I think we can all agree that cats are strange creatures and odd companions to have. These tiny hunters patrol our homes night and day. They run up and down our house in a frenzy in the middle of the night, and they’re oftentimes caught carrying toys in their mouths with a proud gait.
I’m sure we’ve all wondered about these behaviors and asked ourselves all kinds of questions, especially when our cats decide to involve us in these strange behaviors.
So why does my cat bring me toys? Cats bring you their toys as hunting trophies because they love you. They could also be seeking your attention and inviting you to play. Additionally, these gifts might be their way of providing for their caretaker and teaching you how to hunt.
Let’s dig a little deep into the reasons why some cats love to take on the task of toy delivery!
Why Do Cats Bring Gifts?
Most cat parents want what’s best for their feline companions, but to achieve this goal we have to understand what our cats need in order to be happy. Providing your kitty with a safe environment, fulfilling their basic needs is one thing, but our kitties also need positive social interactions which include playing with them.
According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and International Society of Feline Medicine, “All cats have the same essential environmental needs. Unfortunately, many cats live in homes that are missing some key elements, and this results in stress-related disorders as well as unwanted behaviors.”
If your kitty has brought you a gift, whether it’s a sock, a toy, or even a dead animal remember that this is not an unwanted behavior. There is a number of possibilities explaining why a cat might bring you a gift, but it’s usually their way to connect with us through their playful and predatory behavior.
What Does It Mean When Your Cat Brings You A Toy?
I’m sure we all have moments when we can’t understand our cats and what they’re asking of us. Bringing us toys, sometimes accompanied by a meow or a persistent stare, or suddenly running away from us right after, might be just one of these puzzling situations.
This behavior can become confusing but understanding the various reasons behind it can help us become more aware of our kitty’s needs and strengthen our bond.
1. It’s A Sign Of Affection
Cats are the descendants of solitary wildcats that decided about 10,000 years ago to join the domesticated lifestyle, to an extent of course. While they’ve still maintained their independent nature, they also have acquired a taste for social interactions with humans. But does it mean that they love us?
Researchers suggest that not only do cats tolerate us, but they’re also capable of forming emotional attachments with us. Kristyn Vitale, a postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University, also states that, “The majority of cats are looking to their owners to be a source of safety and security.”
Having our kitties come up to us for cuddles, to sleep next to us, as well as to leave their toys in front of us could be their way of displaying their love and care for us. If a cat believes that the toy is part of her “hunting game” then sharing it with you shows that they accept you as their own. To me, that’s love right there!
2. Your Cat Wants To Play
While love can still be part of this peculiar behavior, bringing their toys to you could also be your cat’s way of asking you to play with them. If you’ve ever observed your kitty playing with their toys it looks like hunting and that’s because it is…at least in cat-language!
Mikel Delgado, co-author of recent research has shown that “the patterns of behavior are similar, and the things that entice cats to hunt also get them excited about toys.” He also pointed out that, “the more similar to realistic prey the toy is, the more of a response the cat shows.”
If playing with cats is like hunting, you might naturally wonder, why does my cat bring me toys? It would make sense if they just recreated a hunting experience on their own right? Well, Delgado’s research shows that “Cats can’t really get lost in the hunting experience like they can when someone else is moving the toy.”
This is 100% true for my cats! My oldest will actually glance at my hand from time to time to see if I’m moving the string. Fooling him by simply holding it without actually spending any effort to move it never works, because he’ll just meow in frustration and eventually lose interest.
Playing with your kitty plays a major role in keeping them healthy, happy, and fit, but Dr. Jonathon Lidbury, assistant professor in the feline internal medicine department at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, suggests that playing with our cats also benefits cat owners.
Not only do cats, “Offer companionship, which is especially beneficial to people who are socially isolated, due to various reasons, but they also offer stress relief and light exercise if you play with them.” Perhaps that was your kitty’s plan all along!
3. Your Cat Wants You To Look After The Toy
As we mentioned above safety is very important to our cats and with safety also comes trust. Since they see their toys as prey to some extent, bringing it to you, means that they really trust you with their precious hunting game. Rachel Barrack, DMV, founder of Animal Acupuncture suggests that “Cat trust can be hard to earn, but being consistent will help improve your bond with your cat.” Her advice is to, “stick to a routine so they know they can depend on you.”
So, it’s possible that your cat brings you their toy to show you that you’ve achieved that bond and that they can depend on you, by entrusting you with their toy. You might even begin to find their toys hidden in your things, like your shoes or in laundry baskets.
This could happen more often in multi-cat households where all the cats might have some specific toys, they want to keep to themselves. If there are people they don’t trust or small children, they might give you the toy for safekeeping until it’s time for the next hunting session.
A lot of mother cats will also do this, but instead of toys, they’ll entrust you with their kittens. It’s a great honor to have such a strong bond with your kitty, so don’t forget to cherish it!
4. The Toy Is A Trophy
In the modern world where most cats are unable to access the outdoors, toys have become a substitute for prey. This means that most of their hunting behaviors and reactions are still the same.
Dennis Turner, a Swiss-American biologist, explains that “cats are opportunistic hunters and must be ready to stalk and catch any prey they discover by chance – even if they’re not hungry.” So, while we see a cat wiggling their butt at a tattered mouse, they see it as serious business and eating it wasn’t part of their endgame anyway.
Once the toy is caught, this little symbolic prey becomes your cat’s trophy. This achievement is bound to send signals of pleasure and satisfaction to your cat’s brain, after all, it’s a needed mental stimulation!
When your kitty brings you their hard-earned trophy, it’s the same as having a child showing their parents the A+ they got on a math test. They’re proud, they want to show you how skillful they are and that they’re super special.
5. Your Cats Wants Praise Or A Reward
Of course, our cats are probably the most self-assured and confident creatures in the universe, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to hear us say that they’re the best. If you find your kitty staring at you or meowing when they bring you their toy, what they’re probably expecting is praise.
Just look at this adorable cat exchanging his owner’s sock for affection!
Some cats might be feeling content with a simple stroke and a verbal compliment, but some might need more than that. My kitties always run towards the kitchen after they bring me their toys and I know that they want a tasty reward in the form of a treat.
In a sense, it’s a circle of positive reinforcement where you’re rewarding their superior hunting skills with some delicacies. Your kitty might even use this technique without actually having played with the toy. Dropping it on the floor before you might be their attempt to bargain.
So, next time your fluffy overlord brings you their toy you better praise them to the gods and give them a special treat! Just don’t overdo it since too many treats can lead to extra weight.
6. Your Cat Is Teaching You How To Hunt
If you’re one of those cat parents who’s always eager to learn more about cats then you’ve probably realized by now how complicated our fluffballs are. Our relationship with cats can create different dynamics and their hunting instincts play a certain role in it.
Our kitties can see us as their leader, their caretaker, and the parental figure that teaches them how to hunt. According to studies we have the power over what kind of playmates they’ll be. “If people use their hands and feet instead of toys to play with a young kitten, the kitten may learn that rough play is okay.”
So, while the hunting instinct is something that comes from within it’s also something, they need to practice to become good at. The biologist Roger Tabor stated that “kittens who are able to observe their mothers hunt and kill become better at these skills themselves.”
But what if your cat sees you as someone who needs their help instead? It’s quite possible that by bringing you their toy they’re trying to teach you how to hunt as a mother would. This is just another way our cats can show us affection so instead of ignoring this gesture you can toss the toy around like they would to show off your newly acquired skills!
7. Your Cat Is Being The Provider
Historical literature that was used as a resource has shown that “in Europe and the United States, cats were mainly used as mousers – until the mid19th century, then their position shifted to that of household companion animals.”
Other historical studies also have shown that from the moment cats decided to be a part of human communities, “they settled into a mutually beneficial relationship as human’s rodent patrol.” In other words, our cat’s ancestors decided to play a role by providing their services as mousers.
Now cats have become less of a tool to control the rat population and instead they’ve adopted a comfortable life as our companions. But most cats could still have this urge to give back, to be useful.
If you have an outdoor kitty they might still patrol your yard for rodent-like intruders, but if they’re not allowed outside what’s the alternative? Perhaps your cat bringing you their toys is part of their duty. It’s how they show you that they’re useful and that they’re more than just a companion who’s sleeping for 18 hours a day rent-free.
8. Something Is Wrong With Their Toy
Finally, your cat could be leaving you their toys because there’s something not quite right about them. Perhaps you’ve washed it, and now the smell of catnip is nowhere to be found. Maybe your dog or the other cat has taken advantage of it and tainted it with their scent.
To bring back the catnip smell you could purchase a catnip spray. Of course, get in touch with your vet beforehand so you’ll know which one is safe to use. You can also rub the toy against your kitty’s cheeks to help her leave their own scent on it.
It’s also possible that the toy is broken, it might not produce the same squeaking sound as it did when it was new, or the little bell inside it might’ve stopped moving. If your kitty has brought you a broken toy, then you should replace it with a new one.
Cat toys are usually small and can break under pressure, so it’s always advisable that you check their toys daily. Any broken parts could cause serious damage by creating a wound or by being swallowed. Before buying a toy make sure they’re safe, especially the ones you leave for your cat to play when you’re not there.
What To Do If Your Cat’s Gift Is Inappropriate?
While indoor cats have access to toys and socks, the cats that have access to the outside can offer a bigger variety of gifts. Some cats might bring you random rubbish from outside, or even steal things from your neighbors.
A two-year-old black and white cat called Denis was caught on camera stealing, underwear, shoes, shirts, and other things from their neighbors. And while this little story about Denis the cat-thief is cute, a cat can bring back home something a bit more morbid.
Many outdoor cats can return home with a dead bird or a dead mouse in their mouths. They might leave it at their owner’s porch or feet, expecting praise or a reward. Some people find it an undesirable habit, while others accept it as part of their pet’s natural behavior, at least that’s what recent research is pointing at.
It seems that a lot of owners who let their feline companions explore the outside world, don’t mind their killer instincts. There are studies suggesting that cats pose a threat to the wildlife, while others believe it to be an exaggeration.
Hunting is necessary for a cat’s welfare, but since toys can be a healthy alternative, a wise decision would be to stop your kitty’s inappropriate gift-giving.
How To Stop Your Cat From Bringing Prey Into The House?
It is of course important to not scold out kitties for such gifts because this is a part of who they are. But having them bring you dead game can be dangerous. Not only can they get lost while chasing after a small animal, but according to Dr. Lori Teller, an associate professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, “there are several diseases cats can contract from mice, including the plague, leptospirosis, hantavirus, and toxoplasmosis.”
They can also get fleas, ticks, and roundworms while hunting and that’s why Dr. Teller states that discouraging our cats from hunting is very important. Dr. Teller also advises that a collar with a bell can give your cat’s prey time to escape and since cats are nocturnal animals, keeping them inside during the night will also limit their hunting opportunities.
You might also be thinking that having a well-fed cat will keep them away from hurting other animals, but that’s not true. Cats hunt even when they’re not hungry because they have to hone their skills and reflexes. Studies have shown that cats play with their prey instead of killing them immediately exactly for this reason.
The best decision you could make overall would be to keep your kitty inside. Of course, an indoor kitty will need more attention and playing is one of them. But this is the safest decision for you and the small animals out there!
Then again if you don’t see yourself making this decision, you could try taking your cat for a walk on a leash instead. This way you can have control over what they’re chasing and if they can catch it. An outdoor portable enclosure, or a catio, could also offer your kitty an alternative without having to wake up to a dead animal on your pillow.
What Type Of Toys Are Appropriate For Your Cat
A good toy can be a game-changer for your cat, literally! If you think your cat is uninterested in playing and that they’re just lazy then it’s probably a toy problem. Toys and playing with your cat are two vital things that are necessary to keep your kitty alert, healthy, and fit.
You can start with investing in a few different toys to see what brings out the inner hunter in your kitty. One of my cats likes playing with soft mice when he’s alone, but once I’m there he prefers a ribbon or a wand that I can bring into life. According to RSPCA, “cats have a natural predatory instinct so they enjoy toys that encourage them to chase an pounce.”
My other cat is really into toys that have hidden treats in them. This simple cardboard one from Amazon has been her absolute favorite so far but you can always start out by making your own. There are great DIY ideas on the internet that can help you make your own toys with things you already have at your disposal.
Cat water fountains can also be a great source of fun for cats who like to play with their water. Climbing toys like cat castles, ladders, and window hammocks can also stimulate their whole body. There are thousands of ideas out there on how to keep our kittens stimulated, but if you’re still unsure then ask your vet or someone who works at an animal shelter.
Make sure to spend time with your cat and find what makes them go wild! Avoid rough play because it can lead to stressful situations and games should only be about having fun. A bit of catnip can give your lazy kitty a boost or you can use it as a treat when you’re done.
It’s also important to remember that not all toys are safe, especially the ones with small details that are breakable. Elastic yarn and ribbons are best kept away from your cat when you’re not around because there are cats that will eat them. If you notice parts missing from your cat’s toys, they might be consuming them, which is a condition called “pica.” If this is the case try to get in contact with your vet, and don’t leave your cat with their toys unattended.
Who knew that cats have another way of telling us that they care about us and that they want to spend time with us? Of course, they might just be thinking that we’re useless and we simply can’t survive without them, but I’d still think it comes from a place of love.
And can you even blame them? I mean could you survive without your fluffball? They might be professional assassins, but at least they’re considerate enough to share their toys with us!
Have you ever wondered, why does my cat bring me toys, and did you get it right? Let us know what kind of gifts does your cat bring you and if you find them inappropriate or simply adorable!