Cat-and-mouse behaviour

Cat-and-mouse behaviour

Kittens enjoy nothing better than playing with a piece of paper tied on a string, but have you ever stopped to think that you are teaching it how to hunt, stalk and pounce on its prey? You are, but do not stop, because play is an essential for kittens. The young animal, or child, who is forbidden play and exertion may grow up with severe inhibitions.

The queen, in the wild, will present her kittens with a dead mouse for dinner; later this will be replaced with a live offering which they will be invited to stalk and kill, the final ‘coup de grace* being a neck bite which severs the victim’s spinal cord. The accomplished terrier kills similarly but with a characteristic shake of the head.

Some folk are put off keeping a cat because of its alleged cruelty, the slow ‘cat-and-mouse’ torture play prior to kill. The cat is, however, following its normal instinct for survival, an instinct which, in the cat, has not been extinguished by domesticity.

An interesting point is, that in experiments where kittens have been raised with mice, few took to killing them in later life. And, despite oft-told tales about the ‘cat and the canary’, a housecat often will live in harmony with a natural enemy.

I have sometimes come home to find a dead, half-devoured wild rabbit in a corner. Conversely my Siamese will treat as a friend, and share a run and a game with a pet doe rabbit, confirming the belief of myself, and many others, that all creatures, regardless of species, will get on with each other, if introduced from a sufficiently early age.