Are cats really bringing their owners ‘presents’ when they bring mice home?

Posted by Maggie the Moggie. September 10th 2014.

Picture the scene: you wake up, go downstairs, put the kettle on and open the door to let your lovable feline companion in. You look down and there is a dead mouse lying on the doormat.

For many cat owners, this is a frequent sight that they never get used to. However, according to many cat behaviourists, this is actually your cat bringing you a present.

So, should you be happy with the little ‘present’ on your doorstep or is there something else going on in your cats mind?

A cat eyes up a mouse
Is it a gift or is it instinct?

Animal behaviour expert and veterinarian Michael W. Fox claims that those dead mice you find might not be the gifts that you think they are. In his book “Understanding Your Cat’, he argues that it is instinct, not generosity that makes your cat bring home unexpected dead gifts.

In the wild, mothers bring their kittens dead animals to eat. As they start to get a bit older, the mother then brings home live prey so the kittens can learn how to hunt and kill. The kittens need this important lesson in order to be able to survive in the wild so your cat could actually be looking at you as their baby and trying to keep you well fed.

Then there are other experts who claim the dead (and sometimes live) animals that are brought into the home are actually trophies. Your cat is proud of catching the animal and wants to show off their skills.

When you look at your cat’s behaviour, this theory could certainly be true as cats are generally independent, high maintenance animals so you can imagine them bringing home trophies to boast.

How to handle those nasty surprises

It can be tempting to scream and shout at your feline friend when you notice the nasty surprise on your doorstep or in the home. However, you need to put yourself in their shoes. They think they have done a great feat. It is a natural instinct for them to hunt and kill their prey so shouting and scolding them will only cause confusion.

They aren’t going to miraculously stop killing because they get told off so you will only be making both of your lives more stressful than they need to be if you continue to get angry.

The best way to handle it is to accept that it is a normal part of your cat’s behaviour. Whether they are bringing the dead animals to you as a gift or a trophy, embrace the fact that your cat is healthy and expressing normal behaviours. Praise them and then discreetly get rid of the animal.

Owning a cat comes with a lot of unexpected experiences. Finding dead and often live animals in the home is to be expected. Even well-fed cats will hunt and bring home prey so don’t be concerned if you see a few rodents being brought home.

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