Play Behaviours of Domestic Cats
Observing feline playtime can be quite entertaining; a statue still, low crouch followed by a tail swish and a butt wiggle, leading up to a most dramatic pounce! It is adorable and maybe even comical to watch. But what do all these actions mean, and what is their purpose? They are all predatory behaviours – yes, even the cute little butt wiggle is the act of a ravenous hunter!
Hunting Behaviours of Feline Predators
For a successful ambush, a predator lies in wait in a concealed spot that prey are likely to wonder by. They must be perfectly still in order to avoid being detected, and driving prey out of reach. While stalking, a predator follows their prey in a low, silent crawl until they are in the optimal position for attack. In preparation for the pounce, the hunting feline must be sure their targeting is accurate. Sometimes prey are also very still and it is difficult to lock in on their location. A slight tail swish can catch the attention of the prey, causing small movements, giving away their exact position. Next, the feline squares up their hind legs by rocking their weight side to side (the butt wiggle), giving them maximum pouncing power! These behaviours are exhibited by wild cats and domestic house kitties alike. The difference being that our house pets are often going after toys or dust bunnies and not actually hunting their food source.
Why do Well-Fed House Cats Exhibit Hunting Behaviours?
The hunting instinct ingrained in felines is not driven by momentary hunger; rather it has been established by thousands of years of evolution as a mechanism of food acquisition. Felines, as obligate carnivores, have evolved as predator animals, and an important part of a predator’s lifestyle is hunting. Being at the top of the food chain comes with a lot of responsibility. Acquiring food depends on hunting – it is a much more involved process than scavenging for others’ leftovers or grazing across an open plain and it requires a very high level of motivation. But why do we still see this instinct in our domestic house cats? If you give a cat a meal, their hunger will be satisfied, but the urge to hunt still lingers. Why, when the need is eliminated, does the desire persist?
To better understand our pet cats, we should better understand how they became our pets in the first place. The process of domestication involves genetic alterations affecting physiology, appearance and behaviour. The transition from a wild animal to a domesticated animal can result in traits lost or gained, depending on which are beneficial in the domestic lifestyle. The domestication of cats began with humans and cats living symbiotically – in a mutually beneficial scenario. The most common theory of feline domestication involves the stored grains during early agriculture attracting small rodents (prey), which in turn attracted small wild cats (predators). Wild cats that were less wary of humans had access to an abundance of prey, and in turn they provided humans with effective pest control. Early in the domestication process, hunting was still the primary manner of food acquisition, so success of the animals relied on a strong motivation to hunt. Even though our house kitties are fed meals in a bowl and no longer need to hunt for food, the instinct is still present, and we must ensure they receive appropriate stimulation in order to preserve a positive state of well-being.
Enrichment for Indoor Cats
Outdoor cats have the opportunity to hunt real prey – the ultimate stimulation; but for those that live exclusively indoors, we must provide the stimulus. Strings tipped with feathers fly through the air like darting birds; toy mice unknowingly wait to be ambushed; bouncing wires dance like hopping insects. There are so many enriching toys available that are engaging and satisfying for our cats. Perhaps the most satisfying are products that allow felines to actually hunt for their food. Available at Global Pet Foods is the indoor hunting feeder from Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. This product allows your cat to hunt for kibble-filled mice that you’ve hidden around the house. It satisfies their instinctual desires, gives them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and enhances overall well-being of your beloved feline.
An under stimulated feline may exhibit destructive behavior; frustration may build up and lead to misbehaviours such as going outside the litter box; a lack of physical exercise can lead to unhealthy weight gain; a lack of satisfaction can prevent relaxation and increase stress. When we provide enrichment for our indoor cats, we provide them with an outlet to express all their natural behaviours, satisfying the deeply ingrained urges they maintained through domestication. In doing this, we prevent them searching for other, less desirable outlets, and most importantly, we make them happy.
Visit your local Global Pet Foods to see all the most innovative feline enrichment products available!