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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-30-2015, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Tucson, Arizona
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Cool Glad to Join - question about playing with live prey

I was looking for an answer to the often-asked question about why cats seem to play with their live prey. I found several ideas on the Web, but the one that made the post sense was one I found on a CatForum discussion. The member explained that cats have short muzzles, and in order to complete the kill by biting the neck, they must first exhaust the prey to protect themselves from the prey animal defenses.
My two cats, who were stray until we adopted them, catch birds, baby rabbits and lizards. The lizards are the only ones we have seen them catch, let run, and catch again repeatedly until finally killing and eating them. I can understand if they need to protect their eyes, the cats are doing what they must do.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-02-2015, 06:20 AM
Tom Cat
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Location: Cape Town
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I think people will look for answers that make them feel better about the situation.
For us to watch a cat playing with something that we know will eventually be killed, is horrible. It rubs us humans the wrong way, so we try to analyse it away.

The fact is: The hunting/catching instinct in a cat is one of strongest ones they have. It's right up there with self preservation and protecting their young.
I think it has more to do with satisfying the instinct than protecting themselves from potential harm.
If a cat is really hungry, there is no fooling around. The prey's neck is broken with one swift bite. The force with which the cat makes first contact is often enough to do the job.
I once saw a stray catch and eat a moderate sized mouse in under 2 min. There was nothing left but the intestines.
If a cat plays with it's prey it's because it simply isn't hungry enough to kill it. The stalk/catch instinct doesn't allow the cat to let the prey go completely. The moment the prey takes off running - the cat HAS to give chase.
The moment the prey stops moving - the cat looses interest.
I think most domestic cats only end up eating the prey they've played to death because they may have drawn blood accidentally, or they eventually work up an appetite.

My one cat has never killed anything she caught - she never learned how. She'll catch them and bring them home until they stop moving or I take it away. My other cat has killed, but she'll only eat some of her prey if she draws blood whilst playing with it too roughly. She doesn't go after it with the intent to kill - she's too well fed for that.

Think about it this way. Doesn't it make more sense to dispatch of the thing that could potentially injure you in the quickest way possible? Playing around with it is prolonging the contact that could cause injury.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-02-2015, 09:40 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: East Coast of Canada
Posts: 36
When you see a cat playing with it's prey it's just that - playing with it's prey. Play in animals is a way to help develop neural connections in the brain. Playing with prey helps cats to develop essential hunting skills for survival, which is why mother cats will often bring injured prey to their kittens to play with, so they can learn how to hunt and eventually kill their meal, you'll see it in the greater cats like the lions, all the way down to our small domestic felines.

In adult cats that are experienced hunters like Dumine said, the cats probably aren't quite hungry enough at the time and so as a way to relieve a little stress they play with their food. When it's a true hunt for survival the kill is quick and to the point - cats are excellently swift killers when need be. When you look at it, playing with prey not only tires out the prey but also the cats, a swift kill is a much safer option but sometimes you just have to have a little fun. Cats don't have a sense of morality, they don't see it as "wrong" to play with an injured animal and throw it around, it acts as a stress relief for them, and it is a why to practice their highly ingrained instincts. To them playing with a live mouse and playing with da Bird is no different. If it scurries about it must be caught!
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-02-2015, 09:50 PM
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Most of the cats I have had were good mousers. Lets take two of them.

Pepper. She would catch them, but NEVER kill them. She would carry the mice to the bathtub and bat them around until the tub was covered in a fine red mist and the mouse was laying on it's side panting. (probably from exhaustion and every bone in it's poor body being shattered)

Sherbert on the other hand killed them immediately. If he was hungry he ate it then and there. If not ... I got a nice still warm gift. Guess he though I was pathetic enough not to feed myself. He usually finished off Peppers catches when she tired of them.

I think it is mainly the personality of the cats. Pepper KNEW how to kill them, she just didn't, she found it more fun to release and recatch. would have spoiled the hunt to kill it right away.

Both cats were well fed and didn't NEED to hunt. I don't think Pepper actually liked the taste of mice as food though. After an extended period of plying with one, then a thorough sniff after Sherbert killed it, she would go eat cat food... silly cat. (she would eat moles and quail though)

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Last edited by BotanyBlack; 05-02-2015 at 09:55 PM.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 05-02-2015, 10:26 PM
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It's a very necessary skill to learn! Tho' kittens may have the instinct...they have to learn to be successful hunters, that only comes from studying their prey, and learning what kinds of moves, the prey makes, how it reacts, etc...
This is why so many house cats can starve! The instinct is there, but no skill!
So people who dump their cats and think they'll be fine, because they know how to hunt....couldn't be more wrong at times!
Successful human hunters, study their 'prey' too!

"A Cat must have three different names:
An everyday family name; A particular name;
And the name but the Cat Himself Knows, and will never confess." T.S. Eliot

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