How Domestic Is Your Cat, Really?
Some household cats lead relatively sedentary lifestyles, but don’t let that fool you. They’re still well equipped to survive on their own. In fact, domesticated cats and their wild counterparts share so much common DNA that some scientists wonder if household felines can truly be called “domesticated.”
Those wild roots and razor-sharp survival skills are obvious when your cat hunts – whether for actual mice, or mice of the catnip-filled variety. It’s clear that your fluffy pal is still a fine-tuned hunting machine.
Let’s talk about the steps cats go through when hunting, and learn why each of them is equally important for your healthy, happy cat.
How and When Cats Learn to Hunt in the Wild
Hunting is instinctive behavior in cats, but most wild cats get plenty of help from their mothers during the learning process. The mother cat will usually start by bringing her kittens a freshly killed meal and eating it in front of them. Next, she’ll offer them a fresh-caught meal of their own, so they begin to acquire a taste for wild prey, and start to understand their place in the food chain.
To give her kittens a low-stakes experience of finishing off a prey animal, the mother cat might show up with prey that’s injured but still alive. She’ll gradually up the difficulty level with each successive training session, and soon, the kittens will be able to hunt on their own.
Stalking the Next Meal: A Critical Component for Cat’s Hunting Process
Stalking is a key component of any cat’s hunting process. It requires patience, stealth, and strategy. Their lithe, deft physiques allow them to silently and gradually move closer to their intended prey, and at the exact… right… moment…
Pounce! The True Art Behind How Cats Hunt
This is where things get real. If the cat is successful, it’s mealtime, and the poor mouse or gazelle or big toe can do naught but regret its formerly carefree ways and lack of precaution.
Sometimes, the prey gets lucky and narrowly escapes death. If that happens, it will generally alert members of its pack to the presence of a dangerous predator. Back to square one for the cat! But cats don’t seem to mind. They just creep on creepin’ on until they catch some unfortunate victim not paying enough attention to its surroundings.
Playing With the Prey: An Important Stage for Cats
Animal enthusiasts aren’t sure why cats play with their prey – some think it’s because they’re attempting to make a kill while minimizing their own risk of injury, and others say they prolong the experience for the sheer, sadistic excitement of it. After all, it’s not every day that a well-fed housecat gets to feel like a feral predator.
When Cats Determine It’s Time to Go in for the Kill
When the cat decides its poor mark has had enough, it’ll finally put it out of its misery. Wild cats always eat their prey, but domestic cats vary in their appetite for wild game.
Some domestic cats take a “waste not, want not” attitude toward caught prey, and gobble it up, bones and all. Others just leave it where it lies, and a few will proffer their unfortunate victims to their owners as presents – don’t take offense if your cat offers you its latest kill; she’s just trying to show you that you’re wasting your money at the grocery store when you could be eating perfectly nutritious garter snakes and moles. Delicious!
Why Hunting Is Important for Housecats
As discussed, house cats are still quite similar to their wild cousins, and hunting is a natural part of their behavior. It takes them back to their primal roots and keeps their minds engaged and their instincts sharp, much like barbecuing does for Homo sapiens.
You can take the cat out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the cat. Domestic cats that are allowed outdoors kill 2.4 billion birds a year, every year in America. That’s a problem.
The solution for many pet owners is to keep their pets inside. That solves one problem, but creates another. This is primarily because cats that aren’t allowed to hunt (or experience a reasonable simulation) can grow destructive or aggressive toward their owners.
SHRU: A Cat Toy that Acts Like Prey
Most cat toys don’t really simulate the thrill of the chase, and to your cat, that’s just as important as the actual kill. But SHRU is a new cat toy that simulates the experience of stalking a real, live critter, just as it occurs out in nature. SHRU moves erratically, responds to your cat’s actions, and makes cute sounds – just the sort of sounds a tasty prey animal might make. And all of that appeals right to the most innate senses and wild animal instincts that still are quite active within your seemingly tame little domesticated kitty.
In a word, when it comes to SHRU, your cat will love it. Perhaps more importantly, your big toes (and your houseguests) will thank you!