My cat loves to play with fake mice on strings. Sometimes, when she catches one of them, instead of biting or "killing" (attacking with her back feet) it, she holds it in her front legs and starts licking it, in a manner that's similar to grooming.

I've noticed that she does this when she's calmer and has already played for a while, and usually does it to mice who have fake feathers attached - usually goes for the feathers too.

I'm wondering if anyone knows why she does that - just curious. Do cats lick their prey? Does she consider it a 'friend' and wants to groom it? What else can it be?

  • It is just that the pretend prey animal morphs into a pretend kitten or mate without your knowledge. – Oldcat Jan 30 '15 at 0:50
  • An observed compassion mechanism possibly, wherein the cat comforts and relaxes its prey before consumption. – Elias Nov 6 '17 at 2:19

From what I've observed, many cats are naturally attracted to inanimate objects that resemble fur, licking them, and chewing on the "hair" regardless of what the object is. This is not necessarily just for things they like to play with. I think they are naturally drawn to licking at hair. But furthermore, cats are known to have a behavior similar to grooming where they lick and bite at fur or feathers on their prey in order to pull out the fur or feathers, rather than eat all that.

  • Thanks. You're probably right. The feather/fur pulling makes perfect sense. – surfmadpig Jan 30 '15 at 16:55

Cats is weird little aliens; understanding "why" they do things can be difficult. (Heck, I don't understand some of the habits of this ape body I'm riding around in...)

She may be getting more of her own scent onto it to mark it as hers. She may be removing some other scent. She may be thinking that things she plays with need grooming. She may think it's vaguely like a kitten. She may be thinking "good toy!".

Or she may just be confused. One of mine will lick the air in front of her for up to a minute before realizing the tongue would do more good if applied to something.

It makes sense to her. It's harmless. It's cute -- which may be reason enough; entertaining the humans is a survival skill Unless you can figure out a way to ask her this question, you'll never know for sure. Cats are individuals, like us, and no one answer completely covers all cases just as it wouldn't for us.

Cats is weird. Wonderful, but weird. Then again, so are we.


Our cat does the exact same thing. I just googled to see if anyone else knew what this was, and this was the first post up. :-) So your cat isn't alone!

One thought I had was that our cat is a female, and lost her litter (was surrendered while pregnant and her litter of little ones was adopted out). I have wondered if perhaps she was substituting for the grooming she would have done with them. :-/


Thanks Keshlam for your incredibly funny and real post. I am still giggling actually. My female cat was spayed in August of this year and long story short she was traumatized up the wazoo from the one of many things the clinic "did" to her. Months after her surgery she is displaying strange behaviours (I'm Canadian so this is the correct spelling) like carrying around her little stuffed cat toy like it is her baby. Cooing at it, licking it and believe it or not moving it with her fluffy paws onto her nipples and then stretching out like the toy is actually milking her. It is weird but incredibly cute. My husband doesn't like it and will take her "baby" away from her. She will cry loudly and look for it, running from room to room. When she realizes that he is not giving it back she will swat at his legs and bite his knee cap. I always think "you go girl try biting North a bit and that might get his attention". She also has developed a weird obsessive licking.....not just of herself (oddly not her suture site) but of ME as well. If I let her, she would lick the skin off of my hands and face. She is in her glory when she is doing it, purring and cooing. Again weird but cute. I have always loved cats for all of the little peculiar things they do but after being spayed, my girl is a little more nutty. I love nuts so anything she does is way cool with me.

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