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Wrapped Gift

Last Friday I notice in the afternoon that someone had left a wrapped dead mouse on the top of the backyard stairs. I thought it was a subtle message from one of my beloved neighbours and I lamented against those crazy people who cannot even afford a dead horse’s head. I decided to check the Nest camera in order to identify the culprit. To my great surprise, I discovered that the deed was done at 2PM sharp by none other than Felix — the alley cat that I took in the garage for the winter and that I let out a couple of hours every day when he gets too antsy. It seems that he had found one of those glue traps with a dead mouse on it (apparently some paper towel flew in the wind and got stuck on it too) and decided it would make a perfect gift for us !

It is not the first time that a cat brings us a dead mouse. I guess that this behaviour goes back to the time when humans first started to interact with cats in the Neolithic. They were never really domesticated, but probably slowly became tame by contact with humans through a commensal relationship (a form of symbiosis). With the agricultural revolution, mass producing food meant that human had to create food storage (primarily granary) that inevitably attracted vermine (mostly rats and mice). The presence of vermine in turn attracted small predators like cats who started hanging around human settlements. Humans probably started to “reward” the cats (with food and confort) for getting rid of the vermine and with time this synanthropic relation became mutualistic and the behaviour became instinctive. The cat, in order to prove that he is earning his keep, brings the dead prey as proof, hence the “gift” — which is rarely wrapped.

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