Second Chance: Activating Prey Drive

Second Chance: Activating Prey Drive

Second Chance Humane Society’s Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shops have been servicing San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties for over 26 years. Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other services. View our shelter pets and services online:


Ok cat parents – I’m throwing down a reality check for you today.

The life of the indoor cat is not natural. I understand that it is a necessary and preferable way of life these days for the majority of cats, and we certainly prefer it to homelessness, but it is not always healthy. (According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 59 percent of cats are overweight or obese.) So I am also going to share some ideas to support a healthy, happy and more natural indoor cat life.

Let’s start with the feeding routine. Most of you participate in free-feeding your cats, since it is easy and cats don’t naturally scarf down meals all at once. But when given the open buffet most cats eat unnaturally large meals and then return for even more (as there is nothing in the house to hunt and distract them from the silver platter).

To survive outside, cats catch somewhere around eight to 13 small prey in a day. The edible contents of the average mouse or bird is about one to two tablespoons, not a heaping one-half cup at a time. Despite years of domestication, cats are still born with a prey drive and are hardwired to seek, hunt, and pounce. So give them that opportunity.

According to research, community cats and barn cats sleep 62 percent of the day and groom and play for 19 percent. That still leaves 19 percent of the day spent hunting and feeding. Thus “free-feeding” does not allow cats to be cats, who naturally work for their food. (And some studies show this can lead to anxiety.)

But today there are some alternatives to free feeding that can mimic hunting. There are indoor cat feeding systems to activate a cat’s prey drive indoors, including objects resembling mice with kibble inside. These systems also hold only a portion of a cat’s daily ration. So you can split a meal between five dispensers and hide them.

I recognize this is not feasible for all cat homes, especially ones that include dogs. I haven’t met a dog that wouldn’t love to dine upon “little mice filled with cat kibble.”  However, there are still options to encourage indoor cats to be cats.

Incorporate activating your cat’s prey drive by playing with interactive cat toys. Be sure to let your cat “catch” the toy at the end to fulfill the glory of the kill. Those laser light toys can be frustrating as we never get to catch that darn red bug. I suggest dropping a piece of kibble or a treat on that little dot periodically so we have the satisfaction of the hunt’s bounty. Help us live out our innate desires for short periods everyday, then we can blissfully nap.

More about me:

My name is Hulk. I am a SuperCat!, 9-month-young teen. As you can see by my photo I like indoor “hunting.” Here at the shelter there are many places for me to jump on, climb on, crawl through, hide in, pounce upon, etc. In this photo, I have positioned myself appropriately so others have a hard time seeing me…easier to sneak up on my “prey” (unsuspecting roommates) heh heh.

When not hunting I enjoy cuddling with my human friends. Although shy with people initially, I am quite comfortable with other cats and dogs. I am seeking a super person to come and adopt me. Hope to meet you soon!

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