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, 2015 at 0:50
  • An observed compassion mechanism possibly, wherein the cat comforts and relaxes its prey before consumption.
    – Elias
    Nov 6, 2017 at 2:19

2 Answers 2


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, 2015 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.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.