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Why do people believe that a cat bringing a headless mouse into the house is a gift to the owner ?

It just doesn't make sense to me; in my experience the cat brings in a mouse , plays with it until it's dead and loses interest; the owner seems irrelevant to the equation.

I like cats but they do not strike me as being particularly altruistic,
Any ideas?

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paganwonder7 years ago
Cats only tolerate us- at best!  The headless mouse/bird/snake/etc is the cat's attempt to disgust and disturb  &/or demonstrate how much they despise us by bringing us their leftovers (as royalty would do).
mlemaster6 years ago
well to a cat a mouse/bird/etc is a delicacy and to give it to us is there (strange) way of showing love.
bbtug7 years ago
Ok, now reading some of these posts was Funny, BUT- I work at a Animal hospital and I do Rescue and own 10 of my own cats. The reason they bring you things like that is because they know it's you that takes care of them and it's their way of helping out. pure and simple.
mikeasaurus7 years ago
... I know, right? I keep telling my cat "bring home a Merlot, or a Chianti!". Instead she comes home with mouse heads and bits of flesh with feathers.

I'm getting a dog next time.


Get one that sniffs out truffles and chantrells... ;-)
seandogue7 years ago
I doubt altruism has anything to do with it. I expect it's more a matter of fealty, and of reciprocation for what we do for them. And it's not a universal either. For every cat I've known who exhibits this trait, there's another that never behaved in this way.  Since all of our cats have been indoor/outdoor, and since the local sample set is only ~ 2 dozen, statistically my own experience is irrelevant, but coupled with the experiences that others have shared with me wrt to the behavior, I have no doubt that it's more than a coincidence.
I would also like to point out that this behavior is not exclusive to cat/human interaction. Cats in the wild that form family groups quite often "bring home the catch" to share with others of the group..

I'd hate to think that anyone with half a brain would think that it is simply a case of misguided anthropomorphism.
Re-design7 years ago
Ah, but humans are not particularly altruistic either.
lemonie7 years ago
If they drop it at your feet it may look like a gift. But then again, they may just want you to play with them?

L
That's true too. Keep-away and catch can be as much cat games as dog game, though they play by somewhat different rules. And a mouse is a pretty good motorized toy, at least until it's batteries run down or it gets broken.
(I should say, I suppose, that I like dogs and mice but identify with cats. And that I'm a firm believer that most animal cognition differs from ours more in degree than in kind -- and that we spend a heck of a lot of time making up conscious reasons for things the ape we're riding around in was going to do anyway.)
orksecurity7 years ago
Some cats clearly expect the human to do something with the mouse, or in response to their showing up with a mouse, so the owner isn't always "irrelevant."  Depends on the cat, depends on the cat's mood...

Domesticated cats consider humans part of their family. As such, they sometimes react like kittens and sometimes like adults. Bringing prey home is a behavior normally used to teach kittens what to hunt for; cats continue doing it just because it's a standard behavior.

If you want to try to interpret it, you can think of it as the cat saying "Here. I caught this. It's good; try a bite. Now go catch your own." Or, if you prefer, "Hey, Mom, I think I broke my toy." Or "I've brought home leftovers/take-out." The truth is probably somewhere between those and "don't ask me, it just seemed like the right thing to do".


Don't complain about the headless mouse. A friend of a friend reports having a cat which would bring live mice into the house all summer and hunt them all winter.
codongolev7 years ago
 hey.... a cat's got a dead mouse in it's mouth, it wants back inside the house.... where else is it going to put the mouse?
Re-design7 years ago
Maybe they just want to give us something to wonder about.

THere is more going on inside a cat than most people imagine.
I've heard said "People don't have cats, cats have human-slaves"...

L
That's pretty close!
acidbass7 years ago
it is a gift my friend has 6 cats and he always has dead moles and crap on his front porch