Many cat owners with cats that venture outside will be familiar with the act of gift-giving. You can wake up to strange items being presented to you in your bed or on your kitchen floor. One item that has some people baffled is the humble leaf. Why do our cats collect leaves and bring them to us?
Why does my cat bring me leaves? This is an interesting question and one that cat owners may not fully understand the answer to. It is likely that your cat sees the leaves as prey or as a fun plaything and wants you to have it. It all relates to the idea of cats gifting owners with things they killed. Getting leaves should be encouraged if you want to stop them from bringing in dead animals.
But, there are also questions over nesting behaviours and why cats bring in specific leaves, twigs, and tree bark.
Cats love to bring us gifts.
First of all, we need to understand why our cats bring us anything at all. Cats commonly bring things to their owners to show them what they have. While some may see this as the cat showing off their skills, saying “look what I was able to find/catch”, others see it as something more nurturing. There is the idea that what the cat is actually saying is “look what I was able to find/catch for you”. They want to provide for us and make sure that we are content and satisfied.
Of course, your cat doesn’t always appreciate that their “gifts” aren’t always the best choice of item to present to you. It all depends on your reaction. It isn’t quite so bad when they bring you toys, possibly to show that you deserve to have fun things and play with them too. But it gets a lot worse when there are suddenly other half-living things in the equation.
The most common thing for cats to bring us as a gift is a prey animal. It could be a small bird, a lizard, a large bug, or anything else they were able to catch. They bring us these dead creatures as a food provision. We are worthy of having this brilliant treat and they are generous and subservient to give it to us. They don’t always understand that when we remove the dead animal, it is out of disgust. We took what was offered.
Bojangles (my Siamese) was an amazing hunter, but sadly I did not appreciate many of his ‘gifts’. Especially when they were decapitated rabbits. Goodness knows how he managed to get through the cat flap with the bodies. He was a scrawny little Siamese but mightily determined and strong. It went on for one whole summer when we were renting a tiny house that backed onto a farm. There were so many wild rabbits that he didn’t eat any cat food at all. More surprisingly he didn’t put on any weight!
So why does my cat have a thing for leaves, twigs and pine cones?
Leaves, twigs and pine cones can seem like a strange item compared to a toy or an animal. There is no nutritional value and little enjoyment to gain from them. Yet, it isn’t uncommon for cat owners to find these items brought in as gifts.
The thinking here is that leaves are actually a substitute for other types of prey. Your cat may have “hunted” these leaves down as they blew around in the breeze outside. Proud of their achievements, they brought the leaf in for you to enjoy and appreciate.
My old cat Gabby used to ‘herd’ leaves and would come in with a moustache of about 5 and drop them on the floor. Most unimpressed when they were swept into the bin so she would go and get more!!Janette V. Facebook
Leaves, twigs and pinecones are also fun playthings for some cats because of their colours, textures, and the way that they move. So, there is the possibility that they are also sharing their toy.
Why do cats hunt leaves instead of animals?
This behaviour may be more apparent in cats that cannot hunt live prey. You can work to train your cat out of bringing dead and dying animals, and this may cause them to move onto other items to make you happy. Also, a brilliant way to stop your cat from killing off the local songbird population and showing you the bodies is to put a bell on their collar. This gives creatures the chance to flee.
Your cat may get fed up with these failed attempts and move onto a new game of stalking leaves. Leaves aren’t going to fly away at the sound of the bell. It might seem like it if there is an updraft, but the cat should still get its target. So, the cat now has a brilliant new source of entertainment. You may notice that they have a favourite type of leaf, either by shape or size. Perhaps they see a bigger achievement in catching larger ones?
While this notion works for leaves, it doesn’t explain why some cats bring in twigs and pieces of tree bark instead. It seems that some cats just hone in on shapes and textures they love and want to share them.
Could cats focus on leaves out of a desire to nest?
This is an interesting concept. There are anecdotal reports from cat owners that say that their female cats can take a sudden, almost obsessive interest in bringing in leaves. This could be more for their own use than for you. The theory is that they have a desire to make a safe nest.
If you can encourage your cat to stick with catching leaves, they will enjoy this game with no harm to any other animal. Thank your cat for the leaf, engage with it and play with it. Keep it by your bed to show you treasure it. The cat will soon realise that this is much better than the reaction they get from dead animals.
Are you sure the leaf was intended for you?
There is also the possibility that your cat didn’t actually bring you the leave at all. Instead, you may have just stumbled across their plaything in the house after they were distracted by something else – like a call to dinner. If it is in a random place on the floor of the home, it might not be intended for you to take. If it is on your chair or on your pillow, it is a different story.
Why is my cat bringing me leaves?
In short, you might not ever understand the exact reasoning behind the leaf on your pillow or the pile at the door. But, there is nothing wrong with this behaviour if it entertains the cat and stops you from getting dead animals as gifts. Enjoy the quirk, your cat loves you really.