Your Cats Primal Hunting Instincts

Posted July 10, 2015

Pleasing the Predator Within: How to Engage Your Cat’s Hunting Instincts

As a cat owner you probably know there’s a predatorial hunter lurking within even the most lazy and pampered of pot-bellied indoor felines. The signs of this untamed inner killer are many: her weird, threatening chattering at the oblivious birds on the other side of the window glass; the way she mercilessly toys with the unfortunate insects who enter the house; the strange, shimmying shake of her hindquarters as she hones in and pounces on a scrap of paper lying on the floor; her habit of jumping out and ambushing you as you cross a corner to walk down the hallway. Centuries of domestication have not extinguished the hunting instincts of housecats. Unleashing and exercising those instincts on a regular basis can greatly improve your cat’s quality of life and level of fulfillment. To do this, though, your cat needs your help!

Born To Hunt

Cats’ bodies are perfectly designed for hunting prey. Their strong and flexible physiques, lightning-fast reflexes, and sharp teeth and claws are fierce enough; add to those traits their incredible hearing and night vision, and it’s clear that cats are designed to be predators. While living inside is safer for domestic cats and generally contributes to a longer life, the “great indoors” don’t exactly provide all the opportunities for hunting and stimulation that even your backyard does. Here are ways to allow your kitty to show off all the slinky talents he was born with.

Make Him Work for It

Creating a “treasure hunt” situation in which your cat has to seek and find his food will help satisfy his hunting instinct and somewhat mimic what life is like in the wild. Hide his favorite treats or food on shelves or furniture, in toys, on the highest platform of his perch, and in other creative places. As time progresses, make these treasure hunts more challenging for your cat by hiding the kibble in increasingly hard-to-find places. Do this before you leave for the day to keep your kitty from feeling bored and lonely in your absence; evening is also a good time—it’s when the inner hunter really likes to come out and play!

Delight Her With a Dangling Toy

Few cats can resist this method of play, which cat behavior consultant and author Pam Johnson-Bennett says really evokes and satisfies their hunting urge. It’s a technique that mimics real-life hunting because it prompts cats to stalk, pounce, and catch their “prey.” The ideal tool for this technique is a pole with a dangling object on its end, like West Paw Design’s Kitty Lure Caster combined with any of the toys designed to work with it. Imitate prey by dragging the toy away from your cat, making sure to prevent frustration by letting her catch it periodically. Toward the end of your play session, start slowing down, just like tired prey. After your kitty catches the toy one last time, feed her a nice meal! Pleasing the predator within your cat isn’t nearly as complex as cats themselves; it’s really just a matter of making life more interesting, and making time to play!

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