Cats have been known to kill mice even long ago, whenever both cats and humans discovered that they could eat better when their food is free from mice. Also, in some cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry”, cats and mice go on with their role as hunter and prey, respectively. Though your pet cat might strike a toy mouse on the carpet to please you, do not get easily fooled – since a cat’s instincts make them desire the real thing.
Certainly, mice are not the only source of food of feral cats. A wild cat is not that hard to please, so they can also go for birds, rabbits and other rodents. However, it is easy for a cat to catch mice. Their very small size prevents them from doing a counterattack (which makes the “fight like a cornered rat” expression a reality) and they cannot escape like birds by flying away. Therefore, it is known that cats love to chase mice.
Hunting is a cat’s survival instinct. Compared to other animals like dogs, a cat’s body does not produce enough taurine. Taurine is needed to build more proteins. Animals cannot live for a long time without this vital amino acid, so cats should include this in their diet to make up for taurine deficiency. Meat is the only food source that gives the right amount of taurine to make a cat survive; this makes a cat an “obligatory carnivore”, as per biologists. Keep in mind that, while dogs can live on a vegetarian diet, this is not the same case with cats. They have to kill in order to live. Or else, let humans help them, which is just the same.
Cats are born to hunt. As early as 4 to 6 weeks old, kittens begin to stalk and pounce on their food bowl. Later on, their mother’s twitching tail turns into a surrogate mouse. Their mother carefully supervises their hunting skills to further refine them. Kittens observe and imitate what their mother and siblings do, and the mother will hunt for live prey so they can practice. For this reason, wild and feral cats often bite the neck of their prey to kill them immediately. However, kittens that were not able to learn such skill “play” with their prey in their growing years, but do not succeed in making a clean kill. Some more reasons for the “play” are explained below. A mother cat personally trains her kittens, and this is one reason why an older cat that brings home live prey shows below average hunting skills.
Nevertheless, learning just improves a normal part of a kitten’s instincts. Experiments show that even when kittens were not given stimuli, or did not play in their first weeks following birth, they still turned out to be good hunters when they became adults, meaning that cats have some instinctive and maybe genetically coded hunting skills. Generally, they continue to learn their hunting skills as they grow, either by stalking people who pass by, attacking their feet, or by catching a toy or live mouse inside or outside the house.
Unfortunately, it is a misconception that cats actively hunt when they are hungry. Most farmers found out that cats that are full are even better at controlling pests. Cats just love to hunt.