Domestic Cat Hunting Behaviour – Bringing Prey Home

Domestic Cat Hunting

Many cat owners find it strange that their pet cat is able to gobble up a bowlful of food – then go out hunting and return some time later with a mouse or a bird. The answer to this puzzling question lies in the cat’s behaviour. More often than not the cat does not eat the ‘kill’ but rather deposits it in the owner’s kitchen or living room – and then howls for the owner to come and look. In fact, the cat is bringing home food for its family – you!

Most successful hunting for cats involves targeting small mammals such as mice. The cat will first stalk, capture and use its paws to daze its prey. Finally, it will bite it on the nape of the neck to kill it.

Domestic Cat HuntingNo matter how domesticated you think your cat is, he will always have a wild side. This side is never more apparent than when he brings home dead or even half-dead mice and birds. Sometimes it even appears as if he is presenting his freshly caught ‘kill’ to you. In fact, that is what he is doing.

Even though the natural reaction is to recoil in horror at the sight of a struggling mouse, your cat is offering you a gift. Accept it with praise and then tactfully (and hygienically) dispose of it out of sight of your caring pet.

  • If the object of a cat’s interest is confined and less able to fly away, so much the better.
  • Cats are not born with hunting instincts. If their mothers don’t hunt or if they don’t have litter mates to learn with, they may never acquire these skills.
  • Rural feral cats will spend up to 50 per cent of their day looking for food, while domestic cats may only hunt for as little as 15 per cent of the day.
  • If deprived of their domestic environment, household cats will soon return to a semi-wild state and survive by killing vermin.

Q. When I feed my two cats fresh fish, they seem to spend more time spitting and growling at each other than eating. Why is this?

Your cats are simply displaying a basic instinct. They are defending their captured ‘prey’ against other cats. In future, try to feed them out of sight of each other. Or try cooking and mashing the fish. Cats tend not to get so worked up about mushy food.

Q. Despite the fact that I feed my moggie twice a day he still brings home mice on a regular basis. Does this mean I’m not feeding him enough?

Domestic Cat Hunting2Not at all. Your moggie is not expressing hunger, but his very strong and healthy hunting instinct. He hunts continually in order to keep his hunting skills razor sharp. He may be bringing home an offering for you too, so however squeamish you may feel, it is important to accept it.


Although the domesticated cat may look on his owners as ‘pseudo parents’, he will also have noticed that his ‘family’ seems incapable of catching its own food. By bringing home mice and birds, he is making sure that his family doesn’t starve. He is also trying to teach his owners to hunt and catch food.


This behaviour is particularly true of neutered females, who cannot have litters of their own to teach and instead pass on this valuable information to their human family.