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Why Do Cats Bring You Dead Animals? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat carrying a dead mouse

Why Do Cats Bring You Dead Animals? 3 Vet-Reviewed Reasons for This Behavior


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

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

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Over 10,000 years ago, cats were domesticated to be loving, fuzzy companions. To this day, cats are easily one of the most popular pets around the globe. Despite the popularity and domestication of cats, they can have some pretty undesirable characteristics.

Even the most avid cat lovers find some of their most unique characteristics, such as bringing you a dead animal, off-putting. This habit is strange to humans, but it is normal and written into most cats’ very nature due to their hunting habits and instincts.

In this article, we will look at three reasons why cats bring you dead animals.

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Prey Catching Behavior Explained

Although cats have been domesticated for many years, they still have a powerful instinct to hunt. Even household cats that have been fed by humans their entire lives will have the urge to hunt, both for food and for pleasure. Whenever wild or domesticated cats catch their prey, they will likely bring it back to their pack for various reasons.

The idea of returning the prey to a safe spot makes a lot of sense, as cats don’t have much of a social element towards eating; though feral cats do live in colonies, they often hunt and eat individually. Therefore, bringing their catch to a safe spot, such as their den, makes sense.

Beyond that, cats also use their prey as a teaching method for the young kittens. Females bring prey back to kittens to teach them how to hunt for survival.

Although cats naturally have an urge to hunt for survival, they also enjoy the experience. That is why many domesticated cats will still hunt, even if they are not hungry. In fact, many cats will hunt and kill inedible animals purely for enjoyment.

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The 3 Reasons Why Your Cat Brings You Dead Animals

With this prey-catching behavior in mind, here are the three reasons why your cat brings you dead animals:

1. They Want to Save The Food For Later

You know when you go to a restaurant and take the leftover food home for later? Cats do the same thing with their prey. They catch prey when they are not hungry, but they do not necessarily want to waste the food.

So, they will bring their prey to the doorstep or inside the house to save it for later. In that case, the cat is not so much bringing you the dead animal. Instead, they are saving it for themselves.

cat with dead mouse
Image By: Piqsels

2. They Want to Share With You

If you have a solitary cat, they will likely view you as a member of their clowder (a group of cats) and want to share their kill with you. So, they could bring dead animals as gifts or as a way to help you stay full.

When cats want to share with you, they will be obvious about it. They may bring the prey directly to you, drop it at your feet, or leave it at your door.

3. They Want to Teach You How To Hunt

Finally, the last reason your cat brings you a dead animal is that they are trying to teach you how to hunt. Some studies suggest that cats do not recognize humans as being any different from cats. Since they do not see you killing, they might want to teach you this basic survival skill.

It is more difficult to notice if your cat is trying to share with you or teach you how to hunt. In both cases, the cat will bring the dead animal to you in an undeniable fashion. One thing that may imply your cat is trying to teach you is based on their gender.

Female cats are almost solely responsible for teaching kittens how to survive and grow. Male cats are absentee fathers. Therefore, females are in charge of teaching kittens how to hunt.

If you have a female cat bringing you dead animals, she could be trying to share with you or teaching you how to hunt. In contrast, if it is a male cat, chances are he probably wants to share with you, not teach you. This is, of course, conjecture.

cat hunting in grass
Image By: SJ Duran, Shutterstock

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What to Do About It

Since the desire to hunt is so deeply ingrained in cats, it is impossible to completely deter them from this behavior. There are some ways you can discourage the behavior, however, by stimulating your cat and giving them more to do than hunting for prey. Here are some things you can do to prevent this behavior:

1. Redirect the Instinct

As we mentioned, it is impossible to suppress a cat’s instinct to hunt. You can redirect their attention so that they play instead of hunt. Encouraging them to play will satisfy their natural desire without forcing you to clean up a dead rodent.

Try to find a toy that cats will find mentally stimulating and mimic a live animal. A laser pointer, feather wand, and moving objects are all great toys to pick. Your cat will try to catch the toy, allowing them to feel like hunting even when they are not.

2. Regular Playtime

In addition to selecting toys that redirect their instincts, make sure to play with them regularly. Playing with your cat will make them feel bonded to you and expel their energy. Whenever they are properly exercised, they are less likely to hunt since they are already tired.

You can play with them by using toys that redirect their instincts. Even if you do not have cat toys, you can use a shoelace or string to provide the same experience. Make sure you play with them daily and consistently, regardless of the toy you select.

silver chinchilla Scottish fold playing toy_schlyx_shutterstock
Image Credit: schlyx, Shutterstock

3. Don’t Allow Unsupervised Roaming

Allowing cats to roam unsupervised isn’t advised as cats are very destructive towards local fauna. Cats are not native to most areas of the world, and their presence in neighborhoods there poses a risk to the local wildlife there. Cats can hunt birds, rodents, other small mammals, and even some species of reptiles and amphibians.

But that’s not all; cats too are at risk when they roam unsupervised. Cats can get bitten or scratched by their prey, or if they get into a fight with another cat. Furthermore, many animals (including those cats see as prey) may harbor diseases that can be passed to your cat.

A roaming cat isn’t necessarily safe, either. In many parts of the world, larger predators prey on cats. They can also get injured, lost, or displaced when they’re roaming unsupervised.

If your cat enjoys the outdoors, consider getting them a catio so that they can safely enjoy the outdoor environment. Alternatively, if they’re able to be leash trained, consider walking your pet on a leash.

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Cats are incredibly impressive hunters with an insanely strong desire to catch prey. Because of this instinct, they may bring you a disturbing gift to save for later, share with you, or use as a teaching method.

Even though you cannot eliminate a cat’s natural instinct to hunt, you can discourage them from bringing you dead animals. Most notably, playing with your cat regularly using toys that redirect the instinct will minimize the problem.

You should be flattered that your cat is bringing their dead animal to you. Though it is undoubtedly a nuisance, all three reasons show that the cat trusts and cares about you.

Featured Image Credit: Markos Loizou, Shutterstock

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