My cat keeps bringing in dead animals!

Cats are natural hunters, the cravings to hunt and the instincts to catch meat are hard-wired into them, they are obligate carnivores. Unlike humans and loads of other carnivores, cats only eat meat, and the way to get this meat is to hunt. Unfortunately for us is means we occasionally have to clean up the mess that a bloody, half-eaten mouse makes on the kitchen floor.

When a cat is on the hunt it follows a process of things to do, following these steps allows the cat to feel like they've satisfied the instinctual need to hunt. The process goes, starting from the top:

  • Eye
  • Stalk
  • Pounce
  • Grab
  • Kill

Most of the time, a well fed, person owned cat will not go in for the kill and therefore won't actually eat what they've caught, this shows how the process of hunting is what the cat was after, not the actual meal. If they decide not to eat the catch, they'll go back to step one and follow through again, by this point normally though, the prey has been injured too much to actually try to run, leaving a small dead animal on your floor. Along with this, most of the time a cat won't head out with the idea of going hunting, they are opportunistic hunters and will hunt what ever comes across their path, whether that be a small bird or a rodent.

How do I stop my cat doing this?

Unfortunately the hard-wired need for cats to hunt is far too strong within them for us to stop it completely, this could cause the cat more stress as they're forced to ignore their instincts. There are however, some things you can do to maybe slow the constant stream of dead animals laying in your kitchen.

  1. Give your cat a bell collar, a small bell on the collar of your cat will alert their prey when the cat is near, giving birds a chance to fly off, and rodents a chance to make a break for it. If your cat already wears a collar, attaching a small bell to their already comfortable collar is an easy way to do this.
  2. Don't let your cat out at times when birds and rodents are most vulnerable, just before sunset and after sunrise. Birds will be least able to escape during these times so keeping your cat indoors at these times gives the birds a chance.
  3. If you have a garden with a bird feeder, make sure to place it high up, and out of the way of any ledge that the cat could possibly use to jump onto it.
  4. If all else fails and your cat is still bringing in a bloody (literally) mess, then you can try and quell the cat's need to hunt with some games. Letting your cat chase some string which they eventually catch, throwing paper balls for them to chase and find, all things like this allow your cat to simulate the need to hunt without actually killing anything. Some people also advocate the use of laser pointers to let your cat chase the red dot, but this is to be done with caution, cats can never actually catch the red dot so the grab portion of the hunting process can not be completed, this can cause stress.