Cats are extraordinary creatures and many of us make the mistake of thinking they are like dogs when it comes to owning them as pets. Cats have instincts that cause them to be the way they are and do the things they do. While dogs are trainable in most cases this is not so much the case with cats. They cannot have specific traits trained out of them. From the time they are born they are taught by their mother how important it is to hunt and feed their young. Even cats that have been hand fed and raised by humans for their whole lives will still carry the hunters instinct because it has been bred into them since the beginning of their existence. However, knowing these things does not help to prepare us for the dead animals cats often bring to us as gifts. The good news is that understanding why they do it may help you to react a bit differently to them when they do.
Thank You for Feeding Me
Perhaps when cats go to the trouble of going out and hunting for prey and then bringing it to your feet they are attempting to feed you in the same way that mother cats feed their kittens. Could this be a gesture of thanks or reciprocity for the many times you feed him? The truth is no one really knows if this is one of the reasons that cats tend to bring us dead animals but one thing is for sure, they do it in such a way that appears to be a distinct gesture of giving. For example, your cat may actually drag something he has killed through the pet door and go to the trouble of putting it on your pillow. When you walk in the room you see your cat sitting there watching you intensely as you find your little present. The cat is watching to make sure you have received his gift. You will undoubtedly have a reaction for the cat to see but it will probably not be at all what he may have expected.
I am a Great Hunter!
Your cat may also be trying to show off his keen ability to hunt. He wants you to see how great he is at what he does so he struts in with something he has killed and brings it right to your feet. This is very close to the way a child acts when he/she has done something great and wants you to notice. It may even be that your cat thinks you need a brush up course in hunting, so he is trying to teach you as his mother taught him. Your cat has no way of reasoning the fact that you, unlike him, do not have to hunt in order to eat. Of course your cat probably doesn’t have to hunt to eat either but try making him understand that.
You Are My Kitten and I Love You
Maybe your cat believes that you are her people and that it is her job to take care of you. This is especially true if you have a female cat. Female cats have very strong maternal instincts and so it stands to reason that anyone the cat feels close to would be considered someone she wants to feed. She sees you as a kitten or child that she should care for. This prompts her to go out and hunt for gifts for you so that you can enjoy the same food she is enjoying. You really do not want to hurt her feelings by jumping and running in horror but at the same time you certainly are not going to eat what she has brought home, unless of course you enjoy eating mice and tree lizards. A better thing to do would be to act happy that she brought you the gift and then toss it the moment she turns her head (yuck!).
You Cannot Make Your Cat Stop Hunting
No amount of squirts from a spray bottle or other cat training methods are going to stop your cat from doing what he/she does best. Your cat is a hunter and as mentioned earlier will continue to hunt no matter what you do. Even cats that are kept indoors exclusively will find small creatures to kill and bring you. In addition, a cat does not have to hunt for a real animal, it could easily be a toy that your cat kills and spreads across your blankets on your bed. The thing to remember is that you do not want to react negatively when your cat brings in something dead, no matter how tempted you are. Your cat is not doing these things to be bad; in fact he/she is doing it for quite the opposite reason, to do something good.
You may not be able to stop your cat from bringing dead creatures in but you may be able to designate an area for him/her to bring the "treats" and leave them. Maybe you can react in a way that mimics joy and then move the gift to another area like on the front porch. If you do this often enough maybe your cat will learn that the front porch is the right place to leave gifts. Whatever the case try and remind yourself that you cat is bringing you their hunted prey as a gift of love and appreciation not to be a pest or annoyance.