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Why do stray cats leave gifts?

Have you ever woken up to find a dead mouse or bird on your doorstep, courtesy of the local stray cat? While some may find this behavior strange or even unsettling, it’s actually a sign of a healthy feline population. Stray cats are known for their nomadic tendencies, traveling long distances in search of food and shelter. When they stumble upon a safe haven or an easy source of sustenance, they often leave “gifts” as a way of expressing gratitude.

But why do cats hunt in the first place? Hunting is ingrained in their instincts as natural predators and hunters. Even well-fed house cats will display hunting behaviors like stalking and pouncing on toys or small objects. For stray cats, hunting is crucial to their survival as they must fend for themselves in the wild.

So, the next time you receive a “gift” from a stray cat, don’t be alarmed. It’s simply an instinctual behavior that serves an important purpose. These “gifts” are signs of a thriving feline population that has found safety and nourishment in your neighborhood. And let’s face it – there’s something fascinating about these independent creatures who come and go as they please, leaving behind small tokens of appreciation along the way.

What are Stray Cats?

They can be found in urban and suburban areas, scavenging for food and water and seeking shelter in abandoned buildings, garages, or alleys. These cats are often the result of abandonment by their owners or being born on the streets. They can also be outdoor cats that have wandered too far from their homes and cannot find their way back.

Stray cats can live alone or in small groups called colonies, which are often located near food sources like restaurants or grocery stores. These colonies can range from a few cats to dozens of them. While stray cats may seem like pests to some, they play an important role in managing rodent populations.

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One interesting behavior of stray cats is their tendency to leave ‘gifts’ for humans, usually in the form of small prey such as mice or birds. This behavior may be instinctual or a form of communication, but regardless of the reason behind it, it’s important for cat owners to handle these ‘gifts’ properly.

It’s also important to note that stray cats are different from feral cats. Stray cats may have had previous contact with humans and may be able to adapt to domestication with proper care and attention. Feral cats, on the other hand, have never had human contact and are not socialized to humans, making them almost impossible to domesticate.

Stray cats are generally wary of humans and may avoid contact with them, but they can become friendly with people who regularly provide them with food and water. It’s important to approach stray cats cautiously and avoid trying to pet them or pick them up without proper training.

Why Do Stray Cats Leave Gifts?

You may have woken up to find a small animal left at your doorstep, and wondered why a furry friend would do such a thing. As an expert on the topic, I can tell you that there’s actually a fascinating reason behind this behavior.

Firstly, cats are natural hunters. It’s in their blood to hunt and catch prey, even if they are well-fed. This means that leaving a dead animal at your doorstep is simply their way of showing off their skills as hunters. It’s like they’re saying, “Look what I caught. Aren’t I impressive?”

Secondly, when cats live in groups, they often bring food back to share with the colony. If they see humans as part of their group or family, they may leave dead animals as a gift for everyone to share. It’s their way of including you in their community and saying, “Here’s some food for the family.”

Lastly, cats communicate in many ways. They use body language, vocalizations, and scents to express themselves. However, leaving a gift can also be a form of communication with their human caregivers. It may be that they want to show affection or gratitude for providing them with food and shelter.

It’s important to remember that while this behavior may seem strange or unpleasant to some humans, it’s completely normal for cats. In fact, it’s an important part of the feline experience. If you find yourself on the receiving end of a cat’s gift-giving habits, it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the gesture, even if it means disposing of the animal in a respectful manner.

Instinctual Behavior Theory

It’s a theory that sheds light on innate behaviors that animals display, behaviors that are hardwired into their genetic makeup. And it could help explain why stray cats leave gifts for humans.

According to this theory, cats are born with the instinct to hunt and bring back prey to their family or community. This behavior is not learned, but inherited from their ancestors. In the wild, cats would hunt and share their catch with their group as a way to provide for them.

Even stray cats who don’t have a specific family or community still showcase this behavior. They may view their surroundings as their community and bring back prey as a way to contribute and establish their place within it.

But leaving gifts is not restricted to food alone. Cats may bring back toys or objects they associate with positive experiences, like a piece of clothing that smells like their favorite person. This helps them bond with those around them and also play.

So, when a stray cat leaves you a small creature as a gift, don’t be repulsed. Instead, appreciate the gesture and dispose of it respectfully. Remember, it’s simply an instinctual behavior in cats that they cannot help but exhibit.

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Form of Communication Theory

The theory of Form of Communication has a plausible explanation for this behavior. It suggests that every action or behavior of any living being is a form of communication. In the case of cats, leaving gifts is one way they communicate with their owners or caregivers.

Cats are territorial creatures, and they mark their territory by leaving scents and objects. When a cat leaves a gift, such as a dead mouse or bird, on your doorstep, it’s marking its territory and telling you that it considers the area safe and protected. This behavior is common among both domestic and stray cats.

Moreover, Form of Communication Theory proposes that cats may also leave gifts as a form of gratitude or appreciation. Although cats are known for their independence, they form strong bonds with their owners or caregivers. By leaving gifts, they might be expressing thanks for the care and attention they receive.

But why do cats leave prey as gifts instead of something else? Well, cats don’t understand the value humans place on jewelry or money. For them, food and prey are valuable resources that they are willing to share with those they trust. So when a cat leaves a gift for its owner, it’s not only communicating but also sharing resources with them.

Asking for Food or Attention Theory

According to the “Asking for Food or Attention Theory,” it’s actually a deliberate form of communication.

This theory suggests that when a stray cat brings a gift, it’s a way of building a relationship with its caretaker. Whether it’s showing gratitude for the food it has received or trying to elicit further attention, this behavior is commonly seen in both male and female cats.

However, not all cats leave gifts with the same intentions. Some may do so as a territorial marking behavior, while others may do so out of boredom. To determine if a stray cat is leaving gifts as a way of asking for food or attention, caretakers need to observe their behavior carefully.

If the cat is following you around, meowing and seeking attention, then it’s likely that they’re trying to build a relationship. Offering them food and affection can reinforce this behavior and establish positive communication between you and your feline friend.

Handling the Gifts Properly

These “gifts” are actually a sign of affection and gratitude towards their human caretakers. However, handling these gifts properly is crucial to maintain the safety and health of both you and your cat.

Here are some tips on how to handle these gifts properly:>

  • Wear gloves when handling any dead animals brought by your cat to avoid any potential diseases.
  • Dispose of the animal properly, either by burying it or placing it in a sealed plastic bag before throwing it away.
  • Keep other pets away from the gift as they may try to eat it or play with it, which can lead to health complications.
  • If you live in an area where there is a risk of predators or scavengers, such as coyotes or raccoons, it’s best to dispose of the gift immediately to prevent attracting them to your property.

It’s important to note that scolding or punishing your cat for bringing gifts is not an effective solution. This behavior is a natural instinct that is difficult to discourage. Instead, try redirecting their hunting instincts by providing them with toys or interactive games that simulate hunting behaviors.

Additionally, if you have other cats in the household, it’s crucial to monitor their interactions with the gift as they may see it as an opportunity to compete for food or attention. This can lead to aggression and territorial behavior.

Appreciating the Gesture

It’s important to understand that your feline friend is not trying to gross you out or cause trouble. In fact, they are showing their appreciation and affection towards you.

When a stray cat brings you a small animal such as a mouse or bird, it’s their way of saying that they trust and respect you as part of their family. This gesture is a sign of the strong bond that they share with you, and it’s a symbol of love and respect.

To show your appreciation for this gesture, it’s crucial to praise your cat and thank them for their kind gift. This will strengthen your bond and encourage them to continue bringing gifts in the future.

However, disposing of these gifts properly is also an essential part of appreciating the gesture. These animals were once living creatures and deserve to be treated with respect. Make sure to dispose of them in a humane manner by burying the animal or giving it a proper burial.


In conclusion, stray cats leaving gifts is a natural behavior that serves multiple purposes. It’s their way of communicating with humans and expressing gratitude for food and shelter. Stray cats are born hunters, and even well-fed house cats display hunting behaviors. Hunting is crucial for the survival of stray cats as they must fend for themselves in the wild.

Stray cats can be found in urban and suburban areas, scavenging for food and water while seeking shelter in abandoned buildings or alleys. They may live alone or in small colonies near food sources like restaurants or grocery stores.

Proper handling of these gifts is essential to avoid any health risks. It’s advisable to wear gloves when handling dead animals, dispose of them properly, and keep other pets away from them. Scolding or punishing your cat for bringing gifts is not effective as it’s a natural instinct that is difficult to discourage.

Appreciating your cat’s gesture by praising them and thanking them for their kind gift strengthens the bond between you two. Disposing of these gifts humanely by burying them or giving them a proper burial shows respect for these once-living creatures.

Overall, stray cats leaving gifts is an important part of their feline experience that should be acknowledged and appreciated. These independent creatures come and go as they please, leaving behind small tokens of appreciation along the way.