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!
My human has a funny hunting story: Harlot, the cat before Sparkle was a fierce and mighty hunter! She killed several squirrels every summer, along with mice, birds, and once, a baby possum. She did not usually bring her prey inside, except for one morning when she had been out hunting all night. My human opened the back door of the kitchen, and she was sitting there with something in her mouth (she forgets now if it was a bird or a squirrel). The moment the door opened, she started to come inside with it, but my human stopped her by saying, “No. Take it over there.” And she pointed towards the far back area of the yard. And what do you know, but Harlot picked up her prey and took it “over there,” where she proceeded to dine on it. My human and Harlot had a special relationship.
About 40 years ago a lunatic threatened to kill our cat and all of the cats that had all coexisted in that neighborhood for years, roaming and hunting the air fields and runways to the back of our military housing. Since then all of our cats have been indoor cats. Between the traffic, natural predators and unnatural killers keeping my cats in just seemed prudent. If you live in an area you feel it is safe to allow your cat to roam or you have barn cats I would try designating an area where you meet your cat and praise him for his hunting prowess. That’s what worked for my mom so long ago. The cat would bring his mouse, snake or whatever unlucky creature he had caught to the mat on the back patio where my mother would be waiting to oh and ah and otherwise be impressed. Once kitty had shown off his handiwork he would complete the kill and then dine with the mat making for easy clean up with a hose. Good luck and take care.
Many years ago my mother feed a beautiful homeles cat we called Tumblelina who was long haired black and white with a beautiful face. She would always bring a mouse, etc. to the front door to my mom and my mother would be horriified and told her not to do it “anymore”. She got pregnant and had beautiful babies and we found homes for them all and got her spayed. My mother died soon after and when she didn’t see my mom anymore she began bringing her “gifts” again maybe in hopes of bringing her back. It was very sad. I found her a home as well, but I will never forget how well she listened and understood and what she did after my mom passed. As far as the previous comment, there is a cycle of life. Humans kill animals, animals kill prey, etc. Personally, I am tired of bird poop all over the porch in the spring. The outside cats don’t even deter them so they must be made of stronger stuff than many people think.
My cats occasionally catch birds, mice and lizards and bring them indoors. I always know when they do this because they have a special “call” when they have caught something. My theory is that cats bring their prey indoors because they want to show their human how clever they are. I always praise my cat (particularly if they have caught a mouse) and then make them take their prey outside. I’m afraid it can get very yucky and messy cleaning up feathers and blood – I’ve just had to resign myself to it as I have never been able to persuade my cats not to bring their “catch” inside. If it’s of any help. I use a vacuum cleaner on the feathers, and for bloodstains, a mixture of cols water, white vinegar and dishwashing liquid is quite efficacious.
Try keeping the cat indoors he/she can still catch mice!!!
From what I have observed in cat behavior and read, they are instinctual hunters. Cats, unlike dogs have a constant hunting instinct that needs to be fulfilled. Does anyone on the blog think that certain types of enrichment toys would fulfill that instinctual need and prevent cats from not only hunting small animals, but bringing them back home.
My best hunter, my only REAL hunter, was JJ, a silver bullseye tabby female. Though she sometimes caught birds and the occasional mouse – her favorite prey were MOLES. Every summer she caught scores of them. She didn’t eat them though, just the birds and mice. If we would see her coming with a ‘prize’, we first praised her skill and generosity, then would tell her to “take it off the porch” – which she would do. When we were no longer watching, she’d bring it back and “no honey, take it off the porch”. Sometimes 4 & 5 times, but she would always end up taking it either into the grass or under the deck to ‘dispose’ of it.
If we didn’t see her bring it, well, a good stiff broom and dustpan, along with some warm, soapy water would usually remove the evidence.
There were two times that I remember her bringing birds inside — and both times they were alive. The first was a robin she managed to get through the kitchen and living room before chasing it down into the cellar, where it (literally) ended up behind the washing machine – no trace was ever found. The second time was a sparrow she chased into the kitchen, around the table a few times, and then back outside through the unlatched door….which I then latched.
Like most other behaviors, the only way to modify depositing gifts is training. JJ and I had such an intense relationship – she understood so much language it was bizarre. She was very vocal and enjoyed ‘conversations’….and arguments!!! I don’t know if talking TO them actually makes them more able to comprehend speech, but it really seems that way.
My cat Cheerio is bringing all kinds of animals thru the doggy door almost every day. She usually lets them go then our Jack Russell goes after them poor animal and I always run & hide & get my husband to take care of situation. I wish I knew something that would stop Cheerio from doing this, I love the cat.
I am trying to find a solution to this problem too. My cats have started bringing live mice into the house. One thought I have is a two kitty door set up with treats or food in between. Maybe kitty would drop the mouse to eat and the mouse would have a chance to escape before kitty can get it through the second door into the house. I dunno, trying to think out of the box here. I’d have to figure out an escape route for the mouse.
We live in the desert, so our siamese goes out the dog door and hunts throughout the day. At first we praised her, thanked her, took pictures of the critters as sort of a profile book as we released the animal. The picture also let us know if we were getting the same creature. Since we have a wide variety of stuff, we have seen mice, pack rats, bats, birds, lizards, geckos, snakes, crickets, rabbits and ground squirrels. We chase the critter and release it in an area in which she does not see, hoping she doesn’t get offended or want to go back out and catch it. We are now starting to not speak to her when she brings them inside. We also noticed that when we give her extra loving attention, she tends to bring us something the next day.
not sure if these are gifts or dinner or teaching us how to catch like her…..but….trying to catch a bird flying in my bathroom takes quite a bit of time and is getting annoying.
Nope my 7 year old cat brought in a baby rabbit at 630 this morning. We have a dog door in the back of the house leading to the fenced in yard so they are able to go potty or sunbathe on the deck as they wish. We also have a cat door in our room that leads to an enclosed front porch and so I imagine I am going to have to make it an exit only and so she can’t come back through it (one of the settings). She doesn’t want to bring it in the main area of the house bc then she has to deal with the dogs wanting to check it out and potentially steal from her so she brings them through the cat door and we get all sorts of surprises…sheesh!
We have 2 cats . That are “not our cats” lol Well we feed them and love them but they wild cats… They are in love with my granddaughter. 1 will only go near her and the other likes all of us. Some not so nice person dropped them off near a river near us. Well w e have a Dog door. and they come in and eat . The one who hate all but the granddaughter sneaks in the other thinks she lives here. Almost daily they bring us gifts… Rats Mice Birds Rabbits Squirrels Chipmunks.. The vet told us it was their way of telling us we don’t feed them right “meat” So they don’t think we eat right and they are trying to take care of us. I don’t know if it is true . But sounded nice .And what I think everyday as i clean anther dead thing from my house