Why do cats bring you dead animals?

Despite usually getting everything they need from their owners – and then some – cats sometimes still bring dead animals into the house. Are they topping up with a snack or is this supposed to be a present? Let's dive into this slightly macabre, yet very common issue.

Why cats bring their owners dead animals is a mystery to many.
Why cats bring their owners dead animals is a mystery to many.  © 123RF / pakosta

When a cat explores the great outdoors, they will likely hunt for mice, birds, lizards, and other animals. That's just how cats roll, after all, and it's good for their physical and mental health. But doe many, it's more than a little strange, with freaked-out cat owners wondering why on earth these little tigers drag in dead or half-dead animals.

If you have an outdoor cat, you may be familiar with the following scenario: your cat heads out for a leisurely stroll, only to return with a dead or live mouse. The little murderer places the mouse in front of you before meowing and gazing up at you with its big, adorable (and slightly creepy) eyes.

Is this some kind of public display of affection, or is something else going on? Read on, our Cat Guide is about to let the cat out of the bag when it comes to this mystery.

Why do cats bring home dead animals?

Cats bring home dead animals for a couple of reasons.

Some cat owners see it as a proof of love, or a "gift", when their cat brings home a dead mouse or animal. Despite that belief, a dead mouse is not necessarily a thank you from your cat for taking good care of them, but rather their attempt at providing for their humans.

You see, cats are solitary hunters, but live in a community. When cats go hunting, they bring back killed prey for their kittens and the weakest among the fur-ball ranks. It seems that cats bring dead prey to their owners because we humans are unable to hunt for ourselves (at least according to our little feline friends). So yes, this is in a way a sign of affection.

If your cat brings you a live mouse, it could be an attempt to teach you how to hunt.
If your cat brings you a live mouse, it could be an attempt to teach you how to hunt.  © 123RF / Elnur

Why do cats bring you mice?

When cats take care of their young, they bring them dead animals to munch on. As kittens get older, it is necessary for their mothers and fathers to prepare them for surviving the great unknown. For this reason, parent cats eventually bring their growing offspring live mice, birds, and the like. These little kitties need to learn to hunt for themselves, or they'll starve.

Since cats will often treat their owners as one of their young 'uns, an offering of live mice means they're just trying to teach us how to hunt for ourselves. Don't take that invitation too seriously, though. No one's expecting you to be chasing little critters around the house.

It's also possible that the cat brought the mouse back home to save it for later on. Playful mouse hunting helps cats relieve stress and prevents boredom, even if it is a little disturbing for our sensitive human brains. Your cat means well, so don't get too mad. You should probably get rid of the mouse, though.

Do cats eat mice?

Cats do, indeed, eat mice. These little fluff balls are carnivorous predators, and they are pretty keen on crunchy little mice, rats, birds, and other small mammals. If you live in a place where lizards are commonly found in the garden, you can expect to find a lot of little reptiles running tailless. Don't worry if your pet snacked on a lizard tail. It's no big deal.

Do cats keep mice away?

It's complicated. Whilst cats can scare away mice from taking up residence in your home, they also sometimes bring them right through your front door. Those well-intentioned efforts to get you to hunt can lead to living mice escaping in the home.

Overall, though, this is really your only worry. Having an indoor cat means you're far less likely to end up with a mouse or rat infestation, but that shouldn't be an overriding reason to keep your kitty locked in.

So what's the deal with cats bringing dead animals home?

Let's round this all up for you: cats bring dead animals into your home to give you some hunting experience or because they want to feed you, while sometimes they just want something to play with.

Remember, you're dealing with an animal. These whiskered wonders think differently to us and are going to do weird things some of the time. If you're going to be a cat owner, you're going to have to get used to it.

Cover photo: 123RF / pakosta

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