Hunting is a natural behaviour for cats and has been passed down by wild ancestors which needed to hunt to survive. Even though pet cats have their dinner handed to them in bowls, they just can’t help themselves if the opportunity to hunt presents itself. This is because hunting to a cat is about so much more than just finding food – they get a great deal of pleasure and stimulation from it. The urge to stalk and pounce on prey is so hardwired into them that the thrill of the chase is impossible to resist.
Some cats hunt more than others and if you have a particularly keen hunter, you could find yourself getting fed up with the number of half dead birds and slightly chewed mice you find on your doorstep. While you should never discourage or punish a cat from engaging in natural feline behaviour, there are some things you can do to help tame the hunter in your home.
Should I let my cat hunt?
Even if you don’t mind the ‘gifts’ of dead birds and rodents, allowing your cat to hunt can be hazardous to their health. Prey animals can pass on nasty parasites to cats, and secondary poisoning from ingesting a pest animal that has been poisoned can be fatal.
How cats hunt
There are three main ways in which cats hunt – the ambush, stalk and pounce, and fishing. The ambush involves a cat hiding in wait and watching its prey until the perfect moment to leap out and catch them, while the stalk and pounce sees a cat slowly following their prey unseen until they are within striking distance. Cats that like fish will find a pond or stream and use their paw to scoop and flip fish out of the water.
How to reduce your cat’s hunting
Once you know how a cat hunts you can help to reduce their hunting activity by mimicking this behaviour in other ways. Cat toys with unpredictable movements or dangling fishing rod-style toys will simulate the different ways that a cat hunts so they can get the urge out of their system without any prey being killed.
The most effective way to reduce a cat’s hunting is to play with them. The Humane Society recommend you play with your cat for at least 30 minutes every day so they can sufficiently indulge their hunting instincts.
Cats are crepuscular hunters, which means they are at their most active at dawn and dusk. This is because their prey is at its most active then too. If you want to reduce the amount your cat is able to hunt, try keeping them indoors at these times. If they become frustrated at not being able to go out, increase the amount of time you spend playing with them to satisfy their hunting desires.
Rather than giving your cat its dried food in a bowl, consider hiding some of it around the house in a game of hide and seek. This will encourage your cat to forage and use its nose to track down its dinner. You could also make a simple puzzle feeder by cutting a few holes in an empty plastic bottle that are just big enough for pieces of kibble to fall through. Your cat will soon get the hang of rolling the bottle around to release the food, giving them a good mental workout at the same time.
Top toys for hunters
The All For Paws Calbuto Feather and Flutter Bug interactive toys really tap into a cat’s hunting instincts with a dangling feather or butterfly that will spin round when activated by a wireless remote control. These toys will keep a cat entertained with mental and physical stimulation. They are particularly useful for indoors-only cats who need extra attention to prevent them from getting bored.
The Catit Senses 2.0 Super Circuit Cat Toy fulfils a cat’s hunting needs by allowing them to chase and swat a ball around a course. There are 100 different layout options to keep a cat’s interest and the ball is contained within the circuit so can’t get lost.
It’s only natural
Cats can become depressed if they are not allowed to behave normally so it is important that you encourage them to engage in hunting behaviours. With a little imagination and time spent interacting with your pet everyone will be happier – including the birds and mice in the neighbourhood!