Giving gifts isn’t just an activity relegated to the human world. If you think about it, animals are thoughtful creatures who regularly help each other survive in the great outdoors. Nature can be unforgiving, so it makes sense that some animals learned to help each other, but it’s unique when that sentiment crosses over to humans.
Humans are obviously much larger than cats, and we control much of their world. So why do they still provide us gifts? Sometimes these gifts come in the form of toys in our shoes, or maybe by our bedroom door. In the case of the outdoor cat, gifts usually take the form of dead rodents or other prey.
Cats are incredibly adept at hunting. The reason most cats are kept inside is the fact they are so good at hunting that they obliterate local bird and wildlife populations. Cats hunt everything from mice and other rodents, to rabbits, squirrels and other creatures. Think about how good at hunting you’d need to be to pull a bird out of the air with your hands.
Hunting is reactionary to cats. Despite many living cushy indoor lives, if an animal runs past them, they often cannot help themselves but give chase. Think about your cat at home when you drag a string past them. Do they engage with it or simply watch it go by?
An outdoor cat that is still fed and rests inside might hunt simply because they are reacting to their environment. Come time for the cat to feast on their kill, they realize they are already full of kibble. Now what? In many cases, they will bring the treat home for their loved ones – their family.
Beyond the odd rodent that manages to make it inside your home, indoor cats aren’t going to have a ton of exposure to hunting unless it was a part of their life before they moved in with you! Cats with former hunting experience may more frequently be down to play fetch with a fluffy or loud toy, or they’ll leave toys at your bedroom door or in your shoes. These are simple acts of affection showing you that they have you on their mind.
However, when a cat brings a toy to your feet, they probably want to play! Throw the toy or swirl it around on the ground and see what happens!
Some experts theorize female cats more frequently show more gift-giving behaviour. This is because in the wild, with big cats, males tend to protect the pack while the females gather food to share with their young. It is also believed in some circles that spayed females bring prey back to humans as they see them as their family due to not having kittens.
While discussing theories surrounding this behaviour, it is also pertinent to mention some experts also believe this behaviour is inherited. That cats who show retrieving-style behaviour typically are not shown it but do it naturally. Some cats are more inclined than others to show this type of behaviour – bringing back gifts, while others don’t show any interest in doing so at all.
At the end of the day, this behaviour isn’t really an issue unless you are letting your cat outside in a city or small town. Neighbours aren’t always as excited to see your cat killing local creatures and may attempt to trap and turn your cat in to a local humane society or shelter. On behalf of the staff here at Hervey Cats, please keep your cats indoors. It is safer for them and the local wildlife.
With that said, if you have an outdoor cat that is frequently bringing home dead animals, you may need to discuss a plan with your vet to reduce their appetite for hunting.