By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The felines’ predatory instinct and prey drive, although natural, is generally a learned behavior. The first teacher, of course, is their mother, as she brings food to her kittens and eventually shows them how to hunt for themselves.

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Many people are under the impression that cats who hunt actually tease and play with their prey but this is not true. This is just an effort to stun the prey. Cats who hunt are actually trying to stay safe from injury while instinctively trying to survive. Since cats have very small, short muzzles, there is a risk of great injury to the eyes and face to get close enough to the prey. If the prey is too active and alert, the cat could suffer a serious bite from the prey that could lead to infection and death.

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Fortunately, many cats who haven’t been exposed to the outdoors have never had to catch prey to survive but it may not stop that instinctive drive every so often that has your cat running around in mischief.

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You can help deplete some of this pent up energy. Find fun, enticing toys that will excite your cat. Not only is it great exercise and bonding time for you and your cat, but it will also lead to a much more contented, relaxed kitty while fulfilling a natural instinct.