Guest post by Will Hodges
A few months after Anya, our first feline family member, walked into our lives, I began to find one of her favorite toys in my bedroom every morning. This seemed odd to me, as all of her toys were kept on the main floor of our home, and bringing a fluffy toy ball all the way up the stairs and into the bedroom was definitely not an easy chore.
As a person who became a first-time cat guardian later in life, I found Anya’s behavior to be quite curious, until my son-in-law told me of a cat he had owned as a child that used to bring dead mice and birds into their house and leave them on the kitchen table. I also saw a news story that featured a report about Dusty the Klepto Kitty, a Snowshoe Siamese like Anya, who stole hundreds of items from neighborhood residents, including shoes, stuffed animals, and even underwear, and brought them home to his guardians. I realized then that Anya’s behavior wasn’t unique.
The reasons behind feline “gifting” or “collecting”, however, may be as elusive as the many reasons cats purr. And there are a number of possibilities for why a cat may bring “gifts” to her human caretakers.
• A cat may just be responding to an inherent “prey–retrieval” instinct. Since our felines are born hunters, she may be acting on their natural urge to kill and retrieve, bringing her “prey” back into a safe place. Those of us with indoor-only kitties, like Anya, may find that the catch of the day is a toy or object that our cats play with – like she might play with prey before catching and killing it.
• Some behaviorists believe that a kitty may be giving you her highest compliment when she brings you the result of her latest “hunt”, and that the gift is brought because she loves you and cares about you.
• Others believe that cats look upon humans as poor hunters, unable to provide sustenance for themselves. So, the gift of a toy mouse (or a real mouse) is to provide for the human caretaker.
• Similarly, some believe that many spayed female cats (like Anya) who have no young have a natural tendency to pass along their hunting wisdom. More female cats are gifters than male cats. So perhaps these nightly activities are meant as lessons for us, as our cat is acting out her natural role as mother and teacher.
• Others think that our feline gifters are trying to encourage us to get up and play with them, or perhaps join them in a hunt for various treasures around the house.
• Finally, some behaviorists think that gifting may be an effort to “thank” the caretaker for providing food and a home for them.
In the four years that Anya has lived with us, she’s honed her gifting skills with anywhere from two to six toys appearing on the bedroom floor every single morning. She never forgets. In fact, she often cuddles with me when I’m drifting off to sleep, but immediately gets up – remembering the task at hand. I’m then treated to several brief sleep interruptions as she reports every delivery to me – with her special “look what I’ve got!” meow.
So, whatever the reason your cat brings gifts of toys, socks, clothing, or living creatures to you, remember that she loves you, and is sharing that love with each special delivery.
We would love to hear your stories of how “gifting” has affected your life and your relationship with you cat.
Will Hodges shares his Utah home with his wife and kitties Anya and Oscar. Keep up with Anya and Oscar on Anya’s Facebook page.