Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Do hungry domestic cats hunt more than well fed ones?

There is or was a belief that a domestic cat's desire to hunt is divorced from his hunger or lack of it. In other words whether a cat is well fed or not does not affect his desire to hunt prey animals as the desire or motivation to hunt in innate. It is instinctive and the feline will always do it when the prey is available.

This article refers to a study on cat food ingredients and hunting desire but before you read that it has to be common sense that a hungry cat will be a more committed hunter for the simple reason they need to eat to survive. They will kill and eat what they need to survive.

And on the other side of the coin a well-fed cat is less likely to hunt provided the food is balanced and contains all the nutrients but a fed cat will still hunt instinctively with the caveat that each cat has their own desire to hunt. Some cats just don't want to do it. I lived with a female cat who was disinterested for instance.

High quality wet cat food which is grain-free plus play will curb your cat's desire to hunt
High quality wet cat food which is grain-free plus play will curb your cat's desire to hunt. Graphic provided by the scientist conducting the study. 

There is no doubt that there is some truth in this but a recent study  might be considered to undermine the theory or perhaps it supports the theory? The scientists found that complete diet cat food as described i.e. wet cat food which is considered by the manufacturers to totally complete, might not be quite so complete as expected as it might be omitting some micronutrients (unspecified). Domestic cats instinctively sense this and hunt mice to make up the deficit.

The scientists decided this because when they fed cats grain-free wet cat food their hunting behaviour diminished by 36 percent. Playing with your cat can reduce hunting by 25 percent.

Martina Cecchetti, a PhD student also of Exeter University who conducted the trial said: 

"Some cat foods contain protein from plant sources and it is possible these foods leave some cats deficient in one or more micronutrients, prompting them to hunt."

So there is some potential deficiency in 'complete cat food' which contains grain. Perhaps the presence of the grain in some of these foods triggers a message in the brain of cats to tell them that the food is not quite up to scratch and drives them to hunt for the real thing: a small rodent, their preferred prey animal.

Play also helps to deter feline hunting. This indicates that when a cat has hunted he pauses because he has satisfied his desire to hunt. This is the likely conclusion because playing with a domestic cat is a hunting substitute for the cat. All cat play is play-hunting.

Most cat owners who allow their cats free access to the outside would wish to curb their cat's hunting. Some find it disgusting, others accept it but dislike it. Here are two things that can be done to curb it. Select grain-free wet cat food and play with your cat a lot more.

Click here to read the study.

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