Residual instincts create kitty conundrum
My cat, Sammy, brings dead animals into the house. Finding a dead bird in my living room or a dead gecko on my pillow is upsetting. I've heard these are gifts. Or is she telling me I'm not feeding her enough?
Answer: It's probably more of a primal urge than a food issue. While some adult cats bring their prey home for a snack later on, most just abandon their dead inside like a toy they've lost interest in.
Without a doubt, cats are hard-wired to hunt. And it's possible that this is how Sammy shows love and lets you know that she is a good hunter. As a kitten, she probably chased everything that moved, pounced on other animals and clawed toilet paper rolls to shreds. This was her insatiable, predatory drive at work.
Moms with kittens will often bring home prey for the kittens to finish off so they can hone their hunting and killing skills. Since cats can't tell us why they do what they do, experts can only guess that they might be bringing us these gifts in an effort to train us, as if our own hunting skills are lacking in their eyes. Or it could be a request for approval and playtime with you.
Q: What can I do to discourage the behavior?
A: Thousands of years of domestication have failed to erase a cat's predatory drive, so scolding or other punishments are not recommended.
Do consider making Sammy an indoor cat. Spayed or neutered indoor cats live longer, happier lives. Creating a stimulating and entertaining environment inside with plenty of playtime can make the transition an easier one. Offer her some things to chase around the house, such as the light from a laser pointer, a feather-on-a-wand toy or a battery-operated mouse.
If she must have access to the outdoors, ensure that she can only get indoors if you let her in. That way you can inspect what she might be holding in her mouth before she steps through the door. You can also give Sammy's victims an advantage by attaching a bell to her collar.
The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. Indicate "Pet Ohana" in the subject line. Or, write "Pet Ohana," Hawaiian Humane Society, 2700 Waialae Ave., Honolulu 96826.