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How Do Cats Hunt? (Instincts & Methods Explained)

If you bring a cat into your home, you have to realize you’re bringing a predator right into your living room. While cats don’t go after big game like humans, that won’t stop them from stalking around your home looking for spiders, rodents, and other small animals to go after.

But how exactly do cats hunt? They have two primary methods they’ll use, and some of the finer details behind their actions might surprise you!

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How Do Cats Hunt?

Cats are natural-born hunters, and they go about capturing their prey in two distinct ways. They use the stalking method and the waiting method, and we’ll go over how they hunt using each method for you here.

black and white cat leaning on a tree hunting its prey
Image Credit: Kapa65, Pixabay


This is the most common way a cat hunts and it usually follows a pretty particular pattern. The cat starts by scanning the environment and finding their prey. From there, they “stalk” the prey and try to come up behind it.

Once they’re in position, they pounce and capture the prey. During this process, they might toy with the prey a bit to try and tire them out before they move in for the kill. After they complete the kill, they often “manipulate” the body before eating it.


While the stalking method is the most common hunting method a cat—especially a domestic cat—will use, it’s not the only method they have. Cats will also deploy a “waiting” method while they’re hunting, especially if they have an area where they know prey likes to go.

In this method, they get into a prime position and watch a specific area. When the prey passes through, they’ll pounce, jumping straight to the capture and kill portion of the stalking hunting method.

cat hunting outdoor
Image Credit: Kapa65, Piqsels

Why Do Cats Toy With Their Prey?

If you’ve ever watched a cat hunting, you’ve likely noticed it doesn’t go in for the kill right away. Instead, you’ll watch as the cat bats the animal they’re hunting around a little bit. While this might seem counterintuitive to hunting, it makes perfect sense.

Your cat is trying to tire out the prey before going in for the kill. That way, the animal is less likely to hurt your cat in the process. They’re not playing with the prey to be mean; they’re doing it as a natural hunting instinct and to ensure they don’t get hurt!

Do Cats Hunt Because They’re Hungry?

In the wild, cats have a strong motivation to hunt. If they don’t capture prey, they don’t eat! But domestic cats don’t have this issue, and yet they’ll still hunt whenever they get the chance.

It doesn’t matter how much food you put out for them, your cat is still going to hunt if the opportunity comes up—it’s part of their natural instincts. Cats are opportunistic hunters and if they see an opportunity, they’re going to take it even if they’re not hungry at the moment.

grey cat hunting mouse
Image Credit: Stefan_Sutka, Shutterstock

Can You Stop Your Cats From Hunting?

While you can reduce the tendency for your cat to go looking for something to hunt, you’ll never eliminate that desire completely. The best thing you can do is to feed your cat a highly nutritious diet that fills them up and meets all their needs. That way, they don’t have hunger pushing them to hunt.

From there, you need to keep prey away from them. This means keeping mice, spiders, and other small animals out of your home. If they’re not hungry and there’s nothing to hunt, there’s a good chance your cat won’t go around looking for prey as much. But if they spot something to hunt, they’re going to go after it!

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know a little more about how a cat hunts you might be able to recognize the behavior the next time they’re on the prowl. They’re magnificent hunters, so take a step back and watch them in action if you get the chance. Their speed and efficiency when they’re hunting might just surprise you!

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Featured Image Credit: SJ Duran, Shutterstock