Why Does Your Cat Bring You Gifts?

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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.

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Anya caught in the act of bringing me her favorite toy ball

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.

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Anya showing off her catch on New Year’s morning

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.

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This gift didn’t make it up to the bedroom, but was lovingly placed in my shoe.

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.

12 Comments on Why Does Your Cat Bring You Gifts?

  1. Harold Anderson
    January 24, 2018 at 9:38 pm (1 month ago)

    My First Cat that I had as an adult Mischief 1993-2013 carried around a yellow toy mouse her whole life, it was one of the first toys she had and throughout her life she carried it everywhere, in fact she never played with any other toys, every night she carried the mouse and put it in my bed, if it ever was stuck or in an inaccessible location she would meow very loudly until I “rescued” it. When it came time to send her to Heaven the mouse went with her.

    Reply
  2. silvia shanahan
    January 24, 2018 at 1:54 pm (1 month ago)

    Some years ago, during the fall season, one of my cats used to gather a lot of dry leaves in his mouth and bring them inside…it was so sweet to watch. He’d have some in his mouth and then pick up a few more

    I wish he did this now….it’s usually either a live or dead mouse.
    I have learned that I need to walk though the kitchen with my eyes on the floor to avoid stepping on them…yukk

    Reply
  3. Beth
    January 24, 2018 at 12:02 pm (1 month ago)

    Tigger, our 4 year old tawny tabby, is our gifter. He brings us wand toys and crinkle balls. We always praise him, and will then play with whatever toy he has brought us. He is the first cat we have had that plays “fetch” until he tires out. Then he keeps the toy by laying on it.
    He has also caught a few mice in the house. A couple he has killed. The others we managed to get away from him and free them outside. He is a natural hunter for sure.

    Reply
  4. Beth B
    January 24, 2018 at 9:02 am (1 month ago)

    Our female cat, Huli, brings in live mice from time to time, to whatever room I’m in, and lets them go while looking at me (just me, the only woman in the house, not ever the guys). She is obviously expecting me to catch them. I do get them with a live trap and return them to the outdoors. We have one vet who is also an animal communicator and we asked her to discuss this with Huli and ask her to stop doing it. According to the vet, Huli responded that she wasn’t sure she could stop, but that she would follow my wishes as to whether they were alive or dead when she brought them to me. I chose alive. When asked what she expected me to do with them, she reportedly responded, “Cook them up!” 😀

    Reply
  5. Janine
    January 24, 2018 at 9:00 am (1 month ago)

    Miss Kiki used to always put toys next to my pillow at night, but she seems to have outgrown it now. I miss waking up to one of her presents. My other two never really gifted us with anything.

    Reply
  6. Gayle Brady
    January 24, 2018 at 8:09 am (1 month ago)

    My Whitey brought a live mouse to my bedroom in the middle of the night. I was sleeping and heard a weird meow which woke me up, there was just enough light in the room to see him with a mouse dangling out of his mouth by the tail. He dropped it and it scurried under my bed. My Snuff brings me her favorite toy every night….

    Reply
  7. Paula D.
    January 24, 2018 at 7:59 am (1 month ago)

    Our Pandora is the “gifter” of the family, her (biological) sister never brings us a thing! “Pandy” will also come to bed with us and only after everyone is settled, will get up & go downstairs for a “gift.” The cutest thing is to hear her meowing as she’s carrying it up to us! After some lavish praise, she finally settles in. A sweet way to end the day!

    Reply
  8. Owner of a great hunter :)
    January 24, 2018 at 7:43 am (1 month ago)

    This behaviour is so adorable! My cat brings me his favourite toy mouse several times a day. I usually tell him what a good hunter he is, pet him, and throw the mouse, and he fetches it. So I think that he brings it because he knows that he gets attention and playtime. He can fetch it up to 10 times and clearly has a lot of fun. But his relationship with that mouse toy is very special. He carries it everywhere with him. They go to eat together and they come to bed together. Sometimes the cat stops eating, looks at the mouse, a feet away from the food bowl, and brings it closer, as if he thinks that the poor mouse was left too far from the food. The cat also always, always eats only half of the food provided, with astonishing geometrical accuracy. As if he leaves half for his toy. It’s so amazing and funny. He acts like the mouse is both his prey and his friend or offspring. He chews the mouse so that they only last for few weeks and have to be replaced because they completely fall apart – he has had about closer to a hundred of them. They are said to include catnip, but he does not react to any other toy with either catnip of matatabi (silver vine), so we really have not figured out what makes these toys so very special, expect for that he has had one ever since he was born, because these soft cute mice were the first toys given to the kittens, when they were very little.

    The cat also gets to hunt outdoors when we walk him on a leash, and he catches a bird or a rondet sometimes. He always runs directly towards home with his prey, and we of course tell him what a great hunter he is, although we feel sad for the animals he kills. They are never let to suffer but we kill them if his birst bite was not deadly.

    One possible explanation for this giftbehavior in general, that was not listed on this great post, was that maybe the common evolution of cats and humans has favoured this behaviour. Cats that brought rodent prey so that humans saw it were considered good hunters and probably favoured over cats that were not seen doing anything useful. Mayb ethe cats were bringing food for their kittens in the first place, but this behaviour turned into just bringing the prey where humans see it, even when there arent any kittens to feed at the moment. I know a case where a farmer said out loud that he will probably shoot one of his cats, because he never hunts and is of no use for him. The cat brought three dead voles at his door the next morning, and was let to live. A terrible person and a terrible story, but true.

    Reply
    • Will Hodges
      January 25, 2018 at 2:10 pm (1 month ago)

      Interesting story, and what a sweet situation with your cat and his favorite toy mouse.

      Reply
  9. Patricia
    January 24, 2018 at 4:28 am (1 month ago)

    I had a cat named Mitsu, who always brought home her catch of the day for me. I consider it her gift to me. She would drop it right on my doorstep.

    Reply
  10. Adriana Gasperi
    January 24, 2018 at 2:26 am (1 month ago)

    So cute! A couple of my cats do that and I wake up to thank them in the middle of the night 🙂

    Reply

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