tags). Though many cats learn to stalk their prey without ringing a single bell, multiple bells can help warn unsuspecting targets. If you allow your cat to roam, you can prevent it from entering your home with its prey. You can install a magnetic cat door with triggering magnet collar or a cat door that allows the cat to exit at will but requires your presence to permit its reentry. This allows you to regulate unwelcome guests. Remember, though, that your pet can be injured in its attempts to capture prey and is susceptible to the health risks associated with roaming outdoors.