Why Does Your Cat Bring You Gifts?

cat-carrying-toy

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.

toy-in-shoe

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.

32 Comments on Why Does Your Cat Bring You Gifts?

  1. Ronda Heathcott
    September 16, 2018 at 11:21 pm (1 month ago)

    I read your story about Anya taking gifts of toys to her Human every night. I wanted to tell you about our Charlie! He is solid black and rescued behind the library when he was about 2 months old…..we love him so much! Charlie goes in and out of the house as he pleases and about a month ago we noticed green walnuts at the back door, then there were hickory nuts, and then there was bark from trees. Lol! Several times a day we find one of the items or all three at the back door. We see him coming across the yard carrying his treasures……he sometimes is forced to drop the bark outside the fence or the pet door going in the garage due to its size….but sometimes he maneuvers it in the pet door. Lol! I thank him and love on him for every gift….he once was bringing small critters and I was not very pleased about that! I am now very happy with his gifts and keep them all…..I have a small box by the back door and it is full of walnuts, hickory nuts, and tree bark, I will be getting a bigger box soon.

    Reply
  2. Dawn svoboda
    August 31, 2018 at 3:06 pm (2 months ago)

    Right before reading this my cat came in and brought me a unicorn headband, it was hilarious! I love him <3 he’s sleeping peacefully now next to me its so cute i wish i could do a pic.

    Reply
  3. Ev
    August 9, 2018 at 6:09 am (2 months ago)

    I have severe insomnia and get to watch some kitty behavior that regular people wouldn’t bc they’re actually asleep at 3am. Anyway, we have 3 cats and two dogs. If either of our two boys passes our girl or the two dogs nothing interesting happens for the most part. When one walks by the other boy, it can get a little more interesting. On many occasions I have seen the following scenerio:

    Cat A will be bringing us his toy, Cat B will instigate a minor scuffle between them. Now these aren’t fights, they’re just rough housing extremely actively. The kitty who wins the scuffle gets to be the one who brings us the toy that Cat A was carrying. There’s no pattern for which cat starts bringing the toy nor is there any pattern for which cat wins more often.

    This behavior has been going on for such a long time my wife and I have theorized that it’s no longer about just showing off the toy they’ve found. Instead, when one carries the toy it indicates to the other that it’s time for very rough play. The toy ends up going to whichever wins, who then gets to show off that he won tonight!

    Reply
  4. Stefani
    August 6, 2018 at 6:35 pm (2 months ago)

    Percy, my year old neutered male is an indoor/outdoor kitty with a dog door. In the last few months he has brought me 3 birds (2 alive), 4 adolescent opposums (all alive), 3 snakes (2 alive), a mouse (dead) and dozens of lizards. Usually he take it into the living room and meows. He’s very proud of himself. When I take it away and put it back outside, Percy isn’t concerned at all. His job is done.

    Reply
  5. Tina
    July 30, 2018 at 11:34 pm (3 months ago)

    One of our cats brings dirty clothes up from the laundry room (socks, washcloths and underwear are his favorites, biggest ambition was a pair of pants but they must have been too heavy bc he stopped half way up the bottom steps). He will also create a trail of dirty clothes up from the laundry room to bedroom. Most socks in one day was 13. Our other cat brings me live mice. He flips them around in the air, by me, sometimes on the bed. Then looks at me like, come on, play with me!

    Reply
    • Jane
      August 1, 2018 at 2:23 am (3 months ago)

      My 8 year old female cat has just within the past year started bringing me a gift every day. She’s indoor/outdoor, but never brings me dead animals, but paper objects. It started with photographs, but can be a business card, ticket or a boxtop. They are things she has to go out of her way to find, not ones that are lying around close by. She meows loudly while carrying it and always lays it on the corner of the living room rug, by the door, not close to me. She drops it and then goes about her business.

      Reply
  6. Jessica
    June 15, 2018 at 1:49 pm (4 months ago)

    I have a kitty who is almost one. She brings me her favourite toy mice every night while I sleep. I wake up to either the pink one, blue one or both at my face. When I wake up and shake them she comes over (from the end of the bed where she sleeps) and licks me like crazy. Maybe she really does appreciate the things we do for her! 🙂 my other two cats don’t do this so I think it’s so cute!
    (Although my oldest will actually kill and bugs and stuff and just eat it,, specially spiders,, he knows I’m scared! :P)

    Reply
  7. Nikki
    April 18, 2018 at 11:38 pm (6 months ago)

    My male cat brings me his favorite stuffed toy almost every night. I’ve never SEEN him bring it in, but while i’m sleeping he slips off into the living room and brings it back into the bed. When I wake up, both my cat and his toy are next to me with him eagerly awaiting me to tell him what a magnificent gift it is…. once it was gingerly placed ON my head lol 🙂 <3

    Reply
  8. Christa
    April 12, 2018 at 11:35 pm (6 months ago)

    I have a male cat that uses the doggy door. He has brought in live rabbits, baby squirrels, lots of mice, lots of birds, and dropped a snake at my feet last night while I was doing a workout in my garage. He’s a night roamed, so I’ve now put his food outside and blocked the doggy door. The snake was the last straw for me lol.

    Reply
  9. Pam Yarbrough
    April 12, 2018 at 6:34 pm (6 months ago)

    My bobtail ragdoll brings great gifts. It started with bedroom shoes, a stuffed snake, a 3yr old’s lamb’s wool lined denim coat. We have found various balls, safety vests and hats, a lottery ticket. And this Easter Sunday, he brought a stuffed yellow duck. When he cannot find these types of goodies, he will go across the ditch and find leaves that we do not have in the yard. It is always interesting to open the door when he does that ” I have you a present” meow. I love dogs, but cats are my favorite.

    Reply
  10. Judy
    April 12, 2018 at 8:42 am (6 months ago)

    As I was reading this my little kitty actually brought me her green mouse. Dropped it right in front of the keyboard, announcing it with her “I brought you this” voice. <3 my cats.

    Reply
    • Gayle Brady
      April 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm (6 months ago)

      Aren’t they the best…sometimes they can drive you up a wall, but then they do something like this and you just love them all the more.

      Reply
  11. Jennifer
    April 11, 2018 at 10:01 pm (6 months ago)

    If the Barbie dolls are left where she can get at them, one of my cats brings me them every night. I would wake to anywhere from 1 to 5 in my bedroom, sometimes even on the bed. As I am trying to fall asleep, I’ll hear the thumping as she drags them up the stairs by their hair. We even once had her gift us a Barbie head without the body. With several other “dead” Barbies in the background, all we really needed to complete the picture was some crime scene tape.

    Reply
  12. Jill
    April 11, 2018 at 12:26 pm (6 months ago)

    We have two cats, our 1 year old, Olive, brings us her toys, she loves paying fetch. What she does is bring us a toy, drops it next to us then waits for us to wake up and throw it. If we don’t wake up she will sit and stare until she gives up and goes to sleep. The senior cat, Cleo just walks around the house howling with a toy mouse in her mouth then tries to rip its head off. I’ve seen Olive bring Cleo a toy to play with too, she drops it in front of Cleo and looks from her to the toy as if to say, “my favorite toy you should try it”

    Reply
  13. Joy
    April 11, 2018 at 12:23 pm (6 months ago)

    My old girl Cleo, does something similar. It is my socks , she brings them to the bed. Then I wake up with her laying on them. An her looking at me like see here you go. An nuges me to let me know the here.

    Reply
  14. Ron Barnes
    April 11, 2018 at 12:02 pm (6 months ago)

    The window gets left open for my Gilbert while I’m in the house. I was in the bath when I hear some suspicious scrabbling noises that are a “I’ve caught something and brought it to show you” giveaway.

    A few minutes later and I have a live mouse swimming around in my bath (superb swimmers btw) and an excited cat running round the house trying to find it. I’m getting quite adept at catching mice now – his training regime is certainly working!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 12, 2018 at 5:48 am (6 months ago)

      I can honestly say that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that happening, Ron! Too funny!

      Reply
    • Tish Anderson
      April 12, 2018 at 4:40 pm (6 months ago)

      My daughter is often awoken with what we call DIY Murder Presents brought to her room – a live bird, several live mice along with dead ones. We are pleased he wishes to honor her with gifts but we can’t seem to convince him that once they are admired they need to be escorted out of the house.

      Reply
  15. Joze Smith
    March 29, 2018 at 2:46 pm (7 months ago)

    Our cat would bring us every night a gift. It started with a empty toilet roll, then some leaves, a stone, some tree bark and again to leaves. I find this very puzzeling

    Reply
  16. Harold Anderson
    January 24, 2018 at 9:38 pm (9 months 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
    • Roberta
      April 11, 2018 at 10:53 am (6 months ago)

      OMG, my Toni had a black “mouse” that she hunted and wouldn’t stop meowing until be acknowledged her “catch” I lost her in 2016, couldn’t burying it with her, it’s apiece of her that I had to keep.

      Reply
  17. silvia shanahan
    January 24, 2018 at 1:54 pm (9 months 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
  18. Beth
    January 24, 2018 at 12:02 pm (9 months 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
  19. Beth B
    January 24, 2018 at 9:02 am (9 months 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
  20. Janine
    January 24, 2018 at 9:00 am (9 months 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
  21. Gayle Brady
    January 24, 2018 at 8:09 am (9 months 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
  22. Paula D.
    January 24, 2018 at 7:59 am (9 months 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
  23. Owner of a great hunter :)
    January 24, 2018 at 7:43 am (9 months 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 (9 months ago)

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

      Reply
  24. Patricia
    January 24, 2018 at 4:28 am (9 months 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
  25. Adriana Gasperi
    January 24, 2018 at 2:26 am (9 months 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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