Mouse in the woods
Exactly when felines first became domesticated remains undetermined, but the why seems pretty clear: Pest control was a priority for early civilizations that needed to protect surplus crops from rodents — and cats proved to be natural-born mice killers.

It’s not surprising that modern house cats have retained the skills to hunt small critters, but why do today’s kitties often lay the prey at the feet of their human housemates?

Why Does My Cat Do This?

Dr. E’Lise Christensen Bell, DVM, DACVB, of Veterinary Behavior Consultations of NYC, says that all cats can exhibit this behavior, but some are more likely to gift their owners with dead mice than others.

“Mother cats are the most likely to engage in this behavior as a natural part of parenting,” she says. “They bring dead prey back to the home area to start educating kittens about prey.”

If your cat isn’t raising kittens, Dr. Christensen Bell points to other potential reasons. For example, your kitty may be too full to eat, and she wants to save it for later — or snacking on prey just isn’t her cup of tea.

According to Dr. Christensen Bell, cats can be choosier about what they will eat than what they’ll catch. “Some [findings] suggest that cats don’t like jumping mice," she explains. "These mice have been brought home, but were not found in the gastrointestinal tracts of the cats.”

In some cases, owners unwittingly encourage the behavior — a cat who gets extra attention when she delivers a furry corpse will likely do it again.

Another theory offered by Dr. Christensen Bell: Perhaps your feline is feeling generous, and she wants to share the grub with other cats in the household.

What Can I Do to Curb the Behavior?

Keep in mind that this tendency is natural in cats — it’s not something that your kitty is doing wrong.

“If you don’t like it, ignore it. An owner should never punish a cat for bringing home a dead animal,” says Dr. Christensen Bell.

That said, she does have a few tips for dealing with a mouser:

Keep your kitty indoors.

Control pest problems within your home. This will diminish your cat’s urge to test out her hunting skills on live prey, instead of enriching toys.

Train your cat to leave presents in a specific spot. If your feline does go outside, you can “teach the cat to ‘drop’ items on cue, and leave them outside,” suggests Dr. Christensen Bell. “Before the cat comes inside, offer a super-tasty treat [near] where you want the cat to drop the prey.”

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