By their very nature, cats are excellent hunters who thoroughly enjoy stalking their prey. For domesticated cats, their “prey” can be something as simple as an insect or a wind up toy. But, is it always healthy and normal for a cat to stalk, or is there ever a reason to be concerned about a stalking cat?
As I commented even domesticated cats have the natural instinct to hunt and to stalk. With an indoor cat, stalking generally speaking is not an indication of hunger. More likely they are stalking their prey out of curiosity or because they simply need to add a little excitement to their lives. Hunting and stalking also helps the cat to get a little exercise and also provides a release for pent up energy.
For the most part, domesticated cats prefer chasing mice or other small rodents. Some even enjoy stalking and catching rabbits and birds and they will spend many hours watching their prey. A domesticated cat that is well fed will generally just play with the prey rather than try to eat it. In fact, it is rare for a well cared for domesticated cat to eat its prey. Many people think cats are cruel because they play with their prey, but this is just simply the cat’s way of satisfying its natural hunting instinct and of getting exercise.
When a cat uses its stalking skill to hunt for prey, it moves quietly and attracts very little attention. Cats particularly enjoy stalking in areas with high grass because it helps prevent their prey from seeing them. This stalking instinct can be more than a little disturbing for those cat owners who are also bird lovers. If a cat has a tendency to stalk wild birds that the cat owner wants to be left alone, it can be a good idea to tie a bell around the cat’s neck. This will help warn the birds of the nearby stalking cat although it will of course frustrate the cat who may try to remove the bell!
Besides destroying the wild bird population with their stalking and hunting instincts, some cats can begin to exhibit their stalking behaviours in negative ways. Indoor cats that are the only cat in the household are most likely to develop negative stalking behaviours. For example, a cat can learn the patterns of behaviour of its owner. So, when it hears the owner arrive home, it might engage in stalking mode and pounce on the owner and bite them on the ankle when they gets home. This behaviour is sometimes referred to as predatory-play aggression because it combines elements of play with elements of predatory behaviour.
When this happens, the owner quite understandably becomes upset. The owner might tell the cat off or even spray them with water to attempt to make the cat stop the behaviour. However, this will rarely succeed in modifying the cat’s behaviour
Modifying Stalking Behaviour
Indoor cats tend to engage predatory-play aggressive behaviour more than outdoor cats. This is because indoor cats are more likely to become bored. In addition, outdoor cats have a far greater number of options for fulfilling their predatory behaviour. These include stalking small outdoor animals, insects, and birds.
For the indoor cat, however, buying some toys that the cat can stalk is a good idea. These give the cat the opportunity to engage in its natural predatory instincts in a healthy way. The cat should have access to toys that both involve the owner and those that do not. Toys that involve the owner help to create a bond between the pet and its owner. On the other hand, cats also need to learn how to engage in solitary play and this includes stalking and other predatory behaviours.
Toys that are lightweight and easy to move are the best types of toys to help the cat engage in its stalking behaviour. Bouncy toys are also a good choice, as are toys that hand from the top of doors or from doorknobs. Toys that hang from other items should be moved around the house, however, to help keep the cat’s environment different and enriching. Toys can even be hidden in places such as laundry baskets to add to the excitement.
Toys that resemble the natural prey of cats, such as mice, are also good choices. In addition, toys should be large enough to prevent choking, but small enough to be easily moved by the cat. The material used to create the toy should also be indestructible. Otherwise the cat, particularly kittens, will destroy the toy. This is not only messy, but also poses as a choking hazard.
A cat that is properly stimulated with toys that allow it to utilize its stalking skills will be far healthier than one that is not. In addition, the cat will be far less likely to pounce on or harm the owner or the owner’s furnishings!