It can be easy to forget that the sweet cat purring innocently in your lap can sometimes be a merciless killer. Obviously, there's no malintent involved. It's what cats are — predators with a natural instinct to chase and kill small creatures. Hunting and killing are survival skills that have been developed in your cat over thousands of years. Without this strong prey drive, your cat wouldn't last long if it was living in the wild.
Of course, domestic cats don't usually have to fend for themselves. Most have devoted owners who provide them with plenty of food and water. Yet, even well-fed felines just can't resist their instinct to kill, and that is one reason your cat keeps catching mice and other small game even when it's not hungry.
Is your cat bringing you gifts?
If you own a cat that has access to the outdoors, you've probably found dead birds or mice on your doorstep, or — even worse — inside your home. Some feline owners believe that their cats are bringing them gifts. However, experts believe that when cats deliver these small “gifts,” they are following their instinct to take their kill to a safe place to consume it.
Think of leopards in the wild. After killing their prey, leopards will drag a carcass high into a tree, away from other not-so-agile predators. A common house cat may be following this same pattern of behavior.
So, what can you do about it? How can you stop your cat from hunting? Here’s what you need to know.
Why it's important to prevent your cat from killing wildlife
To protect birds
Cats kill 2.4 billion birds every year in the United States. That's a staggering number, and while there seems to be an endless supply of birds, a recent study showed that because domesticated cats can have a larger impact on local animal populations than wild predators of a similar size.
This impact is largely because cats make their kills in a concentrated area. Birds play an essential role in the environment, so protecting your local bird population is incredibly important for your local ecosystem.
Hunting can be dangerous for cats
Some owners believe that cats are happier when they spend time outdoors. Unfortunately, that outdoor time can expose a cat to many dangers, including attacks by larger wild animals and exposure to diseases.
The sad truth is there are some people who will trap or poison cats if they consider them to be a danger to birds or other creatures. Cats that eat birds or rodents can also become infected with Salmonella. The more you can keep your cat indoors, the safer they will be.
Cats can bring pests into your home
On occasion, cats will drag live prey — such as snakes, lizards or rodents — into your home. While some people believe that cats do this to toy with their prey, experts believe they are trying to tire the animal out so that they can safely kill it without injury to themselves.
The major problem? Sometimes these little creatures can escape your cat's claws and then take refuge in your home.
As a cat owner, it is important that you lessen your feline's negative impact on its environment as much as possible. The best way to do that is to keep your cat indoors. If you're worried that your cat will be bored indoors, try to provide stimulating play with toys that mimic the action and "fun" of chasing live prey, such as a fishing pole toy or a laser pointer.
If you really want your cat to have outdoor time, here are a few tips on how to keep cats from killing birds and other wild creatures:
Have your cat wear a bell
Outfit your feline with a breakaway collar and a bell. The ringing of the bell will alert birds and other creatures that your cat is on the prowl, and a breakaway collar should protect your cat from getting snagged on a sharp object.
Walk your cat
Provide your feline with a catio
What's a catio? A catio is an outdoor enclosure where your cat can safely enjoy fun in the sun. You can build your own or purchase a pre-built structure from a pet store or website.
Be an environmentally friendly cat owner
In a perfect world, your cat should be able to wander freely with little to no negative impact on its local ecosystem. However, the reality is that outdoor cats kill birds and other animals. That is why cat owners who believe in being eco-friendly should keep their feline friends indoors, where they can't harm other wildlife.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.