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Why Do Cats Bring You Their Toys? 8 Vet-Approved Reasons & FAQ

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat playing with a toy

Why Do Cats Bring You Their Toys? 8 Vet-Approved Reasons & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When you think of a pet bringing you toys to play with, you probably picture the wagging tail and doleful eyes of your dog. But many people don’t realize that cats often bring their owners their toys too.

Not only will cats sometimes carry their favorite toys around the house and cuddle with them for a nap, but they’ll also drop them in your lap or leave them in your shoes. This phenomenon is well observed, however, it isn’t well studied in scientific literature. Nonetheless, there are several possible and plausible reasons as to why your cat might do so, even if most of these are considered anecdotal.

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The 8 Reasons Why Cats Bring You Their Toys

1. Expressing Affection

With a reputation for being aloof to uphold, cats can’t always make it obvious how much they adore their human family members. Instead, they’ll find subtle ways to show their affection. While they know precisely what they mean to say, their meaning isn’t always the most understandable to us.

Dropping their favorite toy in your lap might be your cat’s way of showing their trust in you, their faith that you’ll keep them safe, and their gratefulness that you care so much. In essence, it might be a gift that they give you to show how much they love you.

Though cats don’t give gifts in the same way humans do, they do form strong bonds with us, and they do have interesting and unique personalities. Some cats might bring toys to you as a form of expressing an emotion akin to affection.

man playing cat outdoor
Image Credit: Karpova, Shutterstock

2. Being Broken

All toys break eventually, and there comes the point when the seams of your cat’s stuffed mouse can’t take the strain anymore, or the catnip scent has worn off. Cats can be particular about their possessions, and if something suddenly changes about their favorite toy, they’ll often turn to you for assistance.

It might be challenging to see why your cat has brought you their toy, but by paying attention, you’ll likely find the problem. Your cat might have brought it to you because the stuffing’s falling out or the battery making it light up is no longer working. Perhaps it needs replacing altogether.


3. Hunting Trophies

Hunting is hard work, even for natural hunters like your cat. It’s a great deal of sitting around and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. Even if your cat only hunts the old ball they’ve had for years, it takes time, effort, and determination to subdue the object. Once they’ve caught it, it’s only natural for them to want to prove their skills.

Human hunters will hang taxidermied deer heads on the wall to show off their hunting skills. Your cat presenting you with their subdued toy is a similar show of their prowess as a hunter.

This reason is likely the one that’s best explored in scientific literature, as mother cats often bring prey to their kittens to either feed them or teach them how to hunt.

cat playing in the sandbox_Shutterstock_Marie Charouzova
Photo Credit: Marie Charouzova, Shutterstock

4. Playtime

Cats play with you and other cats to develop their hunting skills. They’ll stalk their toys and practice their pouncing. While they can often amuse themselves given the right entertainment, sometimes playing with a friend is much more fun. If they don’t have a fellow cat to play with, the duty as playtime partner falls on you. They’ll make their request by giving you one of their toys.

Playing with your cat benefits both of you. It encourages your house cat to move around and helps strengthen the bond between you. Your cat’s antics as you play are also amusing and a great way to unwind.

Spare a few minutes from errands or chores to play a quick game with your cat. They’ll be happy, and you’ll be able to get back to your duties with a fresh, relaxed mindset.

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5. Providing Food

You do so much for your cat, and they know it. It might seem like sometimes, they only like you because you feed them, but the bond between a cat and their human often goes deeper. Giving you their toys is a way for them to return the favor and express gratitude for your care.

While their toys aren’t edible — and your cat knows it — the gesture of offering you their “prey” is a symbolic way of presenting you with a meal. Much like the “hunting trophy” concept, this would be akin to a mother cat bringing her kittens something to eat.

cat plays with a toy
Photo Credit by: Ekaterina Kolomeets, Shutterstock

6. Seeking Praise

At some point, we’ve all doubted a skill that we have. Whether it’s work-related or for a hobby, sometimes we need someone to say, “Good job” or “Awesome!” to know we’re on the right path to success. Praise can work wonders to boost our confidence and inspire us to continue.

Similarly, your cat may present you with their catch to show off. When they drop a toy at your feet or in your shoe, they’re essentially saying, “Look what I did!” Even if you’re busy at the time, you should remember to spare a few moments to praise them for their hard work. You can reward them with their favorite treat if they don’t try to sneak too many from you.


7. Sharing Knowledge

As mentioned above, in the wild, mother cats will teach their young how to hunt by offering them weak or injured prey for them to deliver the final strike. Your kitten learns how to distinguish what their prey looks and smells like and how to kill it. Over time, they progress to stalking their prey themselves, until they don’t need their mother’s help at all.

Your cat’s jingle ball might not be a living mouse, but it’s still a suitable subject for practicing hunting skills. Bringing you their ball could be your cat’s way of teaching you how to hunt.

A playful cat with toys
Photo Credit by: MonikaDesigns, Pixabay

8. Trust

Cats, especially if they’re housebound, rely on humans for their food, shelter, and social needs. It can take a while to build up a bond filled with trust, and you can help by developing a routine that your cat can rely on.

By giving you their favorite toy, your cat might be entrusting its safety to you. When they leave their catnip mouse in your shoe or laundry or drop it on your lap, they’re not trying to be a nuisance. Instead, they’re possibly letting you take care of their favorite possession until the next time that they want to play.

If you have other pets or children in the house, it could be your cat’s way of keeping their favorite toy to themselves.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is It Normal for Cats to Bring You Toys?

Although retrieval is often considered a canine personality trait, especially for breeds like the Retriever, it’s not abnormal for cats to display the behavior too. They might be more likely to turn up their nose when you ask them to grab something for you, but they will give you their toys when the urge takes hold of them.

It can seem strange for cat lovers who aren’t familiar with the behavior. However, it’s completely normal. Not all cats will bring you their toys, but when they do, shower them with praise and take a break from work for a quick game. You’ll strengthen your bond and encourage your cat’s hunting skills to develop properly.


Why Do Mother Cats Give You Their Kittens?

If you breed cats, you might experience the mother bringing you her kittens if your bond is strong enough. This is similar to their habit of bringing you toys and considering that a mother cat’s instincts are to protect her young, it’s also an honor. By bringing you her kittens, your cat is telling you that she trusts you to take care of her and her defenseless litter.


How to Stop Outdoor Cats Bringing You Their Prey

Unfortunately, cats don’t see a difference between bringing you their toys versus the mouse that they caught during their outdoor adventure. The best way to prevent your outdoor cat from bringing you prey is to not let them roam unsupervised. This is best for the ecosystem and the best solution for your cat’s safety too; prey often carry diseases or parasites that can be passed onto your pet. Furthermore, a cat that roams unsupervised is at risk of fighting with other cats, getting injured, lost, eating something toxic (such as rat poison), accidentally displaced, or worse, preyed on by larger animals.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should deprive your cat from roaming, especially if they enjoy it. Leash training your cat and taking them for a walk is one of the best ways to allow your cat to roam about safely. It’s also a great way to bond with your pet and get some exercise together! Alternatively, a “catio” can be utilized to have your cat enjoy some hours outdoors while being safe from the risks associated with unsupervised roaming.

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Conclusion

Cats know how to get your attention. Bringing you their toys might be commonly considered a dog-like behavior, but cats are just as likely to drop a ball into your lap. Theories suggest that they’ll do this to show their gratitude to you for taking care of them or to request attention in the form of a quick game.

They might even be teaching you how to hunt, so remember to reward them and take their lesson to heart.


Featured Image Credit: Darkmoon_Art, Pixabay

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