Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat, Munch, loves hunting, and despite my best efforts to discourage him he continues to catch both mice and birds. I know now that hunting is instinctive to him, and I don’t expect him to ever stop completely. Instead, I was wondering if there’s any way to at least discourage him from bringing his prey into the house. He seems to love chasing whatever he catches around the living room, leaving a trail of feathers (and, unfortunately, blood) and it’s both horrible to see and a pain to clean up!
Siouxsie: Well, Rhiannon, be prepared for some strong reactions to your question because the indoor vs outdoor cat debate is quite heated in some circles.
Thomas: That said, we’ve been both indoor and outdoor cats ourselves, so we see the benefits in both lifestyles — and we understand the risks inherent in outdoor life for kitties.
Bella: I’ve never been an outdoor cat. Can I be an outdoor cat, Mama?
Mama: Nobody’s going to be an outdoor cat here until I build a nice, safe “catio” for you on my balcony.
Siouxsie: In any case, you are correct — hunting is a natural instinct in cats. And so is bringing our prey to a place we feel safe enough to eat it.
Thomas: When we lived on the family homestead and got to be indoor-outdoor kitties, Sinéad sometimes caught mice and brought them inside. But she didn’t know what to do with them, so she dropped them on the floor and chased them around the room until Mama caught them and put them outdoors again. I was a very good hunter, if I do say so myself, but I never brought my kills inside to eat them.
Siouxsie: Good thing, too. Most of them were rats. Ick!
Thomas: Oh, come on. I didn’t actually eat the rats — I tried one and it tasted disgusting! — but I left them on the doorstep so Mama could see what a helpful kitty I am. Mice, voles and baby rabbits, on the other hand … mmm, tasty!
Bella: Can I eat some rabbits?
Mama: I gave you some rabbit the other night, but you wouldn’t touch it!
Siouxsie: In any case, Rhiannon, since Munch goes outside and, like any cat, goes hunting while he’s out there, the only way you’re going to keep him from bringing his prey inside is to make it so he can’t come indoors while he has a kill.
Thomas: Or if you want him to be able to come and go as he pleases, perhaps you can relocate his cat door to a place that’s easier to clean up if he brings his prey inside.
Bella: Or you can try to satisfy his “indoor hunting” instinct by playing with him. There are lots of great interactive toys on the market designed to be fun for aerial hunters who like to catch flies or birds and for ground hunters who like to catch rodents, lizards and snakes.
Siouxsie: Get a couple of different interactive toys and see which one Munch likes best, then give him a good, vigorous play session at least once a day — and more often if you can. Munch will be a lot more interested in the toys if you move them like the objects they’re supposed to be: Observe how birds, mice and lizards walk and move, and make the toy move in similar ways.
Thomas: You can also get battery-operated “mouse under a cover” toys that move randomly and can pique a cat’s interest..
Bella: You could always keep your cat indoors, too, and I know that’s what a lot of our U.S. readers would recommend.
Siouxsie: I go outside in a lead and harness sometimes. That’s kind of fun because I know I’m safe and Mama’s nearby, and because people adore me everywhere I go. But then again, I’m not quite as interested in hunting these days as I was when I was a kitten.
Thomas: Anyway — Rhiannon, the odds are very slim that you’re going to be able to get Munch not to bring his prey indoors. That leaves you with three options if you want him to be able to go outdoors: Don’t let him in when he has prey; move the cat door to an easy-to-clean room; and use hunting
Bella: Do you other readers have more tips? Have you been able to train your indoor-outdoor cats to enjoy their a la carte meals outdoors even when they can go in and out as they please? And if you’re planning on writing a nasty comment because Munch goes outdoors, please, just don’t.
Siouxsie: And Rhiannon, please let us know if you were able to help Munch change his dining habits!