Why Do Cats Hoard Useless Items & Bring Us Gifts?

October 21, 2015

cats hoard david blackwellBy Langley Cornwell

Most cat owners have seen evidence that their feline friend is a hoarder in one way or another. They might find a stash of trinkets near the cat’s food dish, or a collection of toys where the cat spends the most time relaxing. Whatever tactics cats employ, they do it in plentiful numbers and leave their owners baffled. There are some opposing theories as to why a cat’s hoarding behavior occurs in the first place.

Developing Hunting Skills

Just as all animals have natural instincts and practice using them when they are young, so goes the life of a cat. They are hunters and they have to teach their children, or kittens, to appreciate their prey. They might bring dead prey to their young kittens in order to start feeding them solid food. Eventually, they will also bring live food to the young ones so that they too can practice the art of the kill.

Some speculators believe that a cat’s hoarding behavior is simulating bringing the prey back to the home base. This is why cats often bring it to their food dish. Even finding the item in the first place may be part of the skill of the hunt. You can see this behavior demonstrated when cats practice stalking behavior on things they aren’t going to kill, or can’t kill. It’s just part of their developmental process.

Tending to the Young

Another theory concerns how cats tend to their young directly. Mother cats keep their kittens in one area to ensure their safety. When a curious kitten starts to wander off, the mother cat will seek the kitten out and bring it back to the safe area. Some believe that the hoarding practice is just a cat sharpening their nurturing skills. Yet, others wonder why even male cats hoard if this is the case.

In the animal kingdom, there are specific gender roles that the male and female each follow. This doesn’t mean they don’t know how to perform the other roles. In fact, the circle of life demands that each gender can perform all roles in order to prepare for the loss of the other gender. In other words, a male cat who doesn’t normally tend to the kittens should still know how to do it just in case something happens to the female cat. This is the case in almost every animal, since the purpose of every creature is to perpetuate the existence of the species in general.

cats hoard airwolfGifts of Prey

As predators, cats sometimes hunt even when they don’t have to, such as when they have owners who regularly fill their food dish with nutritious CANIDAE pet food. It goes against the instinct of a cat not to hunt, but why do they sometimes bring the prey to their owners? Again, there are theories about this behavior as well.

Helpless Humans

One theory suggests that cats really do think they are the superior species. By default, this would suggest that we humans are inferior and need tended to. This concept might be further developed when cats see people cleaning their litter boxes and never hunting. If this is true, the gift of prey is the cat’s way of saying they will take care of their humans, even if their humans don’t appreciate it.

Giving Thanks

Another theory suggests that these gifts of prey are given in appreciation for what the human does for the cat. As finicky as some felines are about the time they actually spend with their humans, maybe the gift of a squirrel or mouse is meant to make up for past neglects.

And then there is the idea that cats just enjoy collecting things and hunting for the sake of the kill, showing off their prey as if to remind humans that we aren’t really a necessity in the feline world.

Top photo by David Blackwell./Flickr
Bottom photo by Airwolfhound/Flickr

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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