June 2010 Issue

The Meaning of the Mouse

When your cat brings you a rodent, it isnít a gift. Instead, she is trying to teach you how to hunt!

Does your outdoor cat regularly deposit small, dead rodents on your doorstep? Or does your indoor cat seem to take pride in hunting down large, ugly bugs in your apartment and leaving them at your feet? Believe it or not, your cat is not bringing you a gift, according to animal behaviorists. "Your cat is actually bringing you a mouse to teach you to hunt and kill it," explains Katherine A. Houpt, VMD, the former James Law Professor of Animal Behavior at Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine. "Itís the same thing the mother cat does for her kittens." Cats are born with a chasing and hunting instinct, but not necessarily the skills to go along with it. The mother cat teaches her kittens to kill and eat prey. (Indoor cats may chase and kill mice, but they will rarely eat them.)

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