If you’re an avid cat lover, you may have experienced your cat coming up to you with a toy in its mouth, perhaps all the while meowing in your direction.
What is the meaning of this odd behavior? Are they trying to communicate something, or simply responding to a primal instinct? The answer may be more in-depth than that.
When comparing dogs to cats, it’s easy to see why a dog will bring a toy to just about anyone. They simply want it thrown to increase playtime.
Most cats, however, do not engage themselves in a game of fetch. Does this mean that their reason for toy retrieval is less selfish?
In a nutshell, cats bring us their toys for a variety of reasons, one of them being instinctive. Their wild ancestors would bring killed prey back to their kittens in order to pass on knowledge.
In that regard, cats may think you as one of their own. Other reasons include seeking attention, approval, presenting a gift, or simply getting a treat.
Understanding the background of cats as a whole may help in identifying why they bring us their treasured toys.
What Is the History of the Cat?
The domestication of animals has been a heavily debated topic. But, was it the cat or the dog that shifted more easily into becoming a companion?
Evidence may suggest cats domesticated themselves.
According to the National Geographic, modern cats are descended from individuals found in southwest Asia and Europe around 4400 B.C. With agriculture taking precedent around 8,000 years ago, cats started to close the gap.
If you had a cat living near your crops, you’d find fewer rats eating at the vegetables. To keep these felines around, humans began to keep food outside to both attract and thank them.
The Science Magazine also mentions a second lineage derived from cats domesticated in Egypt.
Many believe that this is where the outside acquaintances made their way indoors. In fact, the Egyptians looked at these animals as sacred, putting them above the lives of some humans.
The history of cats shows us that it was a more gradual transformation determined by the cats themselves.
Looking at the cat as a whole, there aren’t many changes compared to that of the dog. Cats were always seen as useful and did not need much improvement.
Cats were deemed “masters of the hunt” by humankind for a number of reasons.
What Makes a Cat a Good Hunter?
There are a variety of senses and traits that make an animal skilled in hunting. The cat has always been among the best in the animal kingdom.
Ella Davies of BBC Earth remarks on the fact that cats are among the most successful hunters.
Comparing a tiger to your average housecat might seem silly, but they do share a number of qualities.
Although not the best nose around, a cat’s sense of smell is approximately fourteen times stronger than that of humans.
They need to be in close proximity to use their sniffer, as opposed to dogs that can smell a mile away.
When it comes to their large and perky ears, a cat can hear higher frequencies. Animal Planet tells us that cats can use their sense of hearing to detect the type and size of hunted prey.
Out of the five basic senses, cats tend to rely on their sight most of all. Have you ever noticed that a cat’s pupils dilate?
This helps them see in the dark. These animals can also keep an eye on their prey without blinking due to a third eyelid.
You might not think of your lazy housecat as being all that acrobatic, but they do have the potential.
According to Catster, these felines have a spine that is cushioned by elastic discs, thus allowing them to rotate as far as 180 degrees.
Their shoulder blades also add agility. For humans and dogs, these parts can only be moved so far.
The shoulder blades of a cat, however, are attached solely through muscles, making it easier to extend them when need be. With a longer stride, they can run up to 30 miles per hour for a short amount of time.
Have you ever seen a catwalk along the top of a narrow fence? Having longer tails aids in counterbalancing.
Another reason is because of their inner ear, which regulates both body temperature and balance.
Cats are well known for their sneaky ways, being as still as possible until they need to strike. Being silent on the hunt is key to being a successful hunter.
The nervous system of a cat is more advanced than our own, making their reflexes all that quicker. For a housecat, this can them help see and catch pesky flies.
Another physical adaptation that cats hunt is their whiskers. These modified hairs are used to navigate in the dark.
They also let a cat know if they can fit in a small space where potential prey might be hiding.
Now that you are aware of a housecat’s hunting prowess, we can explore the reasons as to why they would bring you their toy.
How Does Hunting Relate to Toy Retrieval?
Wild animals need to make the most of the energy they spend on hunting. For instance, lions will only hunt two times a day and share it with their pride. By doing this, they are teaching the younger generation about taking down prey.
Cats no longer need to hunt for food, yet they do have those natural instincts. In fact, housecats will still use their senses in order to hunt.
BBC Earth reveals that these pets continue to hunt in order to fend for their family members, us. Not only do they think that they are providing food, but that they are also teaching as they would in the wild.
The next time that your cat drops a toy mouse at your feet, consider the fact that he or she might be using the opportunity to teach you how to hunt.
Is a Toy the Same as a Peace Offering?
Some believe that toys can be used as a way of asking for peace. This proposition isn’t all that far off. By giving us a toy, cats have been thought to say “thank you”.
Another reason as to why your cat will demonstrate this behavior is to seek approval. You might think that cats are solitary creatures that want nothing to do with us.
And it is true that they want affection on their own terms, but it does not mean that they don’t seek human contact.
Cats use these “gifts” as a way to get attention and affection from their owners. You may see it as annoying, but it is an admirable offering.
Does My Cat Want Anything Else?
One other explanation for this behavior is that your cat might want a treat. By bringing you a toy, your attention is on them.
If you continue to give them a treat when they do this, then you are teaching them a learned behavior.
How Should I Respond to This Gesture?
Even if you are not a fan of this act, you should always try to give your cat the attention that they want. The reason for bringing their toy is to either teach you or to get affection.
If you would prefer that your cat not demonstrate their love through this action, look into some toys that will keep them stimulated.
What Toys Should I Give My Cat?
Cats who plop a toy at the feet of their owner tend to be more active and predatory. As with any pet that has a lot of energy, toys are a great solution for keeping them both happy and properly stimulated.
If your cat likes getting attention for treats, then the Kong Cat Playground is quite useful. And best of all, it keeps your cat busy while you go out and run errands.
For those who think that their cat wants to teach them how to hunt, then perhaps the PetSafe Pounce Cat Toy would be the best option.
It gets their energy out in a way that mimics the movements of a mouse. Here they are able to use their senses.
Although no longer in the wild, cats do use a number of their senses to hunt down prey, even if it is an indoor toy.
They then proceed to give us these “gifts” as a way of earning affection or attention. Although not always wanted, remember that your cat would not do this if they did not think of you as one of their own.