Dealing with hunting

Cats are excellent hunters and responsible for significant damage to wildlife. See what you can do to curb your cat's predatory nature

A cats natural instinct is to hunt and this instinct has not been lost through the process of domestication. Many of the first domesticated cats were cared for because of their useful hunting abilities, which would help keep crops and food storage areas free from rats and vermin.

Cat with bird in mouth

Hunting for food or fun

A domestic cat does not need to hunt for food, it can obtain all the nutrients it needs from the prepared food it is given by its owners. Hunting is more an exercise of natural urges and instincts and a way of releasing tensions, as well as a good form of mental and physical stimulation. The chance to go outside and hunt unpredictable creatures is strong when the rest of the day is spent sleeping, eating, and relaxing. A hunting cat is a happy cat.

Playing with prey

A good hunting cat when looking to kill for food, will be swift, efficient and unforgiving, yet this is rarely what we see when our pet cats go hunting. Usually the chasing is prolonged, followed by pouncing and letting go several times, to the point of tormenting the poor creature under attack. The reason for this is your cat has no need to kill for food so it is enjoying the exciting experience of the hunt, honing its skills, and also potentially avoiding harm by being more careful and 'testing' its prey.
Cat looks like it has just eaten prey outside
Cats rarely eat anything they catch, but often bring kills home

What to do when your cat brings prey home

Running around, hunting, and killing small creatures outside is all very well and good, but bringing prey into the house is certainly undesirable. As with most cat problems, this cannot be solved by a telling off or punishment. Some cat owners think their cat brings them prey items as gifts, this is partly true although it is more likely your cat brings home prey items because it thinks you need feeding. After all, you are a member of its 'family' and it has never seen you catch a rat, bird, or frog, so you must need some food - since your cat is full up with cat food and in no need of its prey, it will give it's kill to you. All you can do is be appreiciative and discretely dispose of the creature.

Reducing the number of kills

There are a couple of things you can do to reduce your cats 'kill rate'. The first is to fit your cat with a bell on its collar to warn any animals of your cats approach. Whilst this sometimes works, your cat be become an even stealthier hunter because of the bell.
Hunting is mostly done at night, and animals are most vulnerable at dusk or dawn so only allowing your cat out at day can help, or limiting its time outside. You may encounter suggestions of declawing your cat to stop hunting, but this is a cruel and inhumane procedure. One perfectly humane, but slightly unattractive option to reduce your cat's ability to hunt is to use a 'cat bib', a simple sheet of material which attaches to the collar and hangs down over the cats chest. If your cat trys to pounce whilst wearing a cat bib, the bib gets in the way and interferes with the cats motion, enough to give they prey chance to get away. Your cat my protest at this idea at first but it causes no harm and the cat will get used to it.

Protecting wildlife

Encouraging birds into your garden might seem like a recipe for disaster, but evidence has shown that if more birds are present, they are quicker to warn each other, and the cat gets less chance of a stealthy attack. If you are doing your bit for the local wildlife, you may not feel so bad when your cat does kill one! Surrounding the bases of any bird feeders or trees with a sheet of metal or some form of guard to deny your cat access will help to remove the best opportunities for catching prey. Bird feeders should also be placed well away from objects which could serve as cover for your cat to pounce from.

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