How do we convey to our cat that his kill is appreciated?
September 20, 2013 12:52 PM   Subscribe

What can we do to validate our feline family member's "gift" of a dead mouse on the porch?

Our cat is one year old. He spends about 50% of the time (day and night) outdoors, and he left us a dead mouse on the porch for the first time this morning. I suppose the primary question here is, what is it that he expects us to do? From there, I wouldn't mind at least doing something that gives him the impression that we are doing just that, if possible.

It's no secret that cats tend to act like too-cool-for-you teenagers or get-off-my-lawn old folks in their adult lives. I don't want to inadvertently insult my little buddy's catness and send him down that path.

If this act is performed with the expectation that we eat the mouse, to some extent, I can pretend to-- if it disappears to a remote location, for example, rather than getting tossed into the compost pile. That is what I'm talking about here.
posted by cake vandal to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would just scritch him and tell him he's a good kitty, and then when he walks away I would chuck it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't think cats have the same sense of interpersonal interpretation that people do. He won't be hurt or offended or anything. So I'd just pet him and let him see me take the mouse. If he looks like he wants it, I would give it back.

Wash your hands after touching the mouse. Hantavirus, ugh.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:56 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Give him a treat and scritches and distract him telling him he's a good kitty. You say "we" and "our" so that implies you have a teammate in this. While kitty is distracted, have the other half of your we sneak off with the mouse and dispose of it.
posted by phunniemee at 12:56 PM on September 20, 2013

Come on, man. Dispose of the carcass and move on. If you go further down this path you'll be crapping in a box to lessen Cat's embarrassment, etc.
posted by kmennie at 12:57 PM on September 20, 2013 [63 favorites]

I try to encourage my cat to kill bugs as much as possible so I always pet him and sometimes give him treats so he knows thats Awesome Behvaior, A++ Good Kitty. One time I sang him a little song about how awesome he was but I'm not actually sure if thats a reward or a punishment.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:59 PM on September 20, 2013 [18 favorites]

Best answer: Your cat thinks that you're a moron who can't kill her own dinner. So thank her for the lesson and chuck the mouse when she isn't looking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:59 PM on September 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Yea, the cat is OK if you just chuck the mouse. Won't even notice. I vote no on the compost heap, as meat and compost don't mix.
posted by kellyblah at 1:02 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just a thought, but encouraging your cat to kill small creatures may not be the path you want to take. Maybe you could get him a new toy to help him pass the time?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:02 PM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You could always start a blog for your kitty's kills, a la What Jeff Killed, now that Jeff is in semi-retirement.
posted by janey47 at 1:02 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your cat might think you are an idiot and can't fend for yourself. Demonstrate that you eat quite well.

Give him scritches and thank him anyway.
posted by bilabial at 1:07 PM on September 20, 2013

Mod note: Seriously, guys, answer the question.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:10 PM on September 20, 2013

Just this morning, I heard our cat Owen suddenly start doing his REALLY LOUD PURR and turned around to see that he had killed a mouse. He had his best "Oh, it was no big deal" face on but he is (truly) one needy cat. So I made a big deal out of telling him what a good kitty he is while picking up the mouse and putting it in a bag, and gave him some treats. He (and other cats I've known over the years) seemed well satisfied with just some extra attention and goodies.
posted by usonian at 1:12 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have him observe you put it in a leftovers container in the fridge, mimicking what you do with your own food that you prepare and like but aren't eating right away.

Restless Nomad, I am. It's been about 20 years since I've homed a cat, so I'm a bit rusty
posted by tilde at 1:13 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I read once, here or elsewhere, that a cat owner successfully put an end to this behavior by demonstrating that they had learned the valuable lesson ... by putting the ziploc-bagged mouse between their lips and showing the cat.
posted by zippy at 1:18 PM on September 20, 2013

Best answer: The anthrozoologist in this interview says its not a gift, its something your cat decided wasn't worth eating once he got it home. Based on that, the cat doesn't care if you eat it.
posted by juliapangolin at 1:23 PM on September 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Cats don't really have views or expectations about this sort of thing, or about anything really. They're just doing what they do, a truncated and purposeless version of what their wild ancestors did.
posted by Segundus at 1:33 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just to be clear, nothing you do with the corpses will please or even interest your cat.
posted by Segundus at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2013 [16 favorites]

Also, your cat's memory buffer is about 10 minutes. So...wait 10 minutes and toss that nasty mo-fo.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:04 PM on September 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Someone sent me this link from The Oatmeal.
posted by cake vandal at 2:15 PM on September 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

cake vandal, we call my beau's cat Beatrix Tortilla "murder muffin" for this behavior. Most recently, she carried a not-quite-dead giant roach to my shoe. Ugh. But secretly I'm pleased. She loves me! Taking it as a compliment might help with the gory clean-up.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:42 PM on September 20, 2013

Your follow up question will soon be, "How do I get these blood stains off my porch?" I think my wife bleaches them, but it still looks like a battlefield.
posted by notned at 2:44 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

i would not do *anything* to encourage this behavior so no scratching, praise and especially not treats. i say that as someone who used to get a dead mouse at my indoor apartment door about once a month for a number of years. one time i stepped on a dead mouse's head (yes, decapitated!) as i didn't see it--ewww, crunchy.
posted by wildflower at 3:40 PM on September 20, 2013

You do need to show appreciation to the cat. Okay, the cat may not acknowledge this in a manner that humans can identify, but cats have feelings too, my friend. By showing appreciation, your cat is more likely to still consider your home its home, and not wander off in search of a more appreciative home and humans.

Appreciations can include:

- tickling the cat
- putting milk or some other fluid out for the cat
- catnip (tho' from experimentation, I advise against putting this on any fresh carcass the cat deposits)
- softly whistling a five note tune to the cat. The tune in Close Encounters, or the Samsung smartphone music, seems to work well.
- "HERE'S A GOOD KITTY" {scratch} "HERE'S A GOOD KITTY" {scratch} {repeat for 5 minutes}.
- get down on the floor in the foetal position, facing the cat, and whisper positive things to him/her
- perhaps a small reward present e.g. clothing or access to a toy. Make the cat associate the reward with the kill i.e. only a reward for a kill.

Regarding the carcass; for health reasons alone, never touch it. Kitty will usually dispose of it. If it's still there after a day or two, then perhaps gasoline and torch it rather than remove it. But really, do not touch in any way any dead animal or bird that your cat brings to your door.
posted by Wordshore at 5:39 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Count your blessings. Our cat is 18 and has been blind for two years. While he used to be an accomplished hunter, bringing home all manner of small vertebrates, he pretty much now limits himself to eating, pooping, purring and napping in the sun.

Although a few months ago he presented us with a chipmunk's tail. We guess it ran across his open mouth and he bit down.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 7:09 PM on September 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

I would encourage him when he catches bugs, but for a number of reasons I would not encourage him when he brings home dead animals. You don't want him to start doing that regularly, do you? If you find a dead thing on your doorstep, I'd say just dispose of it and don't know show any enthusiasm for it at all.

The anthrozoologist in this interview says its not a gift, its something your cat decided wasn't worth eating once he got it home.

I really doubt that. Our cat isn't allowed out beyond the confines of our backyard, but every now and then he catches a rat or a bird out there and then he comes running inside, waving it around and meowing as loud as he can. We can argue about his intent in bringing the poor dead (or nearly dead) thing inside, but it seems obvious to me that he wants the whole house to know he caught it. That is hardly "not worth eating" behavior.

I also question the idea that he just think we can't fend for ourselves. We're feeding him all the time, and he sees us feeding ourselves. He constantly comes around begging for our food. Why assume that he thinks we don't know how to feed ourselves properly?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:12 PM on September 20, 2013

One of my cats used to bring nearly-dead rodents to the front door and call me outside with the same loud trill mother cats use to summon their kittens. With a grim sigh, I would finish the poor things off, hand them back over, and watch her eat them with gusto. Based on this routine, (I know N only =1) I'm sticking with the whole they-think-you're-an-incompetent-moron theory.
posted by Kibby at 7:59 PM on September 20, 2013

I give my cat a can of tuna as a bounty payment.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:07 AM on September 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I do encourage my Fry [FB photo] to hunt by giving him the same "gits it!" noise I make for toy play, which can get him worked up onto his haunches and stuff. If I see him catch a mouse I'll give him a treat as immediately as possible.

Mostly, though, it's just a carcass left in the middle of the kitchen, like 20 minutes ago, when I came into the room with him (he's a follower) and ... there was a bloody half of a mouse. Looked like a dropped strawberry (I know, ewww). Thing was, he seemed surprised by it, walked up, and sniffed it to determine it was dead -- and then marched onward toward the food and water bowls. So there's the 10 minute memory thing.

Basically, he's done with it -- he left it there because he was done with it. Unless he's actively trying to get your attention, I doubt you need to do anything special, because tomorrow is another day, and so is an hour from now when he's woken up from his nap.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 AM on September 22, 2013

My friends who live in a rural area started rewarding their cats for hunting by giving them a treat every time they brought a mouse or rat in. (They used catmilk; substitute whatever your cat's into.)

One of their cats responded by repeatedly presenting the same rat in progressive stages of decomposition in hopes of a reward each time, so, you know, watch out for that.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:35 PM on September 27, 2013

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