Why Cats Bring You Dead Animals and How to Stop It

When a pet cat presents its morbid offerings following a hunting excursion, there tend to emerge two types of owners.

One owner coos and praises the cat for its noble efforts, while reaching for the dustpan and brush. The other owner immediately heads for the high ground, often the kitchen counter, in a single leap.

Sound familiar? Regardless of your reaction, having a dead rodent or bird lying in state on the floor of your house is going to be something of an inconvenience.

So why do cats do it? And why are they such vicious hunters? We’ll now consider these questions and offer tips on how to stop cats bringing in mice and other small animals such as birds.

Natural Born Hunters

The first, most obvious answer as to why cats bring you dead animals is simply because their instinctive hunters. Indeed, the purring little fur ball that settles down to sleep on your lap each night is in fact a highly efficient killing machine.

Due to their flexible spines and strong muscles, cats are able to scale walls, jump large distances and squeeze into tight spaces. And make no mistake, if they’ve got prety in their crosshairs, they’ll use these abilities to the fullest if they have to.

Solitary, opportunistic and stealthy hunters, our feline friends will stalk most any small animal that moves including mice, rats, birds, and insects. In addition to their agility and stealth, they have excellent night vision and sense of smell.

Unfortunately for owners, the instinct to hunt is such that even highly-domesticated cats usually can’t resist the odd hunting foray every now and then.

Cats were domesticated much later than dogs. As a result, they have a stronger desire to satisfy the urge. For canines, this instinct is no longer present.

Cat Stalking Mouse

Mothering Instinct

Bringing in dead animals is sometimes down to the sex of your cat. In fact, this behavior is particularly common among spayed females.

To feed their kittens, wild mother cats originally had to hunt for prey that they could feed to their offspring. But with no kittens to feed, spayed females will often present their hunting prizes to their owners instead.

Instructing the Owner

Your cat‘s ancestors also had to teach their offspring how to hunt. To do this, they’d bring their kittens live prey. Thus, many experts believe the act of presenting a catch indicates that your pet is trying to instruct you on how to hunt and kill small animals. How very thoughtful!

Beware of Cats Bearing Gifts

By bringing in dead animals, you cat might also be attempting to impress you by exhibiting his hunting prowess.

Comfortable Home Environment

Research also suggests that cats only bring their prey back to environments in which they feel comfortable. So you can at least take some solace in the fact that your pet feels safe and secure in your humble abode.

How to Stop Cats Bringing in Dead Animals

Ok, so you’ve hopefully got a better understanding of why your cat keeps bringing in dead animals. Although a pretty gruesome ritual, there are as you can see, plenty of good reasons behind it.

So how do you stop your cat from bringing in mice and other dead animals? Here are a few tried and trusted tips that might help.

Cat on Bird House

Keep Bird Tables and Houses Out of Reach

A bird table or feeder is a great way to attract wildlife such as birds (and also mice) to your garden because it provides a useful food source.

Although often seen as pests, birds are actually beneficial for the environment, helping with pollination and insect control, as well as spreading seeds for new plants.

Unfortunately, cats have a voracious appetite for our feathered friends – so much so that they’ve had a major impact on bird populations in certain countries.

In some cases, cats are even considered to be invasive species.

If you’ve got a bird feed table, hanging basket or nesting box in your garden, keep it out of reach from your cat and away from ledges.

In addition, keep the feeding table about 2m from dense vegetation, as recommended by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Use Anti-Predation Collars

Anti-predation collars could prove a very shrewd investment in preventing your cat from bringing in dead animals.

In a study by the RSPB, anti-predation collars, such as those with a bell attached, were found to reduce cat predation by a third. Sonic collars were also found to offer some benefit. Here’s more info about both.

Bell Collars

A collar with a bell is the most popular and cost-effective option here. The bell‘s sound will alert prey that you cat is in the vicinity, providing it with a means of escape.

The RSPB study showed that bell collars reduce bird predation by 41% and 34% for mammals such as rodents.

Sonic Collars

Sonic collars are also a viable option although they‘re a little more expensive. They consist of a collar and electronic unit that emits ultrasonic sound waves.

These are inaudible to humans but may scare away potential prey. As per the same study mentioned above, cats wearing a sonic collar returned 51% fewer birds and 30% fewer mammals.

If you decide to invest in any sort of collar for your cat, make sure that it’s got a quick release mechanism.

This will ensure that your cat will be able to safely escape should the collar get snagged. Also ensure that it’s properly fitted. Being able to fit two fingers between your cat’s neck and collar is a good indicator.

Where to Buy Anti-Predation Collars

Birds Be Safe



Cat at Night

Limit Outside Time During Certain Hours

Permanently confining your cat to your home is another possibility. However for most owners, this really isn’t a popular choice.

Cats are instinctive explorers so roaming the great outdoors is as natural to them as hunting itself. But limiting their time outside might be worth considering.

Spring and Summer Curfews

The spring and summer months provides the best hunting opportunities for cats. For wildlife, this is known as the baby boom season.

This is a time when fledglings spend more time on the ground attempting to fly, when baby birds can fall from nests and when rodents look for somewhere secure and safe to have their offspring.

With this in mind, you might want to try limiting your cat’s time outdoors, counterintuitive as it may seem.

Dusk and Dawn Curfews

The same goes for the early hours and early evening. This is when rodents and birds are most active. Keeping your cat inside during these times of day may limit fatalities.

If necessary, keep him stimulated and entertained with other activities, as mentioned below.

Cat v Toy Mouse

Play with Your Cat

According to research conducted by the University of Exeter, spending five to ten minutes playing with your cat can potentially offer a 25% reduction in hunting fatalities.

So try to satisfy your cat’s urge to hunt with toys that mimic his potential prey. Stuffed toy mice may go some way in reducing his desire to hunt and kill.

Cat laser pointers are another option. As well as keeping your pet entertained and stimulated, they provide a great cardio workout.

Buy a Cat Enclosure

If you’ve got the garden space, consider investing in a cat enclosure. This will allow your cat to roam safely while also protecting the local wildlife.

Outdoor variants are usually come in the form of a fence or cage. The best versions include obstacles and features such as climbing frames, platforms and bridges to keep your cat entertained.

Diet Change

The same study from the University of Exeter also indicated that changing your cat’s food intake to a grain-free diet may reduce the amount of prey that your cat brings home by up to 36%. Although scientists are still trying to work out why this is the case, it’s certainly an option worth considering.

Final Thoughts

There’s no way that you’re going to get rid of your cat’s hunting instinct.

Nonetheless, some of the methods mentioned here might help to discourage your little hunter-killer from presenting you with its unfortunate prey.

For further information on this subject, see the links below.

Further Reading


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