The Thrill of the Hunt: Do Cats Need It to Live a Good Life?

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Hello, this is Dr. Karin. Read my bio, get to know me more, and meet his five cheerful cats: Clutch, Cyril, Alex, Zelda, and Zazzles.

Cats have been with us for thousands of years. During that time, cats have evolved from skilled silent hunters who stalk and kill their prey with astonishing efficiency.

cyril faceplant
Cyril’s face planting…

Don’t get me wrong. Cyril, who has dyspraxia, isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of all pet cats, but you get the idea. However, when we compare the behavioral and morphological changes that domestication has caused to our canine companions, as shown by my Chihuahua, Ned, and his German Malinois, Koda, our cats… Friends of the family retain many of the instincts and traits of their ancestors.

Ned the Chihuahua and Koda the German Malinois
Ned the Chihuahua and Koda the German Malinois

And it is this fact that often makes it difficult for us, their human caregivers, to determine the extent to which we should encourage the natural behaviors inherited from their ancestors.

We’ve previously talked about using toys and laser pointers to stimulate your cat’s hunting instincts and give them aerobic exercise. I believe this is an important part of providing enrichment, exercise, and mental stimulation for cats, but is it enough? We encourage cats to be cats, and we don’t punish them. Should we be allowed to hunt prey without being subject to punishment? I’m not sure, but I also think this is an issue that can be interpreted in many ways.

Is it cruel to stop cat hunting?

Back in the late 1970s, British Livestock Welfare Council It developed a set of rules that are the basis for virtually all laws regarding the keeping of captive animals, not just livestock. These rules are better known as the “Five Freedoms” and are:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirstby easy access to water and food to maintain health and vitality.
  2. relief from discomfortby providing the right environment.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury, and illnessBy prevention or prompt diagnosis and treatment.
  4. freedom to express normal behaviorBy providing sufficient space, appropriate equipment, and suitable companions of the animal’s own species.
  5. freedom from fear and painBy ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.

More recently, these basic provisions have been expanded to not only prevent negative experiences, but also to a life worth living. Now I think it’s safe to say that my cats have lives worth living. I myself am very happy with this cat, and I think the same is true of most cats who live with human families. I can also confidently say that most domestic cats enjoy a life in which at least four of the five freedoms are met. However, things get a little confusing when you look at the fourth rule: Freedom to express normal behavior. does this mean us? should Do we want our cat to be free to roam and hunt? Some might argue that it is, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

comfortable clutch
Most pet cats, like comfortable clutches, have lives worth living.

I live in the UK, where keeping cats indoors is largely frowned upon, but this is starting to change. When I lived in Australia, rules regarding cat ownership became stricter, such as microchipping, mandatory cat registration, and curfews. Unlike Britain, where cats have been part of the landscape for thousands of years, Australia had no predators until cats were introduced by European settlers in the early 19th century.Since its introduction, the population has 3-4 million stray cats appearresponsible for the murder 6 million native animals per day, more than 100 million species are at risk of extinction. In this scenario, limiting access to the outdoors and hunting cats is definitely necessary. But what about parts of the world where cats are somehow more tolerated within the ecosystem, such as the UK or the US?

In my humble opinion, keeping cats indoors is part of being a responsible owner. Often, we live with cats in areas where there are a lot of people, dogs, and cars. Because there are potentially deadly dangers such as predators, toxins, parasites, and viruses, and feline population densities are much higher than they would naturally occur, it is important to base your pet’s welfare on its wild origin. Judging begins to seem pointless.

Taking the five freedoms into consideration and looking at it more objectively, I think the life of a completely indoor cat would be like this:

  • free from hunger and thirst
  • free from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury, and illness
  • free from fear and pain

When we are able to provide the following environment for indoor cats,

  • Full of games and interactive toys,
  • You can explore the vertical world through cat trees and shelves.
  • Challenge them by presenting food in an interesting way,
  • filled with attention, love, and affection;

We believe in not only allowing them to: freedom to express normal behavior; We also give them A life worth living.

Zelda and Cyril enjoy playing with Actinidia on the scratching post
Zelda and Cyril enjoy indoor enrichment: Actinidia on the scratching post

Is it cruel to allow or encourage cats to hunt?

Cruelty is primarily a human invention. In the animal kingdom, there are very few instances of one animal inflicting pain or suffering on another purely for sport or pleasure. Hunting is a matter of survival. But does this still apply to our household pets?

Our pets still have a prey drive, a wild instinct that turns even the most delicate furball into a killing machine. That’s why some people think you should let your pet do what comes naturally to it: hunt. The way I see it is that you can’t treat a cat as a pet one moment and a wild animal the next. Either we work towards their domestication or we are free to leave everything to whatever fate nature has in store for them (and I’m sure you know which side I’m on) ).

Cats may retain their hunting instinct, but most cats do not need Some of them don’t seem to know what to do with their prey after they catch it. The first time I heard Alex’s “hunt chatter” was when I caught my husband eating a hot dog. Why would they go to work chewing up skin and fur when they have a bowl of soft lumps at home? So we either become cats that hunt and eat food we don’t need, with the risk of contracting various diseases in the process, or cats that catch prey to kill or play with. I’m not saying these cats are cruel, they’re just following instincts that are no longer necessary.

But I wonder if it’s irresponsible, if not cruel, to knowingly allow our cats to chase and kill wild animals when they don’t need to.

Cyril, Clutch, and Alex finish their hunt.
Cyril, Clutch, and Alex finish their hunt.

Give cats the thrill of the hunt

I think it’s important to remember where our cats come from and that they still have many of the drives and instincts of wild cats, but that ignores the fact that they are cats. doesn’t mean you should it’s not It’s already wild. Part of being responsible for the animals in our lives is keeping them safe, but allowing a cat to hunt also requires protection from roads, predators, parasites, infectious diseases, and other factors. Given the additional risks involved, such as collisions with cats, it seems important to me to give them animals. Using another method to flex predatory muscles is a safer way to ensure their needs are met.

And to be honest, if my spoiled cats don’t deserve to live, I don’t know who does.

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