The hunting behavior of cats is unrelated to hunger and even well fed cats hunt for fun. Kittens first learn this instinctual skill from their mother. Hunting prey or playing are so closely related, there is virtually no difference. Silent, still pose, laser stare, slinking, stalking, chasing, leaping, pouncing, gripping and finally the kill-bite. There might be the optional flip the mouse in the air or catch-let-go, catch-let-go prey torture.
For cats, a prey pounce is the same as the play pounce as demonstrated by Odin, about to ounce on Merlin. Note: his ears pricked forward and limbs airborne. The only difference is he doesn’t clamp down in a kill-bite. If Merlin wasn’t his pal, Odin might use his powerful jaws and canine teeth to administer the unique jaw movement to quickly snap the vertebrae at the nape of his prey’s neck. A kill-bite is quick and clean with little or no blood.
When you play with your cat using inter-active toys like ping pong balls, catnip mice, wands like Neko flies or da Bird, your cat thinks of the toy as prey. Cats learn bad habits easily. It’s important to never use your hands or feet as “toys” or your cat will learn it’s okay to be an ankle biter. Providing a variety toys will help prevent boredom and unacceptable behaviors. I like keeping some cat nip-scented toys hidden for cats to find and others stored and introduced on a rotated basis.
As squeamish as it might be to observe a cat killing real prey, I learn techniques to help when playing with cat toys. I mimic the scurrying, flitting in and out of space and make sure the cat wins most of the time but not all the time.