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Why Do Cats Bring Their Owners 'Gifts' of Dead Animals?

Cats bringing their owners "gifts" of dead animals is a behavior rooted in their natural hunting instincts. Although it may seem puzzling or even unpleasant to us, this behavior is considered a normal part of feline behavior. Here are a few reasons why cats engage in this behavior:

Orange and black cat behind a green toy mouse on gray rug

The Spruce / Charlotte Engelsen

Hunting Instincts: Cats are instinctive hunters. Even well-fed domestic cats retain their natural drive to hunt and capture prey. When they bring you a dead animal, it is their way of showing their hunting prowess and providing for their "family" (you).

Social Bonding: Cats consider their human owners as part of their family group. By presenting you with a "gift," they are expressing their affection and trying to share their successful hunt with you. It can be seen as a form of social bonding and a display of trust.

Teaching Behavior: In the wild, mother cats teach their kittens to hunt by bringing them injured or dead prey. When cats bring you a dead animal, it can be seen as an attempt to teach you hunting skills or to help you develop these skills.

Attention Seeking: Cats may bring you dead animals as a way to get your attention or to seek praise and recognition. They may have learned that such behavior results in your attention or a positive reaction from you.

While it's a natural behavior for cats, it may not always be desirable for their owners. If you don't appreciate your cat's "gifts," there are a few steps you can take to redirect their behavior:

Positive Reinforcement: Instead of scolding or punishing your cat, offer praise and attention when they display appropriate behaviors. This helps them understand what behaviors are more desirable to you.

Provide Alternative Outlets: Engage your cat in interactive play sessions using toys that mimic hunting behaviors. This can help satisfy their hunting instincts and provide an outlet for their energy. Regular play sessions can help redirect their focus towards toys rather than live prey.

Limit Outdoor Access: If your cat has outdoor access, consider keeping them indoors or supervising their outdoor time to reduce their opportunities for hunting and bringing back prey.

Use Bells on Collars: Attaching a bell to your cat's collar can alert potential prey to their presence, giving wildlife a chance to escape. This can help reduce their hunting success and the frequency of "gifts" they bring.

It's important to remember that cats are expressing natural behaviors when they bring you dead animals. While it may not be pleasant to us, it is a sign of their affection and their instinctive drive to hunt. By redirecting their behavior and providing appropriate outlets, you can help them fulfill their instincts while minimizing the impact on local wildlife and your own comfort.


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