Do Cats Hunt Because of Hunger?

Mouse sitting on a cat«'s head.
Photo by Denis Defreyne.

Cats are well known hunters. In the Medieval Europe they were associated with witch-crafting and were treated like evil animals. The only reason they were at least bit tolerated and “accepted”, was because, when it came to protecting granaries from rodents, like mice or rats, the domestic cat had no competition.

But if they are that good hunters, does it mean they are extremely hungry?

We all have heard that animals hunt when they are hungry only. It a popular argument for those opposing trophy hunting. But is it true? Do really cats hunt when they are hungry? Why then our household cats, who are fed by humans still hunt?

Scientists conducted an experiment. They were wondering, how a cat would act, if he had a possibility to hunt indefinite amount of mice. Would it stop when his tummy full? Not exactly.

They were providing the cat with mice one after another. Interesting thing is, the cat did not decline when he was full. That is, he stopped eating them, but he’d still caught them and killed. And only when he was totally exhausted, he left the mouse alone.

But does it mean that cats hunt for joy then?

So, it proves, that the cat do not need to be hungry, to still hunt. Just like humans? Well, not exactly. While trophy hunting indeed is a form on fun or a way to brag, cats hunt for different reasons.

Hunting behavior exhibited by cats is complex in means of it’s origin, but most behaviorists agree – this is innate, but requires a ton of practice to become perfect.

And there you have two perfect reasons, why do cats hunt, no matter if they are hungry or not.

First, it’s innate. They see a mouse, they hunt it. It’s instinctive, so there are no precious seconds to waste and think if an opportunity rises. In nature, cats rarely are able to hunt more mice than they can eat. Most commonly it’s less, they see a mouse, they must hunt it. Otherwise, they’d starve. Besides that, not all hunts are successful.

Second, they need a practice. Kittens start by occasionally batting dead, or almost dead prey with their paws. Later on mother cat brings wounded prey to them and releases it, so kittens can practice. Practice makes perfect, and, in order to become perfect, hunting when the cat is hungry only, is not enough.

Cat has to hunt more that it can. In many cases, he may bring it back to his fellow cats in the same colony, or to their owners at the front door. Have you experience’s it? It’s a great gesture.