Why does my cat bring me toys is a common question amongst pet parents who often look down to discover a catnip-filled mouse or feather wand being dropped at their feet.
While being presented with one of the best cat toys may understandably lead you to conclude your feline friend wants to play, there are other reasons your kitty may be bringing you their favorite plaything.
For some cats, presenting their owner with a toy is their way of expressing their love, while for others they may view their toy as prey that they’ve caught and are proudly showing off their trophy.
Although boredom can certainly be a factor (which is where learning how to play with a cat can come in handy), your fur friend delivering a toy to you can have many meanings. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons, along with what to do if your kitty is bringing you dead animals or other inappropriate gifts.
Why does my cat bring me toys and other gifts?
1. They want to play
It’s the simplest explanation here, but if you’ve been away from the house for most of the day then your cat will likely be starved of attention, and want an immediate top-up. This is usually the case if they’ve bought you a stuffed toy – or even another object that could be used as a toy – and dropped it at your feet.
If you find your kitty is particularly demanding around this, engaging them in 10-15 minutes of play is likely to make a huge difference to their behavior. But don't worry if you don't have time to meet their need in that moment because the best automated cat toys can help keep them occupied until you're free to play.
2. They see the toy as a trophy
Cats will instinctively hunt, stalk, and catch their prey, because those are the instincts that are embedded into their DNA. This is why outdoor cats have been known to bring in the grisly relics of their ‘hunt’ – they see what they have caught as a trophy, and are presenting it to you as such, either as a reward for you, or as their means of contribution to the household! In the absence of live prey, indoor cats will use cat toys as a substitute, hence why they are bringing them to you.
In the absence of toys, they may even bring you items of clothing or other objects, possibly as a way of teaching you how to hunt. It may be that you find this behavior endearing and don’t want to discourage it, but if you do, we recommend checking out some of our buying guides to provide them with some alternative means of amusement!
3. As a sign of love or trust
If your cat purrs or bumps their head against you before or after dropping the toy off near you, then it’s probably safe to say that they’re doing this as a sign of affection. As previously mentioned, cats are very territorial, and the fact that they are willing to share their hunting spoils with you is very much intended as a compliment, showing their trust and respect for you. If you pet them afterwards, it will show them that you reciprocate and appreciate their actions. Similarly, it may even be the case that they trust you enough to look after it, so are leaving it with you for safekeeping.
Some even theorize that cats see humans as poor hunters, unable to care for themselves, and are bringing you this gift as a way to look after you. Either way, if they are bringing things to you, then it’s almost certainly a positive sign for your relationship.
4. To get you to fix it
If your cat has a favorite toy that's looking a little worse for wear and they're regularly bringing it to you, it's likely that they're trying to point out that their much-loved stuffed mouse is in need of a little TLC.
This is particularly likely if they have a catnip-filled toy that they can't get enough of that's running low on the good stuff. Make sure you repair any damaged toys or replace when they're past the point of fixing, and keep catnip toys well filled up so that they don't lose any of their enticing aroma.
What should I do if my cat brings me dead animals or other inappropriate gifts?
Whether it's a piece of clothing they've stolen off the neighbors washing line or a dead mouse that shows off their hunting prowess, there are some gifts from your cat that you might not be quite so overjoyed to receive.
It's important to remember that your cat is simply being a cat and exercising their natural hunting instincts, so it's important not to scold your feline friend for engaging in normal cat behaviors.
Instead, consider restricting your cat's access to the great outdoors if they're repeat offenders when it comes to bringing in dead wildlife. If you'd rather not do that, try fitting their collar with a bell which will alert birds, mice, and other animals to their presence.
Be sure to play with your cat on a daily basis as this will help prevent boredom and may decrease their desire to go outside and hunt, and feed them the best cat food in wet or dry form to provide them with nutrition they need to stay happy and healthy.
Rest assured that your kitty frequently bringing you toys and other gifts is nothing to worry about - if anything, it's a positive thing. Your feline friend is simply choosing to include you in behaviors that would come naturally to them in the wild and that they'd indulge in with other members of their clowder, a huge honor indeed!
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Steve writes and proofreads buying guides, news stories and advice for Pets Radar, drawing on his lifelong experience as a pet owner. Currently sharing his house with two cats and a dog, he draws on the many highs and occasional lows of pet ownership he has borne witness to in his writing. He has worked in publishing for 15 years as an editor, sub editor and writer on a range of titles, such as SciFiNow, How It Works, All About History, Real Crime and Horrorville. You can follow him on Twitter @stevewright22