I’ve yet to meet an owner that enjoys the ‘gifts’ their cat brings to them from outside after hunting. So much for a bouquet of roses or box of luxury chocolates, our mini tigers seem to think that we would be a little happier with a dead mouse in our lives! While the sentiment is appreciated, it’s never nice to have to dispose of dead wildlife or, worse, to have to deal with a small creature that has been badly injured.
It is a natural behaviour for cats to stalk and hunt prey; an activity that helps keep them in good shape and contented. However, it is not a pursuit that marries well with the life of a pet cat and is one that most of us would like to prevent whenever possible.
The most important reasons for trying to reduce this behaviour include:
- The negative impact it has on the welfare of the small animals that are hunted.
- The decline in certain wildlife species, with many native British species being currently under threat.
- The risk of transmissible diseases such as Toxoplasma gondii, Salmonella and Leptospirosis; all of which can be caught by humans.
- The spread of parasites such as Tapeworm.
So, what can we do?
The very first consideration is diet related. Cats that are well fed will naturally want to hunt less. Their diet should not be lacking in any key nutrients and should be appropriate for their age and lifestyle.
We can reduce the effectiveness of our cats’ attacks by making them wear a bell around their collar, ensuring the wildlife has fair warning that they are about to be chased. This practice can reduce the number of birds caught by cats by up to 40%.
Playing more with our kitties regularly will mean they have less energy and desire to go on a hunt. Playing should consist of chasing lasers and wind-up toys. However, it is important when chasing a laser pen to always end the session by pointing the light at something solid such as a toy, allowing the cat to ‘catch’ the prey. After any ‘hunting’ session, reward them with a tasty treat, mimicking a successful hunt in the wild. For more top tips on playing with your cat >
Dawn and dusk
Consider keeping your furry friend indoors at times when birds are most active; dawn and dusk. Naturally, this is when cats like to hunt the most so why not put down some kibble or treats in the house that they can sniff and find.
Controlling outdoor time
Consider the use of catios and cat harnesses, allowing cats the freedom to be outdoors, but controlling what they do. This won’t be the solution for everyone but is a sure-fire way to reduce the amount of hunting a cat does.
Remember, a cat who offers you their prey is telling you that they love you. It’s best to quickly dispose of the creature without making a fuss. Avoid punishing your cat as their behaviour isn’t ‘wrong’ and this would be unfair. If the prey is still alive but appears injured, bring them to your nearest vet as soon as possible.