Domestic Cat Hunting and Feeding

stalking

Cats feed on small prey, primarily birds and rodents. Feral cats and house cats that are free-fed tend to consume many small meals in a single day, although the frequency and size of meals varies between individuals. Cats use two hunting strategies, either stalking prey actively, or waiting in ambush until an animal comes close enough to be captured.

They often ambush outside burrows, but tend to actively stalk birds. Most breeds of cat have a noted fondness for settling in high places, or perching. In the wild, a higher place may serve as a concealed site from which to hunt; domestic cats may strike prey by pouncing from such a perch as a tree branch, as does a leopard.

One poorly understood element of cat hunting behavior is the presentation of prey to human owners. Ethologist Paul Leyhausen proposed that cats adopt humans into their social group, and share excess kill with others in the group according to the local pecking order, in which humans are placed at or near the top. Anthropologist and animal scientist Desmond Morris, in his 1986 book ‘Catwatching,’ suggests that when cats bring home mice or birds, they are teaching their human to hunt, or helping their human as if feeding ‘an elderly cat, or an inept kitten.’ However, his theory is inconsistent with the fact that male cats also bring home prey, despite males having no involvement with raising kittens.

Domestic cats select food based on its temperature, smell and texture, strongly disliking chilled foods and responding most strongly to moist foods rich in amino acids, which are similar to meat. Cats may reject novel flavors (a response termed neophobia) and learn quickly to avoid foods that have tasted unpleasant in the past. They may also avoid sugary foods and milk; since they are lactose intolerant, these sugars are not easily digested and may cause soft stools or diarrhea. They can also develop odd eating habits. Some cats like to eat or chew on other things, most commonly wool, but also plastic, paper, string, aluminum foil, or even coal. This condition is called pica and can threaten their health, depending on the amount and toxicity of the items eaten.

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