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Why all cats don’t hunt mice

 by lucy on 30 Aug 2018 |
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Not all cats want to hunt mice. Contrary to popular belief hunting is a learned skill.

Every cat owner has watched his pet stalk and attack his favorite toy, but not all domesticated felines actually hunt and kill prey. It turns out, hunting is a learned behavior and our companions must watch other cats to hone the skill.
All animals are born with instinctual behaviors that help them survive. A kitten does not need to watch another cat to know how to nurse, for example, but he does observe adult cats to learn other life skills. Unlike instinctual actions, these learned behaviors take time and experience to master through trial, error and observation. Researchers long wondered whether cats engaged in hunting instinctually or learned to stalk and kill prey by watching their mothers until one nineteenth century scientist sought to answer the question. In his decade-long experiment, Professor Kuo Zing Yang raised several solitary kittens without influence from their mothers at the same time he cared for families of felines. He found that more kittens raised by hunting mothers grew up to be hunters themselves, while kittens raised by humans or mothers who didn’t hunt were more likely to ignore prey than chase it down.
While his study provided evidence that young cats learn to hunt from their mothers, the professor’s findings don’t mean cats are born entirely without hunting instincts. Housecats have no need to track prey for food, but a playful feline will still chase down a piece of string, catnip mouse or other toy. Our pets are born with the instinct to follow movement, then, but must hone their skills to become artful hunters. Without a mother cat to bring home prey and teach her kittens to hunt and consume it by example, many cats simply retain their chasing instincts without the desire to actually stalk and kill.
You can tap into your pet’s instinct to follow movement by engaging him in play with a fishing pole, balls or wads of paper that roll across the floor, stuffed animals, a laser pointer or other toys. Look for models that will spark your pet’s interest in searching, stalking and chasing to help keep your pet fit both mentally and physically. Switch out toys regularly to keep things interesting—and remember to never use your hand as a toy, as this can lead to bad habits.


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