Cats Hunting: Why They Do It & Is It Harmful To Their Ecosytems?

Posted by Megan Swinney
cats hunt

As a cat owner, you already know you are just there to cater to your cat's needs. But do you ever feel like your cat's hunting you? 

Cats hunt whether they are indoor animals or get the opportunity to play outside. Domestic cats seem to stalk for fun, sitting there in the corner ready to pounce on your feet, keyboard, or their toy mouse. But where does their hunting behavior come from?

Why do cats catch prey? 

It is perfectly normal cat behavior to search for prey. Whether your indoor cat is collecting socks in your home or your outdoor cat is bringing you their catch of the day, your pet cats naturally exercise their hunting prowess.

Originally, wild cats needed to catch prey. When cats became pets, those natural instincts to hunt and catch little critters did not go away. Domestic cats hunt small mammals because they are carnivores and they find it fun. Their wild ancestors needed to hunt small animals so they would have something to eat that day. As natural predators, wild cats would find prey animals to stalk. Mice, birds, lizards, and other small creatures are natural prey species for a cat.

In short, your cat cannot resist their hunting instincts even if they do not need any food. Adult cats spend around three hours a day hunting. Feral cats, on the other hand, do need to hunt for long periods since they actually do need the food.  

Why do cats stalk their owners? 

RELATED: Why Does My Cat Stare at Me?

Domestic cats play for the vast majority of the day. They love to hunt and stalk within their ecosystems. As their owner, you are a part of that ecosystem. If your kitty has a penchant for pouncing on you, it really isn't cause for concern. Most cats hunt their owners as a part of play and a need for your attention!

Playing is a part of cat care. Placating their need to hunt can be done by using toys they like to pounce on such as faux mice, balls, and even feathers on a string.

Why does my cat bring me their prey? 

Mom and dad cats often teach their kittens how to hunt by bringing them the small animals that they capture. However, your cat is likely fixed and will not ever have any babies to hunt with. Most of their behaviors connected to that part of their life cycle are still intact though. Your cat will transfer the need to bring dead animals to their young over to you.

If you don't like prey being brought to your doorstep, it is possible to train your cat to bring your other things, or stop hunting all together.

An Oregon woman praised her cat for bringing her items that were not small animals. However, she ended up with a different problem, lots of items from the neighbored that were not hers, and a few grouchy neighbors. Instead of a hunter, her cat became a clepto.

Should domestic cats stop hunting?

There are many who feel that cat hunting behaviour does not have a place anymore, especially since they are not searching for cat food. Some are even concerned about the greater affect cats hunting has on their preys population. The idea of conservation biology has begun to be applied to cats and their need to hunt birds, lizards, snakes, and rodents.

In 2019, University of Exter wildlife scientists Sarah L. Crowley, Martina Cecchetti, Robbie A. McDonald did a study on cats (felis catus) predation and how it affects the ecosystem around them. They also explored how much responsibility cat owners have for their pets behaviors. They decided that if cat owners played with their felines more often and fed them a meat heavy diet, their need to hunt would diminish.

In Australia, cats kill around 1.5 billion animals a year, leading some area to introduce legislation to reduce the harm to local birds and wildlife. The sheer number of birds they kill is concerning to local conservationists.

They are not the only ones hunting these animals, since larger prey also hunt birds and other small wildlife. But their hunting for fun can tip the scales causing ecological imbalance, leading scientist to search for more solutions.

What strange things does your cat bring you? Tell us over on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page! 

READ MORE: Why Do Cats Sleep so Much? The Science Behind the Snooze

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Cats Hunting: Why They Do It & Is It Harmful To Their Ecosytems?