Why Do Cats Bring Gifts to Their Owners?

Do you have a cat that brings you special gifts? Some owners may receive offerings like their cat’s favorite toy, while other owners are the unlucky recipients of dead birds or rodents.

Why do cats bring gifts like these? And, is there anything a cat owner can do to stop this behavior?

To learn how to prevent your cat from bringing unwanted “gifts” into your house, it will help to understand the motivation behind this type of cat behavior.

Why Do Cats Bring Gifts?

This cat behavior can have a few different motivations behind it. You can start to understand your kitty’s gift-giving motivations by the type of items they offer.

Cats That Offer Toys as Gifts

Some cats may greet their owners in the morning or when they come home from work with one of their favorite toys. The motivation behind these types of gifts may be that your kitty is looking for some playtime.

Most owners find it difficult to resist giving their cat attention when they come sauntering over with a ball in their mouth. Try reserving some time each day to engage in play sessions that simulate hunting whenever it is that your cat usually brings you toys.

Cats That Bring Their Prey as Gifts

Cats are innate hunters and are instinctively attracted to quick moving objects. When a cat sees a small, furry or feathered animal moving about, such as a mouse or bird, she will most likely immediately crouch down and stare at it. She will probably even stalk and leap on the animal.

Each cat’s hunting ability varies due to their individual skills and experiences.

When a cat has successfully brought down her prey, she may play around with it or eat the entire animal or part of the body. Your cat may leave the body where she was when she lost interest in it, which means the owner may happen upon some unpleasant surprises.

Some cats may like to cache their kills in their favorite place in the house, and some vocalize while holding the dead prey in their mouth until the owner comes to check on them.

But why do they sometimes bring the prey to you as a gift?

Mothers will bring back dead or live prey to their kittens to teach them how to hunt. Some cats may have similar inclinations to share their prey with their owners. (Or secretly, I think that some cats may enjoy seeing the owners jump and scream when the mouse starts running around your feet.)

Usually, the owner tries to get the dead animal away from the cat and may inadvertently reinforce their cat’s behavior. If the cat is holding the dead bird, and the owner tosses her a toy or treat in order to get the cat to drop it, then the cat may learn to bring more prey to the owner in order to get more attention or rewards.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Bringing Prey Into the House?

There are a number of options you can try. The first would be to not allow your cat outside. 

She cannot kill the local wildlife if she has no access to them. If your cat has outdoor access, she will be more likely to hunt and kill small prey than an indoor cat.

Keeping your cat busy indoors will keep your cat entertained and help satisfy her urge to hunt. Try a food-filled cat puzzle toy to keep your cat occupied.

If your cat is very persistent about being allowed outside, then you can take her out on a cat harness and leash and supervise her the entire time.

Or, you can provide her with a window box or a catio (patio for your cat) so that she can enjoy the outdoors without actually going outside.

You can also just appreciate the fact that your cat likes to bring you items. It may not be items you enjoy, but it is the thought that counts.

Featured Image: iStock.com/edith64

Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to...

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