As I keep saying, cats are not dogs, so you may not expect them to walk up to you with something in their mouth. This does however happen, and some cats seem to be more accomplished retrievers than their canine friends.
Cats bring you socks sometimes, or they may bring you their kittens. The least appetizing scenario is of course when they bring you a dead animal. Why do cats bring you gifts? Specifically, why do they like to bring you their toys? Are they just in a playful mood, or is there something else to it?
Why Does My Cat Bring Me Toys?
The main reason your cat is bringing you toys is that they want to play. However, they may also be trying to teach you to hunt, or they may want you to protect the toy while they are busy elsewhere. In every case, it’s a sign of love and trust.
Cats usually have more than one potential reason for doing something. When they bring you one of their toys, it could be them looking for a bit of praise. But they also might be commenting on your utter lack of hunting skills.
Here’s what might be driving your cat to walk up to you, toy in mouth:
They Are Bored
If your cat is bored, they will do what they can to score some entertainment. Bringing you a toy is the clearest they can be. They could also have chosen to climb up the curtain or start rummaging in the trash can.
Even if you leave your cat surrounded by toys, they will still want a playmate. Cats play by hunting, and it’s always more interesting to hunt moving prey. They will sometimes toss their toys for themselves or be fine with the toy playing dead, but they will also want you to join the fun.
Play hunting with your cat at least once a day. This will satisfy their instincts and make them happier and more calm. If they bring you a toy, try to see if they want you to animate it for their kill. If so, go with it.
They Want Attention
If your usual response to receiving a toy is providing attention, your cat will quickly do the math. Human + toy = cuddles or playtime. The more you reinforce this connection, the likelier your cat is to show up with a toy in tow whenever they would like to be pet or just noticed.
If your cat is alone a lot, you may notice they tend to bring you a toy as soon as you show up or in the middle of the night. Make sure to set aside some playtime with them, so that their needs are sufficiently met.
They Are Teaching You To Hunt
Mother cats teach their kittens to hunt by bringing them prey. There’s also some verbal and non-verbal communication involved too, but the lesson requires a target.
When your cat brings you a toy, they may be trying to teach you how to fend for yourself, and trying to impart some of their hunting skills and experience.
And They Think You Are a Bad Hunter
Because, let’s be frank, your cat has discovered, to their utter horror, that you are a terrible hunter. When they bring you the toy, they are trying to jumpstart your instincts and teach you how prey needs to be handled.
Sure, you are good at scoring delicious food out of cans, but how good are you at bringing down a pigeon in flight? Not that either you or your cat actually need to tackle the pigeon, but they do want to make sure you know how to too, just in case.
Your cat basically thinks you are weak and inexperienced. They are looking after you. Accept the toy.
They Are Showing Off
Cats also like to show off with their kills. They will sometimes drag a semi-dead animal back home for you, just to show you how clever and skilled they really are. It may freak you out to witness just how deadly and vicious your furball can be, but don’t ever punish them for it. It’s who they are.
The same principle applies to the toy. They have exerted unimaginable effort to track it down, pounce on it, wrestle it to the ground and present it to you. The least you can do is pet them. Who cares that the mouse was inanimate to begin with.
They Want a Reward
Your cat may also want to be rewarded for a job well done. They are here to trade: their toy for a cuddle, a pet, some attention, or your seat on the sofa.
This ties into their abovementioned desire to show off. They want you to stroke their ego a bit by praising and rewarding their hunting skills.
They Want You To Keep The Toy Safe
In the wild (or your garden), cats will instinctively move their catch to a safe location, where no other cats or predators can get to it. In your home, the safest space they can think of could be you.
They may also hide their toys under the bed, behind the washer or under the carpet. They can also bring it to you for safekeeping, knowing full well that you will not eat their toy or even play with it. Their prey thus safely secured, they are free to go about the rest of their schedule.
They Want You To Fix The Toy
If there is something wrong with their toy, your cat will bring it to you for inspection. A piece may be falling off, the stuffing may be spilling out, or there could be a loose thread somewhere. The toy could also just smell differently, if you’ve recently washed it.
When you are presented with a toy, especially if your cat has previously inspected it themself, give it a once over to make sure there is nothing on it that could pose a choking hazard. Remove any loose pieces of string or fabric, as they can be fatal when swallowed.
If the toy can’t be repaired, toss it out. If it just smells funny, aka fresh, you can roll it on your cat or around their preferred sleeping spot, to transfer some cat scent onto it.
They Love You
Ultimately, the main reason your cat brings you just about anything is love. They love you, respect you and trust you, so they are willing to share their toys, their kill and their attention with you.
Congratulations. You have been chosen for the world’s highest honor.
What To Do When Your Cat Brings You a Toy
The best thing to do when your cat brings you a toy is to accept it. Check if they want to play with it. If not, keep it and pet your cat. You will be communicating appreciation this way.
Don’t refuse the gift or blindly toss it away. Give your cat some attention and show them your thanks. You may have very little interest in the toy, but in the cat world, the gesture means a lot, and needs to be treated accordingly.
Why Does My Cat Bring Me Toys While I’m Sleeping?
Your cat is probably bringing you toys while you are sleeping because they want your attention. They could be bored and want to play, or just want to wake you up for a cuddle.
While you will certainly sometimes consider this annoying, don’t yell at your cat or punish them for what is natural to them. Make sure to tire them out before your bedtime, leave them plenty of toys to enjoy while you are sleeping and provide a window they can look out from if you can.
If nothing else works, don’t let the cat into your bedroom while you sleep.
Why Does My Cat Walk Around With a Toy In Its Mouth Meowing?
When your cat is walking around with a toy and meowing, they want to grab your attention. They probably want you to play with them, or they may just want a bit of company.
If a mother cat has recently been separated from her kittens, this could also be her way to show her distress. Calm her down and help her get over missing her kittens.
Why Has My Cat Stopped Bringing Me Toys?
If your cat used to bring you their toys but has recently stopped, they may just be in a less playful mood. This is normal as cats get older, but it could also be a sign your cat is not feeling well.
Older cats are not nearly as playful as kittens. If your cat seems okay in every other regard, is eating and drinking as usual, is just as cuddly and does not appear to be in any pain, they are just not as interested in playing as before.
If however your cat seems to be sad, ill or stressed, make sure to take them to the vet to ensure there is nothing else going on.
Cats will bring you toys when they want to play or when they want you to shine some much deserved attention on them. Accept the toy and reward your cat. After all, thanking someone when they bring you a gift is just good manners.