Cats aren’t born killers, but they are born with the natural instinct to chase. Kittens learn through play how to coordinate and time things perfectly to catch their target. From the butt wiggle to the pounce, cats adjust speed and move according to the object they are fixed on. They learn and study the object and store it in their memory. Not all cats who become skilled mouse hunters catch to kill. they actively play with prey too. Killing on the other hand, is taught.
The Hunting Lesson
It is a common misconception to think that every cat who is hunting a bird, a mouse, or even a bug is looking to kill. In the wild, kittens are taught to kill for food by their mother. Once the kittens reach a certain age, the mother will begin bringing food home and eating it. By bringing dead creatures to her kittens, the mother is intriguing their interest. After awhile, they will join their mother. The kittens will watch her hunt and kill, and she will then start bringing them food to eat as a training tool. What is amazing about this is that mother cats will even do this for kittens outside of her litter. When a female cat brings home her owner a dead rodent or bird, she is trying to train them. Spayed or not, the female cat is wired to have this training skill inside them. Once the kittens are completely weened from their mother’s milk, they will depend on the food she brings them. Knowing this, she will then start to bring home half dead prey to her kittens. This gives them the opportunity to do as they watched their mother do. She will continue to do this until the kittens are able to successfully go after fully alive prey, hunt it down, and kill it themselves.
The Hunting Game
When it comes to house raised cats, they will have the chase and catch instincts minus the kill, since the food is already provided. Similar to people enjoying fishing without the need to keep the fish to eat, cats will often find enjoyment out of torturing a living creature. You may see a cat playing with a bug for hours, smashing it, chewing it, spitting it out, but never killing it intentionally. Once the bug has died however, they lose immediate interest and leave the bug. They will do this with mice, birds, and other small creatures as well. Kittens who have grown up with birds, rats, hamsters, and so on still need supervision. With cats, they can become overly stimulated, and at any given time can kill the animal they have bonded with. This is why larger cat breeds are never recommended as human companions. A tiger can bond with a human for 10 years, then suddenly become overly stimulated and hurt or kill the person.
The Hunting Repression
Just as cats can be overly stimulated, they can be under stimulated as well. When a cat’s natural instincts aren’t being played out inside the home, the cat will likely find other means of entertainment. This will turn into attacking hands and feet, climbing up curtains to chase nothing, digging out soil from pots, and even aggressively attacking their owners. Some cats will even begin to make play in their imagination, attacking things that aren’t even there. This can be a sign you need to play with your cat more. With all the toys out there for cats today, finding something he/she likes shouldn’t be an issue. You can also look in to leash training options and start bringing your cat outdoors. The sights, sounds, and smells will stimulate all their natural instincts in a good way which will cut back on havoc in the home.