why do cats bring home dead animals

Why do Cats Bring Home Dead Animals?

It’s frustrating, upsetting and most of all, it’s gross. If you own cats that you allow to go outside, chances are you’ve experienced the unpleasantness of discovering dead birds, mice, and other small creatures on your doorstep when you let them back in. Even worse, your kitty might be so inclined to bring the deceased animals inside the home!

This lethal behavior leaves cat owners feeling annoyed and confused as to why their precious pet behave this way. Cats are usually such civilized creatures, so why do they do this? Is your cat simply a cold-blooded killer, or is there more than meets the eye to this issue? Read on to discover the reason your cats might be bringing you gory gifts.

cat chasing a mouse

Natural-Born Hunters

What could be going on inside your kitty’s mind? Well, the first thing that we need to acknowledge about felines is that at their core, they are natural born hunters and their wild instincts are very much still within them. In fact, studies have shown that the population of birds and rodents are likely to decline in areas where there are feral or indoor-outdoor cats. Researchers estimate that billions of small animals are killed each year by cats. Regardless how much you feed them, your cat’s instincts are always going to take over. The bottom line is, cats just really love to hunt!

However, this doesn’t mean they are evil monsters, it’s simply a matter of nature and instincts. Cats have evolved into efficient predators with razor sharp teeth, able to puncture flesh effortlessly. You might find your cat’s paws adorable, but they are perfectly designed for killing! They are cushioned to ensure silent stalking and are equipped with retractable claws. They also boast night vision, are diligent and agile. Although it has been almost 10,000 years since cats were first domesticated, their hunting instincts inherited from their wildcat ancestors still remain.

A Gruesome Game

In addition to their hunting instincts, cats have also retained the ability to digest raw meat from their predecessors. Despite this, cats very rarely eat the animals that they catch. You may have witnessed this yourself if you’ve ever had to catch and release an injured mouse from your home. It seems quite cruel, but cats often attack animals and play with them, usually choosing to bat them between their paws or keeping them enclosed in their mouths.

This is quite a lot more brutal than hunting for nourishment in the wild and you should attempt to discourage this behavior. Sadly, there is not a whole lot you can do to stop your kitty killing, but playing with them regularly will keep their mind (and claws!) occupied. Why not purchase some toys for cats that mimic the squeaky noise of mice and other small creatures? Cats also love feathery toys due to their likeness to birds.

Related Post: Why do Cats Chatter at Birds?

Motherly Love

Although the last thing you might want to receive is a dying squirrel in your living room, your cat might actually just trying to please you. In the wild, feline mothers will teach their kittens how to hunt for their food by bringing dead or injured animals to them. Unfortunately for us, their domestic counterparts do exactly the same thing. You see, our pet cats see us as their family, in particular, their kittens. It all sounds very sweet, but sadly with grisly results.

Wild cats teach their kittens to hunt gradually by first bringing dead animals to their babies, to show them what their prey looks like. The next step is to offer them a dying, injured animal for them to kill themselves. Once they have completed their deadly task, the mother cat will then take them out for a real hunting lesson. By leaving a gory little parcel on the doorstep, your cat is simply acting out their motherly role and in a strange way, showing you how much they care for you. It makes sense that spayed female cats are the most common kind of cat to bring little gruesome presents to your door, as they are most likely to have maternal instincts. They learn to pass on their hunting skills, but with no kittens of their own, they ‘adopt’ their owners as surrogates.

Trying to Impress

If you own a male cat who brings you dead creatures, there may be a perfectly valid reason for this too. Cats are, at their core, highly territorial and competitive animals. Even if your tom cat is neutered, he still may feel the need to show you and any other cats around that he is well and truly the alpha male.

cat hunting

As we’ve established, cats are born to hunt, and an intact or neutered male cat is liable to want to showcase this instinct. They may be playing out a desire to teach you and impart their hunting wisdom, just like a mothering feline. Without the presence of kittens, cats will attempt to ‘mentor’ their human family members. However, the case may be that your cat may be asserting his dominance in a bid impress.

We may all love our cats dearly and crown them as the most loveable and sweet creatures to grace the planet, however the truth is, they are seriously skilled mouse assassins! These instincts are deep rooted within them and there’s not much we can do to squash them. So next time Mr Snuffles drops a half dead rodent on your sofa, try not to get too mad. They are just trying to teach you the hunting skills you obviously lack, and gift you with what they consider to be a tasty treat! In a weird way, your precious cat is just attempting to show you how much they love you.


  1. Melissa Schindler, Do Cats Leave Dead Mice as Presents?, The Nest
  2. Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB, Why Do Cats Bring Gifts to Their Owners?, PetMD
  3. Dr. Marty Becker DVM, How Do I Stop My Cat From Bringing Me Dead Mice?, VetStreet
  1. Mary
    Nov 07, 2021

    My brings in snakes,birds,mice. Sometimes they’re alive but he only wants to play with it. I have thank him and told them we don’t like those kind of presents.

  2. Mar 24, 2020

    My Hazelnut had leapt in the window of my first-floor, ground level apartment’s window with a live winged cockroach in her mouth, sending me running and screaming to get the bug spray.

    I have found a skeleton of a lizard in the hall and two dying birds I’ve tried to save but died before I had the chance to take them to the vet. They also eat flies.

Leave a reply

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!