Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Cats never fully domesticated. They still have very strong hunting instincts. People with indoor cats will have to give their cats plenty of play time, preferably in a semi-dark room. (Curtains drawn with just enough light to see what you’re doing to mimic night hunting. Cats love it.)
We live in the countryside and our cats can go out to hunt. They’re allowed out at night now too, as they’re fully grown and don’t have to fear foxes or other night hunters. They can come in and out as they please.
Charlie and Tina are great hunters. They often catch shrews, mice, rats and sometimes birds. Charlie came home with a rabbit once. I was highly impressed. Every now and again I rescue a poor rodent that is still very much alive but is being tossed around by one of them.
People who don’t like cats often say that cats are cruel. They “play” with their prey for quite a while before killing it. These people project human qualities on cats. Cats don’t do cruel. What you see is not play, but pure self-preservation.
Rodents can give nasty bites, so cats wear out their prey before the kill, to prevent being bitten. Cats are solitary hunters, so any wound could jeopardise their hunting abilities and thus their survival. That’s why cats don’t fight when it isn’t absolutely necessary. Territorial disputes with other cats often consist of a stand-off with a lot of hissing and growling until one of them backs down.
Cats that are allowed outside often bring back “presents” for their humans. It is the biggest compliment a cat can give you. He sees you as family. So when you find a dead rodent or bird on the floor, try and remain calm, praise your cat and give him or her some nice food. While your cat is not looking, discretely get rid of the dead critter. Sometimes they bring in prey that they eat themselves. Your cat might then even growl at you when you come near. It’s his/her food and there’s no sharing this time.
Because of our cats and them bringing in prey, we have a lot of anti-bacterial cleaning agents in the house. Floor wash, surface cleaner, hand wash, and even our washing-up liquid is anti-bacterial. There’s always a bottle of Milton handy and we have a steam cleaner that we can use on carpets, beds and upholstery. I also have a pair of gardening gloves handy because every now and then they bring in prey that is still alive. They might think of us as family members who still need to work on their hunting skills. It’s what they do with kittens too. They bring them partly pacified prey to practise on. So far I managed to get whatever they brought in out of the house again. I’m well trained at this stage. When I hear certain noises, I know I have to investigate quickly. Once I established the fact of a live rodent in the house, I close all the doors to the rooms, except the one the rodent is in and open the front door. Then I get the gardening gloves and either try and catch it or get it to move towards the open front door. With the gardening gloves on, I prevent getting bitten.
They normally leave the rodent in the hall so it’s not that much work. You don’t want to be squeamish though. Charlie brought in a fairly big rat twice. It would make a great entry in funniest home video to see me chasing a rat while the cats are looking. They must think I’m a very bad hunter to let it get away again. After the rodent is gone, I spray the areas with antibacterial cleaner.
Sometimes it’s like living in a Tarantino movie or, referring to the title, an Oliver Stone movie. Every day I go around the house and often I have to clear away bodies of rodents Tina and Charlie didn’t eat. They won’t run out of prey that easily because there are wheat fields to the back and one side of our house and farms nearby with cattle and horse feed, so mice and rats in abundance.
Anyway, just remember that when you see cats tossing around a mouse, they’re not being cruel, they’re just being careful.