By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you live with a cat who is comfortable at times out of doors, you may have experienced your feline friend bringing home a dead mouse, possibly a small bird, or even a cricket or another little critter on occasion. Well, after cringing initially, consider it for what it is… a gift to you from your cat.

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Now as difficult as it may be for us to understand such an unwelcome and unpleasant sight, you have to try to understand why your cat is exhibiting this behavior. This behavior in domestic cats does not stem from lack of food, but rather as a sign of affection.

First, realize that cats of all sizes possess excellent hunting skills. It’s been a necessity for survival. If your cats are allowed outside, they are easily reminded of this natural ability more readily.

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Cats in the wild offer their prey as a social gesture. They’re proud of their achievement and want to present it as such, so your cat is presenting it to you as a special offering of sorts, as a gesture of affection and gratitude.

To curtail this behavior, keep your cat indoors, or attach a small bell to his/her quick-release collar. The ASPCA suggests using a CatBib which attaches to the collar and interferes with quick paw movement giving prey time to escape.

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Never scold or punish your cat for this behavior. Since it’s a natural activity, this will only serve to cause fear, confusion and stress. Just accept and dispose of the coveted “gift” gracefully in the spirit with which it was given.