Do Cats Like to Hunt? (The Detailed Answer)

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I have read articles and research to determine my best answer to the question “do cats like to hunt?” It turns out there is a considerable amount written about why cats hunt, and how this need to hunt affects both indoor and outdoor cats.

It is inconclusive if cats like to hunt. However, domestic cats have evolutionary traits that drive them to hunt. Research shows that domestic cats are excellent hunters and they will hunt even if they have already fed. 

Were you hoping for a more definitive answer on the question “do cats like to hunt?” From what I have read, the research is not in a position yet to make that determination, but there are many interesting related conclusions and my own observations with my cat, Charlotte. Keep reading below to learn more!

Do Cats Enjoy Hunting?

Since we do not know how cats actually think it is hard to know if they actually enjoy hunting.  However, we do know that cats have an evolutionary drive to hunt animals.  Even indoor cats enjoy pouncing on toys like they were hunting a mouse or bird. 

I found a load of information describing how and why domestic cats like to hunt. This information clarifies more about domestic cats and hunting. This topic on cats is fascinating and closely related to the topic of this post, but it was challenging finding more information on if cats like to hunt.

I was able to find some information to help us start forming a decision on if cats like to hunt. Cats International wrote that “after a successful hunt for mice or a toy, many cats engage in a tension releasing dance.” This is interesting because humans usually associate dancing with enjoyment. When it comes to cats though, we should not humanize their actions and instead need to use real data.

Do House Cats Like To Hunt?

House cats enjoy games where they can chase and pounce on toys, such as teaser toys with long strings.  However, we do not know how house cats think, so people don’t actually know if they like to hunt.  House cats do have hunting skills and are good at capturing mice if they are in the home. 

In addition to this, Purina states that “cat hunting is more about fun and entertainment.” But the evidence Purina cites to support this is just evidence that a cat is powerless against its evolutionary code that is “hardwired into their brains.”

Do Cats Play With Their Prey?

There much observation of cats hunting and then playing with their prey. Studies have shown that this is due to the level of fear a cat has of injury, and that when a cat fears injury more it will play with the prey more.  Whether cats actually receive enjoyment from playing with their prey is unknown. 

So, based on all this information, we must say that it is inconclusive if cats actually enjoy hunting.

One type of prey that cats might play with are cockroaches.  To learn more about this, check out my article:  Do Cats Hunt Cockroaches. 

Why Do Cats Hunt?

Domestic cats hunt because they have evolutionary traits that give them an innate drive to hunt prey.  Cats hunt because of this combination of evolutionary hunting traits and a body built for agility and stealth which allows them to be successful while hunting. 

Cats International says that “the hunting instinct is buried deeply in the mind of even the youngest kittens.”

If you own a cat, this will not surprise you since you have likely seen a cat stalk or pounce on a toy or maybe your foot.

Cats International goes on to say that “cats are most active in the morning and evening (dawn and twilight) – the prime hunting hours.” The reason for this is evolutionary traits that have been passed down over the years.

National Geographic reinforces the evolutionary point by stating that cats “are particularly effective at night” with their “light-reflecting eyes” and “acute hearing.”

The hunting ability of domestic cats also makes them remarkably like wild animals. National Geographic goes on to say that “like their wild relatives, domestic cats are natural hunters able to stalk prey and pounce with sharp claws and teeth.” It is amazing that our furry friends are built with the ability to hunt like this.

Cat Hunting Toy Balls

Do Cats Hunt For Sport?

Yes, cats do seem to hunt for sport since they will continue hunting even when they are not hungry.  Cats will often feed and then continue hunting prey animals that catch their interest.  This indicates that cats do hunt for sport. 

Do Cats Hunt Birds?

Yes, cats hunt birds and they are quite successful at it.  Cats will use their stealth and agility to hunt birds.  Cats will hide in bushes and pounce on birds as they begin to fly off the ground.  This allows the claws of a cat to latch on to the wings of a bird and catch it. 

Do Cats Hunt Mice?

Yes, cats hunt mice and other small rodents.  Many cats are known as mousers because they are so successful at hunting mice.  For example, the Maine Coon is widely known as an excellent mouser because of their ability to hunt mice.  

What Do Cats Prey On?

Cats prey on all sorts of small animals, such as mice, birds, lizards, and snakes.  Cats have innate hunting skills that help them stealthily hunt small prey animals, such as rodents. Cats prey on small animals because they can catch them easily and eat them for sustenance. 

Do Cats Kill For Fun?

Yes, cats will kill for fun.  Cats are known to have excellent hunting skills that they will continue to use by catching and killing prey even after they have eaten.  Cats have also been known to play with their prey for amusement prior to killing it. 

Do Cats Eat Birds Or Just Kill Them?

Cats will eat birds after killing them.  Cats are excellent hunters with the skills to catch and kill birds, which they will eat.  Birds are a staple of an outdoor cat’s diet.  An outdoor cat will stalk a bird up close and then catch it before it can fly away.  Once a cat catches and kills a bird, they will eat it. 

Do Indoor Cats Like to Hunt?

Until people are able to see inside indoor cats’ minds we will not know if they like to hunt.  However, we do know that cats enjoy playtime and frequently do hunt.  Indoor cats still have evolutionary traits and strong hunting instincts.

Indoor domestic cats are quite playful, and I have witnessed them exhibit hunting skills inside a house. My own cat, Charlotte, loves to hide and jump out at me. She also likes to chase after my ankles and gently pat them from behind to let me know she got me.

I know that Charlotte’s indoor hunting behavior is likely filling the need of hers to use these skills and not necessarily enjoyment like a human might have doing something fun. It is still fun for me to watch though. I get a kick out of it.

Do Cats Instinctively Hunt?

Yes, cats instinctively hunt and they have strong evolutionary traits that are hard to ignore.  Cats have a strong instinctive desire to hunt small creatures or toys.  A small creature or toy resembling a small animal can be irresistible to a cat so they will hunt it.  

International Cat Care says that cats are “inherently neophilic which means they like to try new and different foods and enjoy variety.” This means as cat owners we should try and mix up our cat’s foods every once and a while.

Obviously, it goes without saying (although I’m saying it!) that if you are thinking of mixing up your cat’s foods you should consult your veterinarian since this could have health or nutrition implications for your cat.

We can also play with our cats to nurture their need to be hunters. Catster does a great job breaking down ways that cat owners can do this:

  •   Set up a nice spot so your cat can watch birds or squirrels outside
  •   Motorized toys that move
  •   Toys that release food when a cat plays with them
  •   Feather wands
  •   Laser pointers, ending the session pointed on a toy the cat can grab

Do House Cats Hunt Mice?

House cats do hunt mice.  House cats have strong hunting instincts that will trigger when they see a mouse in the house.  Even though house cats are not outdoor cats, they still have hunting skills that will assist them in stalking and catching a mouse.

Do House Cats Hunt Rabbits?

House cats do hunt rabbits.  House cats have strong hunting traits that will instinctively cause them to hunt rabbits you may bring into the house.  Rabbits are in danger around house cats because house cats will stalk and hunt them. 

To learn more about cats hunting rabbits check out my article:  Do Cats Hunt Rabbits. 

Do House Cats Hunt Snakes?

House cats will hunt snakes that get in the house and they will catch them.  House cats will stalk snakes as they slither across the floor and pounce on them.  Larger snakes will put up more of a fight against a house cat. 

Do House Cats Hunt Squirrels?

House cats will hunt squirrels if the opportunity presents itself.  Squirrels and cats are both fast, agile, and have the ability to climb trees.  House cats will be drawn to the movement of squirrels and will use their claws to grab them. 

Do House Cats Hunt at Night?

Yes, house cats hunt at night.  House cats are skilled hunters with instinctive hunting traits that aid their nocturnal hunting.  House cats hunting at night will stay in the shadows and stalk their prey.  House cats will prowl around the house at night hunting for prey. 

To learn more about cats hunting at night and whether they hunt bats, check out my article:  Do Cats Hunt Bats?

Why Do Domestic Cats Still Hunt?

Domestic cats are usually fed by their owners every day but they still hunt because of their strong evolutionary instincts that keep them hunting.  Domestic cats have hunting traits they are born with that naturally kick in when they see a creature or toy move like prey.  

Do Outdoor Cats Hunt?

Cats that are outside, whether feral or domesticated, do hunt efficiently.   Evidence exists to show that cats are excellent hunters when they are outside.  Cats that are outside are known to hunt birds, rodents, small lizards, and other animals. 

The evidence is also inconclusive on whether outdoor cats like to hunt. One thing is for sure though – outdoor cats are good at hunting. The New York Times states that the domestic cat is positioned “as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation.”  This is because cats can be very effective hunters in just a small area of land.

The New York Times also said that “even fed cats are profoundly tuned to the hunt, and when they see something flutter, they can’t help but move in for the kill.” This speaks back to the evolutionary needs a cat has while also speaking to the effectiveness of cat hunting.

I witnessed a neighbor’s domestic cat hunting outside. Some birds had gathered in between our townhouses and I had no idea the cat was even in the area. I did not see him at all. He was there in the bushes though. I heard a huge fluttering from the birds and looked back and saw this cat leap in the air with his paws stretched out and he successfully caught this bird and ran off.

Do Outdoor Cats Hunt At Night?

Yes, outdoor cats do hunt at night because cats are nocturnal creatures.  Outdoor cats have incredible hunting skills that they use every night.  Outdoor cats are excellent hunters that stealthily use the darkness of night to hunt and catch their prey. 

How Do I Stop My Outdoor Cat From Hunting?

Two ways to stop an outdoor cat from hunting would be to have it wear a collar with a bell or a birdsbesafe collar.  A cat collar with a bell will alert other animals when they hear the noise of the bell.  A birdsbesafe cat collar has unique colors in it that will alert animals of a stalking cat when they see the collar. 

Do Outdoor Cats Have Predators?

Yes, outdoor cats do have predators.  Outdoor cats need to be aware of dogs, eagles, coyotes, and bobcats because they can be predators of outdoor cats. Outdoor cats need to use their agility, speed, and intelligence to outsmart predators. 

Should I Let My Cat Hunt Outside?

No, you should not let your cat hunt outside and instead keep your cat inside.  Cats are excellent hunters that can decimate local wildlife systems due to their hunting ability.  Letting your cat outside also exposes them to dangers from getting hit by a car, drinking tainted water, and being caught by other predators. 

What Do Cats Hunt Outside?

Cats hunt mice, birds, lizards, snakes, and other animals when they are outside.  Cats utilize their inherent hunting skills, speed, and agility when they hunt outside.  These hunting attributes help a cat catch small animals when they are hunting outside. 

What Age Do Cats Stop Hunting?

Cats do not stop hunting because they always have innate hunting instincts.  Even senior cats will still have their interest triggered by small prey like mice, birds, or toys resembling those animals.  Cats that are outside must hunt to survive so they will not stop hunting. 


In conclusion, I think with all this information that I dug up we have been able to determine that it’s possible cats like to hunt, but we need more information on what is going on in their heads.

The plethora of evidence out there points towards it being more of an evolutionary need to hunt and it’s just not possible to definitively say that cats enjoy hunting.

It will be interesting to see if there are any future scientific studies that will ethically examine exactly what goes on inside a cat’s brain when they are conducting hunting activities and capturing prey.

Please check out the references as they were critical to this article and they were a blast to read.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out a few more:

Here are some of my favorite cat products

In addition to checking out some other More Meows articles, I hope you’ll check out some of my favorite cat products as well.  These are affiliate links, so if you end up using them, I’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you.  These are the products I really do find most helpful.

Litter Box:  I started out with normal, traditional litter boxes for my cat.  Then, I tried this automatic litter box on Amazon (affiliate link), which helped reduce the litter upkeep.  Finally, I am now a believer in the Litter-Robot 3 Connect on Amazon (affiliate link).  This robotic litter box is not for everyone based on the price tag, but for me the benefits (very little upkeep, works efficiently, clean, mobile app) far outweighed the cost. 

My Cat’s Litter-Robot 3 Connect (with night light on) – See the link above the photo!

Cat Tree:  I have purchased a couple of this Amazon Basics Cat Tree on Amazon (affiliate link).  My cat spends a lot of time on and around this cat tree, which I position near my sofa.  She uses the scratching posts on this cat tree multiple times a day, which means she is not scratching the sofa instead.

Cat Water Fountain:  I love this cat water fountain on Amazon (affiliate link).  There are three main benefits to having a water fountain like this for your cat.  The first benefit is that it keeps water running so that your cat doesn’t need to drink still water.  The second benefit is that it filters the water.  The third benefit is that it will keep your cat hydrated!

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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