Why Do Cats Bring Gifts to Their Owners?


If you’re a cat owner, chances are you’ve woken up to some form of a dead critter on your doorstep – or at the foot of your bed … or in your shoe. My cat, Rascal, is guilty of all of the above, including one poor little lizard left on my pillow. Let’s just say he’s lived up to his name.

If your cat has ever left a dead mouse on the back porch, or even left their favorite stuffed mouse in your shoe, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why does my cat do this? Are they leaving me a gift? Are they just bloodthirsty killers?” The long and short of it? It all comes down to instinct.

Though they were first domesticated nearly 10,000 years ago, housecats retain the keen hunting instincts of their wild ancestors. Almost every fluffy inch of your cat is designed to hunt and kill prey, from the tips of their cute noses to their adorable paws. Consider their incredibly sharp retractable claws, teeth meant for piercing flesh, cushioned paws designed for stealth, whiskers that detect movement and vibrations in the air, and sensitive ears that can detect tiny variances in sounds up to one-tenth of a tone apart.

Needless to say, it’s difficult for a cat to deny its nature, even if their food bowl is full.

So we know why cats are so awesome at annihilating small animals. Why do they insist on bringing them to you?

It's all about prey drive.

As explained above, cats were born to hunt. And when your cat finally lets out that natural, instinctive urge to hunt and brings it back to you, your cat is acting out its inherent “prey-retrieval” instinct, which essentially means bringing their kill back to a safe place to eat. Indoor kitties that have no live “prey” to hunt might substitute a favorite toy mouse or ball. This is because while cats are natural predators, they’re also small enough to be considered prey to larger predators. They’re just looking for a safe place to snack! 

How to Redirect That Prey Drive

A cat’s natural desire to hunt cannot – and should not – be suppressed. Don’t punish your cat for doing what comes naturally to them! A great way to satisfy your cat’s natural instincts is to redirect that strong prey drive with toys. If your cat seems to enjoy stalking birds, wand and feather toys are a great solution. And if your cat likes more land-locked prey like mice or lizards that move and zip really fast, the remote control Mouse Hunt Toy is a great way to redirect that natural hunting behavior; with its realistic mouse appearance and speedy movements, it gives your cat the ideal hunt: stalk, chase, and catch. And it gets you involved and playing with your cat, too, which helps you bond with your kitty! 

Mouse Hunt Cat Toy

A cat needs mental stimulation, especially if it is a cat that seems to have a strong prey drive. If it doesn’t have anything to hunt, chase, and catch, then it will find something to fulfill its prey drive … and then it’s lights out for Mickey Mouse. And you’re left with the task of rodent body removal. Yikes.

Engage your kitty in plenty of play every day to redirect their natural hunting behaviors. This not only reduces behavioral problems for cats that are prone to bringing mice or lizards to your door but also gives your cat plenty of exercise!

Your cat thinks you’re a bad hunter.

Some behaviorists believe that cats see us humans as bumbling, inferior hunters who simply can’t provide for themselves. So the gory “gift” of a dead critter (or toy mouse, for indoor kitties) is a way for your cat to try and provide for the poor, dumb human who wouldn’t know what to do with a mouse if bit us on the butt. Which … well, they’re not exactly wrong!

Your cat is trying to teach you.

In the wild, momma cats teach their young how to hunt and eat their prey by bringing home dead or injured prey. Domestic cats may be doing the same! Spayed female cats are most likely to bring “gifts” to their owners. But unable to have kittens of their own to pass on their knowledge to, their humans are the next best thing. So when your cat brings you a dead mouse (or a half-dead mouse), she may be acting out her role as mom and teacher.

Does your cat bring you "gifts"? Let us know in the comments!


  • Annie

    When we moved into our new Hawaiian home, very wild & full of wild cats. he cat we inherited brought us a present of 5 or 6 huge rats, really really huge rats! She placed them on patio area near the back lanai. Not knowing they were there, I backed up not seeing them and was standing on something very squishy. Welcome to my new home❣️

  • Lorry

    If my cat would bring home a slice of pizza, I would be happy! LOL ;-)

  • Kimberly

    Thank you for the post! Needed to know why a trio of feral kittens keeps leaving little trinkets on my front porch: bottle caps, big leaves, but mostly bird feathers — one medium sized bird feather carefully placed right in front of the door :)

  • Tari

    Our nearly 3 year old domestic longhair female recently started leaving dead or half dead mice at our doorstep. It freaked my kids out, but I just explained that’s it’s a cat’s instinct to hunt and that mice decimate crops and can carry disease. I told them to praise her for her amazing hunting skills and helping keep the local rodent population down. Proud of our kitty!

  • Gayle T

    I cannot have a cat(s), because my hubby and I allergic to them. So bad that if he is around them too long, he has breathing issues.
    Anyway, I have been trapping feral and stray cats and taking them to the TNVR (Trap Neuter Vaccinate Release) Program at one of the No-Kill Shelters and Recues. Afterwards, they stick around for quite a while and I feed them in the mornings and evenings. When it’s cold outside, I leave my garage door open about 6 inches for them to come in and have a warm place to sleep. I have given them all names. Francis is the Big Tom who was getting all the females pregnant. I managed to trap hm after 5 weeks of trying. He was a crafty critter for sure. He has been around nearly a year and last night he decided to leave me a “Thank you” gift. As I was going outside to leave food and water for my colony, I nearly stepped on a half-eaten eviscerated rat. Francis left it right on the stoop so I would see it when I came out. I checked the Ring and yep, it was Francis.
    This happened once before. One of the colony cats (before Francis) left a half-eaten dead squirrel by the door in the garage leading inside.I asked the Vet why they do this and he said, “They are saying Thank you for feeding them and want to share their fresh catch of the day with you. It’s an honor for them to do that.”
    Well, needless to say, I thanked Francis for hunting for this mere mortal and for wanting to share with me.

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.