You arrive home after a long day at work expecting to chill out with the cat. Instead, however, you find a dead carcass on your bedsheets. And it’s not the first time. Sometimes it’s small birds, other times rodents and maybe even some leftover chicken bones from last night’s dinner.
So just why do cats have to be such sadistic little devils?
Well, cats aren’t actually evil at all. They just think you’re part of their family and that, frankly, you’re a horrible hunter.
Life with a mini-hunter
It’s believed that cats were first domesticated some 10,000 years ago, around the time humans started properly setting down, helped by agriculture and animal husbandry. Having cats around proved quite helpful at warding off pests and, in time, they became more affectionate household companions. That’s not to say, however, that cats are indeed completely domesticated.
Unlike dogs, house cats still retained all of their predatory instincts and have a well-adapted carnivorous lifestyle. To quote the great William Burroughs, ‘The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.’
The fact that cats are so very independent and self-reliant, often acting very smug, can be attributed to the fact that they’re not really domesticated. Scientists seem to agree that these days, our cats are merely tamed or semi-domesticated, and there’s genetic evidence of back this up. One study, which was led by Wesley Warren, who is a geneticist at Washington University in St. Louis, looked at the DNA sampled from several housecats and breeds of house cats. The analysis revealed that cats have actually diverged far less from their wildcat ancestors than dogs have from wolves. The cat genome also shows little sign of artificial selection.
Such studies help explain why cats have retained sharper hunting skills than dogs or why abandoned cats are far likelier to survive without human intervention. “You don’t have the true differentiation you see between wolf and dog. Using the dog as the best comparison, the modern cat is not what I would call fully domesticated,” Warren stated.
That being said, both wildcats and housecats will hunt a lot. When they hunt in the wild, cats will often bring some of the prey home to their kittens. She will also bring live prey to the kittens so they, too, can learn how to ‘handle dinner’. It immediately follows, most would say, that your very own beloved pet cat is treating you like one of her own when she brings dead animals home. And yes, the cat will still do this even if their food bowl is packed with food. Like outlined earlier, cats are far from being domesticated and would rather hunt their own food than be provided.
“They will go out and kill their prey and then bring it home for the rest of the ‘pack’ for sustenance, and maybe to boast—but that is really anthropomorphic and probably not a real explanation,” Dr. Stephanie Liff, who is a veterinarian at Brooklyn Cares Veterinary Clinic in Brooklyn, New York, explained to Mental Floss.
Even without maternal interactions, a cat will still indeed hunt and likely bring home some dead animals because the behavior is hardwired. They’re basically treating you as her own adopted family — you’re the poor little kitten who cannot hunt on its own.
The Bottom line is this: your cat thinks she is actually doing you a big favor, so, you should always act grateful unless you want to hurt her feelings. Always publically congratulate your little hunter before hastily disposing of the kill.