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A Gift of Prey

If you have a cat that has access to live prey, you've undoubtedly had the experience of coming across one of the tidbits in your garage or on your doorstep. Half-eaten or whole, this little carcass was, most likely, not on your "wish list".

According to Desmond Morris in his book, Catwatching, you must see yourself as your cat sees you-- helpless, an incompetent hunter who needs the help of an experienced provider.

The cats that most commonly bring home prey as gifts for their owners are spayed females. It is believed that they are redirecting their instincts to bring food home for their kittens to their human companions. Under natural conditions, a mother cat introduces her kittens to prey very gradually. At first she brings home dead prey and eats it in front of them. Next she brings home live prey and shows them how to subdue and kill it. After many lessons, the kittens will have acquired the necessary skills to leave the nest and get their own meals.

Humans are not willing students and generally show no gratitude for the lesson this dedicated little teacher is trying to impart. Instead of reacting with repulsion and anger, the more appropriate response would be one of praise and compliments. Later, the gift can be quietly disposed of (or, if possible, it can be resuscitated and freed). Cats confined to the indoors often substitute toys for prey. Pay attention! This is a special gift from a special friend.




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