Why does my cat hunt?
Hunting is a normal cat behaviour which is driven by their need to eat regularly, but whether a cat chooses to hunt or not will vary individually. Some cats may not be interested, some may physically be unable to hunt, whereas others may not have the opportunity. Despite it being completely normal some owners find it distressing to know that their cat hunts, particularly if they bring their prey home.
Does hunting mean my cat is hungry?
Not necessarily. Cats naturally graze on their food and so will hunt before they are hungry in anticipation of needing a meal later. It does not mean you are under feeding your cat. After making a kill a hungry cat will eat their prey but if they are full then they leave it with the intention of eating later (and so bring it home). If repeated chances of making a successful kill are present then a cat will hunt several times to ensure they have enough food for the day, even when there is food at home.
Does hunting mean my cat is bored?
Cats enjoy variety in their food. If they are fed the same food repeatedly then some may hunt to find variety and give them a choice. When prey is then not killed or eaten it could be the cat is full but also that they prefer the flavour of their cat food over the prey they have caught.
Why does my cat play with their prey?
Cats that are seen to be ‘toying with’ their prey rather than killing straight away are not necessarily playing with their food. There is some belief that they are weighing up the risks of injury with the benefits of getting a meal. However, at home it has been shown that cats will play for longer with toys that look and mimic the behaviour of prey particularly when the cat is hungry. This indicates that there is perhaps an element of play associated with hunting.
Can I stop my cat from hunting?
Unless you keep your cat indoors with no access to prey then you cannot really stop them hunting. However, there are things you can do to decrease their desire to hunt and their success rate. Provide a variety of tasty foods little and often so you mimic your cat’s normal feeding pattern. Overfeeding your cat will not stop them hunting but will risk them becoming overweight and so is not recommended. Playing with toys that mimic prey species at home can help relieve the instinct to hunt as well as any pent up energy.
Prey species are generally more active at dawn and dusk so keeping your cat inside during those times should reduce the opportunities to find prey. Attaching a bell to your cat's collar will alert prey when they are coming giving them more time to get away. We recommend click/quick release collars which open when pulled with enough force. This helps protect your cat from strangulation and other collar injuries although you may lose some collars.
The only downside of this is that there is some evidence that using a bell or similar device that makes noise when your cat moves can teach them to move more stealthily. Eventually, some cats may even learn to move so smoothly that the bell does not sound, making them even more efficient predators.
How do I protect my hunting cat?
Cats that hunt are at greater risk of picking up internal and external parasites. It is important that you treat your cat for fleas, mites, ticks, and worms on a regular basis. Your veterinary practice will be happy to advise you on what products are available and how often you should be using them.