Cat Hunting Tips
Understanding hunting behaviour
Cats as very effective predators of small rodents, probably one of the main reasons we initially brought them into our lives. While the prodigious hunting ability of the cat is appreciated in many countries, in Australia cats are often regarded as killers of our unique and rare wildlife.
Several studies have shown that cats do indeed have a negative effect on our native fauna. Cats have been found to eat native animals such as bandicoots, possums, gliders, insectivores, native rats and some bat species. Native birds are also prey, as are reptiles. Although cats are ideally suited to catching small, burrowing rodents, they are generally opportunistic hunters, taking the chance to prey on whatever animals that are encountered. Certain individuals, however, may become specialists for a particular prey type.
How cats hunt
Cats hunt using either a mobile strategy involving roving and searching around the environment, looking and listening for prey or a sit and wait strategy, remaining stationery, attentive and oriented towards a locus eg. mouse burrow.
Cats hunt alone, the size of their prey requiring no cooperation amongst felines. They avoid other cats by avoiding territories or by time partitioning, being active at different times from other cats.
Hunting is natural behaviour but cats can be taught to hunt at home. By playing chasing games with toys or lasers or hunting games with food, the cat's natural hunting drive can be satisfied.
Solutions for unwanted hunting
Kittens who are not exposed to the hunting behaviour and tuition of their mother will not learn to hunt as readily as those kittens who are. Do not allow your mother cat to hunt while she has kittens.
It is up to owners to keep their cats indoors, if not at all times, at least from before dusk until after dawn. This means closing windows, doors and cat flaps. As well as protecting our native wildlife, we are reducing the likelihood of injuries to our cats through car accidents and getting involved in cat fights.
Tempt your cat home by saving their last meal of the day until then or try feeding them smaller, more regular meals to reduce their wandering.
Bells on collars
If your cat is a hunter, then placing bells on their collar is a good idea. Unfortunately most prey animals so not hear the bell until too late and most do not even know that a bell signifies danger!
Having a bell on your cat's collar, however, allows you to hear them so you can keep an eye on them at all times.