All my new found Buddhist pacifist vegetarian mindful meditative contemplative live and let live philosophy, which I have been practicing this year, took a hit tonight when, just before bedtime, a moth flapped around my face. Eww! I leapt out of bed. Pumpkin leapt off the bed. And the chase was on. Would I get it, and trap it in a glass with a piece of card underneath, and set it free? Or would I let Pumpkin hunt it, give her something fun to chase, antidote to the humdrum of apartment life?
Pat Miller, of Peaceable Paws, in an article from the Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals, writes:
Feline critics often point to a cat’s predilection to catch, play with and kill small animals without actually eating them as proof of feline decadence. Without dwelling on the point that some humans regularly engage in somewhat similar behaviors, there are two answers to the age-old question of why cats don’t always eat what they kill: hunger, and instinct. Hunger is one factor in a cat’s prey drive, and if food were in short supply she would undoubtedly consume her kill.
Cats also hunt simply because they know how, and because the opportunity presents itself. When something rustles in the grass, or a bird hops past on a nearby driveway, the mighty hunter switches into autopilot mode; crouch, tense, tail twitch, wriggle and pounce. Only after the unfortunate victim has ceased struggling does the cat perhaps stop and think – hmmmm, I’m not really hungry now, am I?
Image courtesy Wikimedia, click for original file.
While I get upset by an image like this, one furry animal eating another (and debated whether to put it in this entry or not), it is Nature’s way. My Miss Pumpkin is a hunter, but without any opportunity to exercise her instinct to catch prey.
From Cat-It Design, the food maze.
What I’m realizing, with Pumpkin, is how much she needs that alternative to “hunting” – activities that mirror the hunt. One thing I’m going to try, prompted by this article by Maris Munkevics on his Pet-Happy website, is a puzzle for dispensing dry food. Now I feed Pumpkin mostly wet, but she also has some dry food in a small bowl which I place atop her cat tree.
Food hunting provides exercise that your cat will enjoy. It’s wild! Food doesn’t magically appear on plates. Animals, including cats, have to hunt it down. It usually accounts for the majority of exercise done by cats. Indoor cats can try this, too. You could hide small amounts of food throughout the house, and let your cat discover it with or without your guidance. Another option is to let your cat play with a so-called food dispenser toy, which releases treats as your cat plays with it. You could try puzzle feeders, which require your cat to solve a puzzle to receive a treat.
The idea is to make her work a little for her food. Much like I have to do. Well, rather less than I have to do. The food, placed in the upper tray, is gradually moved by her paw to the lower levels through holes on each level, until it drops to the tray at floor level. Will it work, or will it be yet another thing I donate to a cat charity or to friend who have more accomodating cats? *
For those of you whose cats go outdoors, there are some dangers associated with hunting which you should be aware of, writes Marilyn Krieger in
How to Exercise Your Cat’s Predator Instinct Without Letting Her Hunt [link]
One of these dangers is parasites and pathogens carried by the prey, which can lead to discomfort, illness or even death for your cat. Another is poisons: for instance, a rodent who has already eaten but hasn’t died from a poison trap. Think what happens when the cat chases prey: if it is healthy and large enough, it fights back–which could cause injury to your beloved companion. Are these risks worth taking?
Marilyn Krieger and her cat Sudan. Krieger says using clicker training is one way to stave off boredom.
Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, solves cat behavior problems…using force free methods that include environmental changes, management, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques. She’s based in the San Francisco Bay area, but will also do long-distance phone and Skype consultations.
Find other interesting behaviour articles (not just on cats) at the “public” section of Association of Animal Behaviour Professionals:
- The dry food maze is going to be donated to a cat shelter; not only was Pumpkin supremely disinterested, but I have decided to gradually move her from canned to raw food. Full report coming.