Thoughts for Thursday – The Self-Contained Cat

While our foo-foo house cats don’t have much need or opportunity to hunt, it’s not uncommon to see Fluffy or Princess demonstrate hunting instincts during play, for example. A kitten will hide in the jungle (under a chair or behind a door) and attack you as you walk by. A grown cat will walk into the room with pure grace and elegance, then pounce on her prey (one of her toys) with the same violent intent of an African lion in the wild.

Yes, you see hunting instincts and behavior even in you purebred Persian, Ragdoll, or Chartreux. You might expect it of a Bengal or Savannah or Ocicat, but don’t be surprised or disturbed when your sweet baby kitty brings you a dead mouse, dissects a grasshopper before your eyes, or terrorizes a lizard that found its way into your house or the catio.

Even though cats have been domesticated for more than 4,000 years (by some estimates), it appears that you can take the cat out of the jungle, but we still haven’t been able to take the jungle out of the cat. And that can be a good thing since so many cats are abandoned and left to fend for themselves.

Some cats show greater hunting instincts than others. They’ll set up situations for themselves where they’ll hide one of their toys, then practice sneaking up on it, trying to dig it out of its hiding place, finally pouncing on it and going in for the kill.

Our Sophie loves a toy mouse with a tail. She’ll pick it up by the tail and toss it and pounce, toss it way in the air and pounce. That keeps her delightfully entertained for the longest time.

Lily carries her trophies (her stuffed toys) to me and drops them at my feet. She’ll also spread them around at my bedroom door overnight. And she always announces loud and clear when she’s approaching with one of her toys (presumably her kill for the family). As far as I know, Sophie lived on the streets for her first 10 weeks of life, so she probably did catch a real mouse or two. Lily, however, came to us at about 6 weeks (they told us she was 8 weeks) and I’m fairly certain she never had any hunting experience, except perhaps what she observed the adults in her attic home doing. But I believe the instinct goes much deeper than what they’ve experienced and observed. It seems to have been preserved in the DNA of cats for thousands of years. Amazing.



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