A dead rat for me? How nice!
It’s early in the morning. You start your morning routine, by preparing your outdoor cat’s food bowl. You step outside. Even though it is still dark, you sense that something is not quite business as usual. Your outdoor cat is patiently sitting and waiting for you instead of pacing back and forth, and meowing for its morning meal.
As you say good morning to your four-legged friend and set its food bowl down, you notice a dark object next to the door. Curious, you turn on the porch light and look down at a half-gorged and very dead rat.
Shocked and awed by the sight, but more shocked when you realize it was your furry friend who did the ghastly deed, you run inside to grab some paper towels to pick up the deceased rat. On the way back to the scene of the crime, you wonder aloud, “why on earth would my cat want to leave a half-eaten rodent at my door?”
Cats are predators – Regardless of whether it is living inside or outside your home, your cat will go after anything that looks like prey. Ever wonder why they relentlessly chase after the red dot from a laser pointer? It is practicing its hunting skills.
Raised to hunt – from the moment they start to move around, kittens are taught the basics of hunting from their mother. At first, she brings them a mouse or small bird that she killed during a recent outing. Next, she brings them live game (albeit seriously wounded) so that her kittens can finish it off. As soon as they are able, mamma cat takes her litter out on a real hunt. Finally, the young cats are left to hunt for themselves.
Natural born hunters – even when their mother is away, kittens love to play “cat and mouse” with each other. If you have ever watched kittens play together, you will notice that they like to hide and ambush one another. This form of rough play may seem cute, but for kittens they are learning how to stalk and pounce future game.
But what about my cat’s “hunting gifts”? There are various rationales as to why a domestic cat that is being fed regularly by its human companion leaves fresh kills at the door.
One train of thought suggests that the cat is saving it for later as a snack. While this rationale might have some truth in it, if the dead prey is left untouched in the morning, you will notice it has not been gnawed on it when you come home from work in the evening. This is especially true if your cat is satiated with its morning meal from the cat food you feed it.
Another idea suggests that your cat is leaving you a “thank you” for taking care of it by killing the local vermin. However even a casual observation indicates that typically, cats show their affections by rubbing against their human and leaving a “good scent of approval”.
Yet another idea suggests that cats view humans as poorly-skilled hunters. Just like when they were kittens and could not hunt for themselves, cats think humans need help when it comes to hunting. This idea seems to be the most plausible since it appears that the cat is imitating its mother’s actions.
Regardless of which idea is the closest to the truth, the important thing to keep in mind is that when a cat drops off its kill at your doorstep that this behavior is perfectly acceptable in the cat world. And be sure to praise your little hunter for the game it caught.
Sometimes giving your cat a treat might help reduce its desire to bring back what it hunted. You might want to consider giving it Blue Buffalo Wilderness treats, Pet Naturals Daily Digest soft chews, or Halo Liv-a-Littles Healthsome treats.