Cat and mouse

Q. My cat insists on sharing parts of the mice and rats he catches. While I appreciate the gesture, I really don't want mouse heads on my pillow. What can I do?

A. Cats are hunters by nature, and just because they have been domesticated for a few thousand years and mostly live in homes doesn’t mean that they don’t still have that instinct to provide for themselves and their loved ones — you, in this case.

Cats bring home prey — bugs, lizards, birds and mice — to feed their kittens, and it may be that your cat thinks you need feeding, too. It is also possible that he may be bringing you these gifts in thanks for the food you give him. Turnabout is fair play, after all. And some cats simply want to bring their hard-won catch back to the safest place possible to enjoy it without interruption. That is, apparently, your bed (or, in your cat's view, his bed).

What can you do to discourage his thoughtfulness? You have a couple of options. The best way to deter his gift-giving is to keep him indoors and fulfill his desire to prowl and pounce with puzzle toys that he can play with on his own or fishing-pole toys that you dangle and drag for his delectation. If you want to continue letting him explore the great outdoors, put a loud bell on his collar to give his victims a fighting chance to hear his approach and escape. It doesn't always work, but it may cut your cat's kill rate. If you opt for a collar, invest in a breakaway collar; it has a clasp that will release if the collar gets hooked on a branch or other object.

If he still brings you prey, thank him politely, offer him a catnip-stuffed toy in return and dispose of the “gift” while he’s not looking. With any luck, he will begin to bring you the catnip toys instead.