As a cat owner, you may have pondered about the secret outside life of your four-legged ball of fluff. There’s no denying that as domesticated as your cat may be, they are a natural born predator, and once they’ve stepped their first paw into the outside world, they’ll be on the lookout for prey.
The outside world is full of a whole range of wildlife, and with roughly 8 million pet cats roaming around the various UK streets, there are all sorts of different animals your kitty will find their sensitive noses drawn to.
Experts point out that there are two main categories of feline predators. Those who are specialists and the more generalist types. Specialists – as the name implies – are those who hunt a specific prey type or types, whilst generalists tend to have a broader diet.
So, which cat-egory does your puss fit into and what exactly does your cat look for when on the hunt?
Many cats will have a preference when it comes to hunting other creatures. And for some, birds are the ones in the firing line.
As natural predators, cats are taught to hunt from an early age, as a way to find food. They learn from their mothers, who will present her adoring kittys with prey in order to eat and grow to full strength. As these fluff balls grow, they will join their mother on the hunt. Whilst your cat may not always eat the bird they’ve decided to strike down, they are naturally born with a killer instinct and the thrill of the chase will help their future judgments with speed, distance and agility.
Even though your kitty may be following its natural instincts, there are concerns over the level of deaths caused by cats. With a 2013 US study showing the impact of domestic cats on local wildlife, it highlighted that 1.3 to 4 billion birds are being killed annually by one fell swoop of a crafty paw. And Sir David Attenborough voiced his concerns over the high numbers of birds being wiped out in British gardens.
The TV and naturalist Veteran has stated that it may be helpful for cat owners to buy bell collars for their pets as a way to help stop the deaths.
It can be easy to forget that your lovable feline companion is also capable of hunting and killing other innocent animals. That is, until you wake up in the middle of the night with a field mouse at the foot of your bed.
As natural predators, if your kitty sees something moving, odds are on that they’re going to chase it. This can apply to tapping fingers on a keyboard, wiggling toes underneath the duvet, or, yep you’ve guessed it – the humble mouse.
As true carnivores, cats need to hone their hunting skills if they’re going to survive. And when you see your cat’s paws twitching during a particularly vivid dream, they’re probably dreaming about how to take down an animal of grand stature. In reality? Most house cats are only able to catch mice.
Cats will often kill their mouse victim inadvertently, by being a little too rough in their play. In the same way they would bat around a toy mouse, your cat may choose to play with the body of a real life one, and leave it where it lay. It all depends on your particular feline, but many domestic cats lack the killer instinct of their wild counterparts, and haven’t learnt to truly “go in for the kill”.
Though in the case of stray cats, sometimes the mother will go off and fetch the mouse, only to bring it back for her kittens to kill. This is an effective way to teach them to eventually kill it themselves. Thus is often why your puss will bring in a mouse and leave it at your feet. They are simply acting out their natural role as a parent and teacher.
Most cats are opportunistic hunters and this means that even if they don’t seek out a certain type of animal to hunt, they will catch whatever they come across. Cats will also catch and kill certain prey even if their bellies aren’t rumbling. This sees many types of animal getting caught out.
Enter the amhpibians. Unlike mice and birds, cats are particularly taken aback by creatures such as frogs because of the way in which they move around. And it’s not unusual for a cat to stalk a hopping mad toad, or to master the art of intent when staring at a swimming frog, taking a pesky swipe at it.
As much as cats enjoying the hunting of frogs, studies show they aren’t likely to eat them. One study that looked at the killing habits of feral cats in open habitats showed that frogs attributed to 44% of killed prey, but were eaten in only 50% of kills.
You may not see your cat in their outdoor action but instead learn of their preference when it comes to the hunt, by looking at they way they interact with toys. If you find your kitty spending their time with toys covered in feathers, suspended on a string, or ones that emit chirping sounds, they probably have a penchant for birds.
If your cat shows a fondness for fur, stuffed animals, or a good old-fashioned furry mouse toy, the chances are they’ll make this their number 1 prey when on the hunt.