How does a mother cat teach her kittens how to hunt a mouse?

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Kittens are not born with an ability to hunt mice. They learn from their mothers who are hardwired to teach their offspring this vital lesson. Interestingly, kittens learn best from their own mothers rather than from observing other adult cats. The instruction proceeds quite predictably.

Their initial lessons begin at just five or six weeks of age when the mother cat will bring a dead mouse home and consume her own meal in front of the kittens. This imprints on the young cats the simple idea that mice are good to eat.

In the next phase, the mother allows the kittens to play with the dead mice, encouraging them to pounce and toss the “toy” around. As much as we don’t like to think about it, phase three involves half dead mice as easy practice, and ultimately live mice.

Like a graduating class, a litter of kittens go nuts with their first real mouse. They’re wildly excited and if the poor mouse gets away, Mama Cat bats it back into the fray. There’s no prettying up the instructional process. It’s very much the way of the predator and the prey.

When the mother cat decides the kittens are ready, she takes them out and lets them catch the mice on their own. She is simply doing her job. She’s teaching her young how to feed themselves, and doing it quite well.

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