This Is Why Cats Love to Gift Their Owners Dead Animals

Those dead rabbits and rodents are a sign of love.

Cats are curious creatures, to say the least. As any proud pet owner knows, feisty felines enjoy scratching every surface, hiding for hours at a time, and playing not with their toys, but with garbage pails and shopping bags. However, what is easily every cat's most curious trait is their affinity for gifting dead animals. What is it about dead rabbits, mice, and birds that makes our feline friends think, "Yes, my owner would absolutely love this?"

In order to answer the question of why cats love giving dead animals as gifts, we need to take a closer look at the animal's ancestry. Though genetic analysis suggests that cats were first domesticated nearly 10,000 years ago, the fact remains that these creatures share genes and character traits with wild, ferocious felines like tigers—animals who rely on their ability to catch prey in order to survive.

Though cats have been living among humans—humans who routinely fill their bowls with kibble and tuna—for thousands of years, there remains in them the instinct to hunt down prey. And, since cats are hard-wired to share their haul with their superiors—in this case, humans—what you end up with is dead animals as gifts from them.

How often your cat gives you a dead animal as a gift depends largely on its gender. If you happen to have a spayed female cat, for instance, then it's likely that you're getting gifted dead animals more often than not. Why? As Edward O. Price notes in his book Principles and Applications of Domestic Animal Behavior: An Introductory Text, mother cats in the wild provide sustenance for their babies while they're still immobile and, when the time is right, they "take [their] kittens on hunting expeditions where they can learn how to capture prey." And, without any young to care for, a female feline usually uses her maternal hunting instincts on the next-best thing: her human owner.

So, the next time your cat shows up at the back porch with a dead animal in their mouth, try to keep in mind that it's simply in their nature to do so and they're only giving you dead animals as gifts because they consider you family. At the end of the day, it's a loving gesture. And for more answers to your burning questions about your pets, discover Why Dogs Smile.

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