Answers: Take a Deep Breath and Cut the Mouse in Half
Last Updated on Sunday, March 13, 2016 08:10 PM
Published on Saturday, November 12, 2011 04:11 PM
Written by Margaret Gates
I have two new kittens and I want to add whole prey foods to their diet. I purchased some frozen mice, which I thawed out and gave to them. They went wild over the mice, but only played with them. How do I get the kittens to take the next step and actually eat the mice?
I do have an answer for you, but you're not going to like it.
Kittens, like many predatory animals, have to be taught to hunt, kill and eat their prey. They know some of it by instinct, as demonstrated by your kittens. They knew that the mouse was something good, hence their enthusiasm, but they hadn't been taught what to do next. If they had been taught by their mother, she would have brought them freshly killed prey and shown them that it was good to eat. They would see her eating it and done the same. They learn by being copy cats.
Unfortunately, your kittens missed that lesson, so all they know is the play part. You are going to have to step in as the teacher. No, I'm not saying you need to eat the mouse! Just get them started. Here's the part you're not going to like. Take a partially defrosted mouse and a pair of poultry shears, take a deep breath, and … cut the mouse in half. They need to get the smell and the taste of a little blood to let them understand that this is food. Just try not to have nightmares about this later.
To get your kittens, or your adult cats, started on whole prey such as mice or chicks, you may need to employ tactics like this until they get used to the idea. Other members report needing to expose some of the inside of chicks they feed their cats by cutting through the skin. The things we do for our furry best friends!
Update: Our reader reports back that he took a deep breath, cut the mice in half, and it worked spectacularly. He said "It awoke something in them and they are now, crazy-eyed, tearing up the house." The kittens learned the lesson right away and happily ate the mice. After playing with them a bit first, of course.
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Margaret Gates is the founder the Feline Nutrition Foundation.