Food & Predation Behavior

Written by Sena

Food Behavior

The cat is a strict carnivore. His wild ancestor, solitary hunter, probably fed on a large variety of small prey (rabbits, mice, rats, …), catching on average up to a dozen per day, tendency that tends to reproduce the pet cat who eats all day long if fed at will. Subject to fixed-hour meals, he can rush over food, as if knowing the limited commodity is causing him food stress. The cat has abilities to regulate its food intake. If you dilute your food with water, it will increase its food intake to maintain its caloric intake, method also used to increase the intake of drink by a wet food. However, castration, sedentary lifestyle and a rich diet proposed ad libitum can jeopardize the balance thus programmed.

Cat food preferences are influenced by those of their mothers during gestation, and then at weaning, where kittens copy their mother’s feeding behavior. Kittens fed the same diet over several months will be attracted by the novelty, but this neophilia does not last, it only takes a few days for food preferences to take over. In absolute terms, cats used to a varied diet will always prefer the food in the smallest quantity. One of the hypotheses to explain this behavior is that, in nature, there is an adaptive advantage to having a more balanced diet, even if in the long term it may mean the rarefaction of certain prey species.

Each cat seems to have its own “spectrum” of favorite foods, with farm cats being more flexible in accepting a new diet, going so far as to favor scarcity, compared to pet cats fed with kibble. These would be more inclined to neophobia because accustomed to a regular diet and balanced.

These inflexible eating habits can become particularly problematic when a cat has to undergo a change of diet, whether for medical reasons or during a stop or a change in the range of industrial cat food producer.

Nevertheless, this neophobia can be mitigated by progressive habituation. After several days, the consumption of the new food increases. But this result is not sustainable. Neophobia returns to its original level if the food is no longer presented.

The cat’s feeding behavior can be the subject of ritualization by the owner, when he systematically (consciously or unconsciously) recompensates certain cat’s requests for food. Before receiving a meal, the cat tends to communicate more with its owner or to resort to behaviors that are used in communication between cats while after the meal, most cats are dedicated to their toilet. However, there are various behavioral profiles, the behaviors presented being very dependent on the cats studied.

Predation behavior

When a cat raises its kittens, it introduces prey, dead and alive, from the age of 4 weeks, allowing them to perfect their capture of prey and learn to kill them. Generally, cats kill their prey by a bite in the neck region, fangs compressing the spinal cord causing rapid death, almost without externally visible injury.

This behavior is particularly durable in the species, it is even found in kittens bottle-fed, or who never had the opportunity to hunt at a young age. It will always take his cats a time of adaptation, the innate part does not replace the experience of a seasoned hunter. A cat will also be better able to capture the type of prey reported by its mother, but may also capture other prey.

Appetite is not critical in the appearance of predation behavior. A satiated cat will still have a motivation for hunting. Cries emitted by mice can trigger predatory behavior, but it is the movement of prey that the cat is most sensitive, an inexperienced cat having great difficulty in locating immobile prey.

The cat hunting technique makes it a poor bird hunter: the cat progresses slowly, placing itself under cover or at ground level, stopping several times until it leaps on its prey. This “lookout” particularly suitable for catching rodents (the cat gives them time to move away from their burrow) is not very effective at catching birds that often remain on the ground for a short time and fly away before the cat did not decide to jump. Most often, the cat catches inexperienced, weak or injured birds opportunistically.

Hunger also plays a role in predatory behavior: a hungry cat will take less time to kill prey, and will more likely kill large prey, sometimes after a period of play, as if it were the excitement necessary to dare to attack larger prey, like a rat. The same excitement would occur when a cat kills several prey in a row, preferring to kill the second rather than eat first.

A game period can also follow the capture of the prey: Game following the capture of a bird.

Leipsic behavior

The water needs of the cat are directly related to his diet. An animal fed with a wet diet or hunting for food will need little water. The cat usually drinks while lapping, using his tongue to bring the water inside his mouth. Some cats would drink by soaking a paw in the water and licking it later.

Although cats are known to dislike water, many of them seem to be particularly fond of drinking from sources of white water, whether it’s an open faucet or a water fountain. . These are also methods proposed to enrich the environment and / or increase the intake of drink.

Somesthetic behavior

Renowned clean, the cat spends a lot of time to clean, especially after a meal. To make his toilet, the cat preferentially uses his tongue and his incisors, especially to clean his fingers. With the help of his tongue, he can reach almost all areas of his body, with the exception of most of his head, which he cleans with a previously licked anterior, and his neck, that he can only reach with the help of his hind legs.

An unsuitable environment can lead to an increase in the toilet (as a substitute activity) or a decrease in the toilet by overall inhibition of the behavior. Exacerbated licking can also be explained by pruriginous dermatological causes (parasitic, allergic …), sometimes leading to secondary alopecia.

Time-budget concept

When he has to feed himself, without benefiting from man-made food resources (voluntarily or involuntarily), the cat spends most of its day-when not sleeping-to hunt, catching a dozens of prey per day, day and night. Contrary to popular belief, the cat is not only a night hunter, although it is very suitable for this activity: its retina has many rods (about three times more than in humans), some are even present in the central area of ​​vision. Behind the retina is a choroidal carpet (or tapetum lucidum), which reflects light and thus increases the amount of light absorbed by cones and rods. The cat therefore has good vision in low light environments.

Deprived of the need to seek food, or even sometimes the freedom to exercise their predatory behavior (a cat fed can continue to hunt), many pet cats are in cruel lack of stimulating activity.

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