Why Does My Cat... Pounce?

Cat getting ready to pounce
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A cat will crouch and stare before pouncing on his prey.

Pouncing is a stealthy, healthy predatory behavior used by cats to suddenly sneak up on a prey target — or potential playmate. Pouncing is a skill that is particularly needed when cats are hunting prey for food. Once the cat locates the potential prey, it may sit, stand or crouch while staring at the target.

When a cat pounces on prey, that action is usually accompanied by a bite to the back of the neck. The bite usually kills the prey. This quick movement also allows the cat to surprise the preyed upon creature. Unlike certain large cats, the domestic cat is usually most successful when it uses a pounce to capture its prey, rather than chasing after it like a cheetah or lion would do. Our domestic cats exhibit hunting behaviors that are similar to their larger wild relatives, but they need to rely on stealth because most of the prey animals are faster. Think of a rabbit and a cat. The cat needs the element of surprise — a pounce — otherwise the rabbit will easily outrun the cat. Cats are not long-distance runners. They do not have a lot of endurance.

Cats also pounce when they are playing with each other. Kittens pounce on each other and interesting objects during play. Kittens raised in isolation will pounce on prey when exposed to it for the first time, indicating that no modeling or previous experience is needed for this predatory behavior to occur.

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