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Why Do Cats Carry Things In Their Mouths?

When a cat picks up a toy in its mouth and struts around, it looks adorable. Sometimes this act is accompanied by a series of muffled meows proving it’s hard to talk clearly with your mouth full!

Of course, it’s not always toys that cats carry around; sometimes it’s dead insects, mice, or birds – not so cute! And on certain occasions, it’s their kittens.

Two natural instincts lead cats to carry things in their mouths: hunting and maternal. A cat’s jaws are capable of transporting kittens to the safety of a new nest without causing them any harm. On the other hand, cats can bite down hard on other objects such as prey in order to carry them from the location of capture to a place suitable for a kill.

Why do cats carry things in their mouths and meow?

If your cat carries recently caught prey or a toy in its mouth, meowing in the process, it is letting you know it’s had a fruitful hunting expedition. It wants you to recognize its success which is why it attempts to meow as it carries the thing in its jaws.

Once your cat has “killed” its prey, it often proudly delivers it to your feet. The fundamental reason why a cat carries a dead animal to you, meowing loudly, is because it considers you part of its family. It wants to share its success.

If a cat meows and drops liv prey at your feet, the chancecs are it wants you to learn how to hunt!

A ginger and white cat carrying a blue toy in its mouth.

Cats carry prey in their mouths to find a safe place

Carrying prey in their mouth is part of a cat’s hunting ritual. Once they’ve captured something, cats quickly carry it off to a spot where they feel safer. This is an instinctive survival technique.

If you’ve ever tried to intervene at the point when a pet cat has just captured a mouse, you’ll know how intent it can be on giving you the run-around. It will attempt to get out of your reach to complete its kill.

Cats don’t eat their prey as soon as they catch it. They don’t even kill their prey immediately. This sounds cruel to us, but, once again, it’s all instinct. Your cat will play with its catch in an effort to tire it out. In this way, your cat makes the prey easier to kill and minimizes the chance of injury to itself.

A cat will also often catch its prey but carry it around in their mouth until they find a safe spot to kill it. This can be an actual living creature, or the behavior can manifest with their chosen toy. Your cat will run around the house with the toy in its mouth, trying to find somewhere safe to play with it.

As an opportunistic hunter, your cat may also wander over the house trying to find a place to hide their catch until later, when they are hungry. Once again, this behavior is adapted to toys as well. Your cat may simply be looking for a place to stash their toy until they want to play with it again. 

You may notice your cat carries its toys around and then finally deposits the chosen item in the kibble bowl, or worse, the water bowl. Your cat thinks of these as its own property and territory, so they believe the toy to be stashed safely among the kibble or floating in the water.

If you see your cat zipping into the house and heading straight for the bedroom, follow them. They may have a bird, mouse, lizard, etc., in their mouth that they are going to go deposit under your bed for later.

Mother cats carry kittens in their mouths to keep them safe

A mother cat will carry her kittens in her mouth to transport them to a new nest. This can be because the old nest was compromised by a potential threat. In a domestic situation, this threat is often the humans who pick up her babies and coo over them.

Another reason for relocating the kittens is because the old nest has become too messy or too small for the growing and increasingly mobile kittens.

Some mother cats will even obsessively move their kittens around.

If your cat has a favorite toy, it may carry this toy around in its mouth, moving it from place to place as if it was their kitten.

It is just too adorable to see your kitty with their baby, usually a soft toy, but don’t try to take it from them. You can play with other toys; this particular one is theirs. If you start to become too handsy, they will have to carry their baby to a new location.

Cats Carry Live Prey Into The House For Educational Purposes

Another maternal instinct is evdidenced when a cat carries live pray back to the nest so that its kittens can learn how to hunt and kill.

If you have a maternally inclined cat, it may just carry a live mouse, insect, or other undesirable offering in its mouth, bringing it into the house so as to provide you with an opportunity to learn how to hunt.

Your cat may not want to teach you to hunt, but they know what a good mother does for its family, and they won’t quibble at the responsibility. Even though it is kindly meant, a live creature in your house is unwelcome. But don’t punish your cat. She is just acting according to instinct.


The lack of opposable thumbs and the inability to walk on their hind legs mean if a cat has to carry anything it wants to move in its mouth.

This is obvious, but does not explain why cats are fond of toting a multitude of objects around in their jaws. Two root instincts underlie this behavior: maternal instincts and hunting instincts.

A mother cat carries her kittens around to new nests if their initial spot is compromised or becomes too small or messy. In the same way, a cat will carry around a surrogate kitten, typically a soft toy. Mother cats also bring live prey for their kittens to develop their hunting skills.

Your cat can bring live prey into the house for you because they feel a maternal affection for you.

Cats carry their prey and toys around to brag. The sight of your cat with a toy mouse is adorable; a dead bird, not so! Cats also carry things around, trying to find a place to hide them.

This is also related to their hunting instincts as they carry their prey around to find a safe spot to kill or stash it.

If your cat often carries their toys around, they might be bored or lonely, so take this as a hint to give them a little extra attention.

And even though it’s difficult, don’t punish your cat for bringing in all manner of dead or live creatures – remember it’s instinctual behavior.

On the odd occasion, you might even see a cat bite its own tail after chasing it. Why they do this is another mystery!

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