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Predicting which cats make good hunters?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
This is sort of related to my recent thread about alpha cats...

For the experienced people, how can you predict if a cat will be a good hunter? Can you observe how they play as kittens, perhaps see them develop their stalking instinct, and know they will grow up to be capable hunters? Is it along gender lines?

There are a dozen cats currently listed at the animal control headquarters in my area (=fairly large city with a lot of surrounding rural territory). Six males, six females. Two of the males were described as having stalking skills, one described as "smart" and the other as "athletic". But when it came to the women, one young kitten was listed as "sweet and playful" but that she had a very strong stalking instinct and an adult female was described as spending all of her time in the exercise yard on hunting and eating her prey. So out of this batch of a dozen cats, four had some hunting instincts but the two strongest hunters were female.

Anyway, what percentage of cats have legitimate hunting skills and at what point can you begin to see that part of their personality? I've seen some comments that outdoor mamacats make the fiercest hunters because of skill and motivation, and based on my limited observations I would tend to agree...but any comments?
post #2 of 14
My Kandie evan thought declawed on front(not my idea) is an awesome hunter she kills at least one full size crow a yr.. she has always stalked .. She was stalking a small bird when I picked her from her mommy...

Zoey has good tequnique but no kill drive she like s to stalk and punce..
post #3 of 14
I think your observation about the outdoor mama cat is on target. She has to provide for herself AND her kittens. But I'm curious, for a cat that's a pet or is going to be a pet, why does this attribute even factor in?
post #4 of 14
Just wondering if you allow Kandie outside by herself when declawed?
I thought this was a very dangerous idea?
post #5 of 14
Most cats born to outside feral cats that lived with their mom long enough to learn how to hunt will be a mighty hunter. Although most of my cats were born to feral moms, they were pulled young enough that when I mouse shows up, they have no clue what to do with it. Lots have strong stalking skills but none can really hunt.
post #6 of 14
From personal experience, female tabbies make the best hunters. Even Festie, who has been indoors her entire life, except one night when she snuck out a window at about 4 months! She hunts bugs in the house, and birds out the window. Thank goodness we haven't had any mice inside, but I think she would get them.

Not at all scientific, but plain tabbies are the ones I would bet on.

Are you adopting for an outside cat? Usually, people have ferals available. They don't make friendly pets, but you provide a home and food, and they often provide pest control.
post #7 of 14
Originally Posted by Loveysmummy
Just wondering if you allow Kandie outside by herself when declawed?
I thought this was a very dangerous idea?
Her paws are stronger than my clawed cat... ohh and she stays in the back yard( she is seldom out of site/// must not be to bad since shell be 17 june 30th
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Sorry, I might have confused things by mentioning the animal control center's page -- I'm definitely not looking for a new cat. Someone had just donated a new digital camera to the center, and I was checking out their new/improved adoption page, and then I decided to use their descriptions to get some initial statistics about how many cats are stalkers or hunters.

(As for why they would comment on a cat's stalking/hunting skills, there are farmers living nearby who occasionally adopt healthy cats to be part-time pets and part-time mousers.)

Anyway...back on point:

Let me make a pretend scale:

1 = zero stalking instincts who would never be hunters
2 = manage to fake some "pretend" instincts (to get treats from their owner)
3 = exhibit some stalking (but you can't know if they have the killer instinct)
4 = capable hunters, grabbing the occasional mouse or bird when available
5 = purely skilled hunters (grabbing enough prey to feed a feline family)

So is this nature or nurture? Plenty of housecats appear to be in "3" category, but the tame strays I observe in my neighborhood basically subsist on garbage and food bowls left outside by well-meaning strangers. Even when faced with starvation and urgent need to survive, I don't really see many of these "3" cats become hunters.

Nano is very well fed, but the last time she escaped for a brief jaunt outside she killed a mouse and brought the carcass back to me as a gift. So it wasn't for food -- but how is Nano different than all of the "3" cats?

So how does a cat become a hunter? Is it nature or nurture? Does it depend on gender or if they are a tabby? Or is it something learned from the mother in the wild? But if so, how can some tame housecats still demonstrate themselves to be capable hunters when prey is present? And how can a cat be a great stalker but not have a killer instinct? Comments?

(These are just opinion questions -- nothing is at stake, we are just discussing generalities of cat behavior.)
post #9 of 14
And why do cats give gifts? Our angel kitty Spot left a dead mouse in the door of the barn for dh almost every day of her life. Obviously a good hunter, but why share with a human? And why didn't the other cats eat his "snack"?

And how would you know if your cat was a 5, except to stop feeding them and see if they starve?

We feed our barn cats once a day. I do know of people who don't feed their barn cats at all, but most people do feed them.

I would guess Garfield is a one or two. I would guess Festus is a 3, but could easily advance to a 4 or 5 if I let her outside.

I have no idea of the outside cats, but Will is awsome and cool, so I guess he is a 5 or 6 (LOL). And Josie is a mushpot, so I doubt she is much of a hunter. The others are true ferals, but good at finding the food dish once we are gone.
post #10 of 14
I've never raised kittens, but from what I've read, cat learn to be hunters as kittens, taught by their mother. I suppose if the mother is a domestic cat who has never hunted, the kittens won't learn either. My three cats all appear to be a "3". Mellie and Rocket were strays before I adopted them, and Rocket had tapeworms, so apparently he dined on mice while he was out. Observing Mellie at play, she's a good stalker, but lacks the kill technique, so I don't know how she survived out. Tommy was part of a surrendered litter, so I don't think he's ever been out hunting.

Farmers who need barn cats....OK, that's a good answer as to why it would be relevant. Thanks.....didn't think of that.
post #11 of 14
I believe it is about 10% nature and 90% nurture.

My friend who adopted 2 of my bottle fed kittens called the other day with the "mouse story". Her gang found a mouse in the back yard. 3 of her 4 cats were separated from their mom at under 4 weeks and one has an unknown background but was found living outside. The first 2 to contact the mouse were the bottle feds. They saw it, stalked it, batted it, but had no clue what to do beyond that. The cat pulled at 4 weeks from mom faired the same. The last cat with unknown origin (assumed to live on the street for a while) actually made an attempt to bite it's back near the neck. He had some clue from living outside for a while but didn't have the firm catch-bite neck-kill process down.

I see that with my cats. The younger they were pulled from the wild, the less successful they are at the true "hunt". If they spend anytime outside with the ferals, they soon learn by observation of the others how to hunt.

The ferals hunt even when food is available to them. I see no differentiation between colors or sex. If they know how to hunt they do it.

This is why I get so angry when people dump their housecats out in the country "for a better life". People assume that hunting is entirely instinctual with cats and that is simply not true. They have to learn through observation.
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Those were some good answers. Hunting can be learned through imitation, but can a cat acquire that killer instinct or is it something inate in a certain percentage of cats? As for actual technique, if they learn through imitation that would explain why cleverness and/or adaptability are traits commonly seen in successful hunters. Because a cat can see a mouse by chance, and manage to make the needed neck bite, but...some cats can actually go find mice that are out of sight and hunt for prey.

Anyway, just thinking...
post #13 of 14
Once in a blue moon a mouse actually has the nerve to enter my house. About half of my cats will sense it and get as close to it as they can (none of the inside cats ever learned to hunt from their mom). Their sense of smell is absolutely astonishing and I'm glad that they actually "show" me where the mouse is. If it comes out in the open, they will play with it as if it is a cat toy. They don't bite/kill, they tire it out until it dies. (If I'm home they don't get that far btw).

I had 2 indoor/outdoor cats that were both found as adult strays. Both had spectacular hunting techniques. Rocky would wander in a field and find a mouse trail, then sit motionless for hours on end until a mouse wandered by. One pounce, one bite, then a meal. How he knew where the mousetrails were was beyond me. I assume he could smell their trail. Shep on the other hand would pace back and forth on the path next to the tall grass. When something caught her eye, it was pounce, put in mouth and carry it to the mowed grass around the house where she would play with it for a while before doing the bite/kill. I have to assume that both cats lived outside for years before they found me as their hunting instinct was so pronounced.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
That's interesting, Momofmany. I don't know Nano's exact background, but she was 6-8 years old when I rescued her and had been on the streets for a long time. While she is honestly semi-feral and would probably function best as an indoor/outdoor cat in a safe rural environment, she has adapted to being an urban housecat.

But somewhere along the way, by whatever means and for whatever reason, she acquired the ability to be a functional hunter. Much like Rocky and Shep.
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