What do a little penguin, a baby rabbit, a black rat, and a Krefft’s glider have in common? They were all introduced to me (when dead) by my animal companions. Most likely, if you live with a cat or dog, something similar was also brought to you.

So is it a gift, are they showing off, or is there something else going on?

Samantha Fortney/Unsplash, CC BY

Is it meant for you?

The first thing to consider is whether your canine or feline companion is actually bringing you the dead animal, or are you just in the space that they have also arrived at?

As people, we tend to put ourselves in the middle of every story (the fancy term to describe this mindset is anthropocentric). But sometimes it’s not about us. Perhaps your dog was planning to chew on that half-rotten creature in his comfortable bed in a known safe place, which just happens to be close to where you are.

Read more: Genetic research confirms that your dog’s breed influences his personality, but so do you

Perhaps your cat has entered the room, actually showing you the find in its mouth. This could include loudly exclaiming that they have won their version of the jackpot with a direct approach: walking towards you, maintaining eye contact with you, and making a distinctive yell (most cat meows are designed to call your attention). attention).

If this is the case, then yes, they are probably intentionally sharing this dead animal with you. But why?

Understanding the motivations of animals

Did they kill this animal themselves?

Globally, we know that people value wildlife in both urban and rural areas. However, our pet cats and dogs kill large numbers of wild animals. In Australia, cats in particular have attracted attention and management policies to reduce their impact on local wildlife.

Cat looking out the side of a windowThey may be very cute, but cats are also highly effective killers of native wildlife. Fatih Turan/Pexels, CC BY

Read more: Australia must get its killer cat problem under control. A major new report explains how, but doesn’t go far enough

Do they bring you something that was already dead?

In some situations, our animals may be opportunistic and have found something that was already dead. Perhaps an owl dropped it in a pasture, or washed up on the beach, or was hit by a vehicle and found on the side of a road. What are we going to do with these offerings?

In 2015, Queensland biologists described a number of individual wild bottlenose dolphins apparently “giving away” wild-caught fish (usually already dead) or cephalopods (such as squid and octopus) to people who fed them fish as part of their diet. of a regulated diet. program in Tangalooma in Australia.

The researchers thought the treat was consistent with play, prey trading, and teaching behaviors seen in dolphins, whales, and many other mammals historically considered great thinkers.

Ultimately, with these dolphins and with our own animal companions, we can think of this sharing as an expression of the particular relationship between animal and human. In some cases, where the behavior is regular (even if infrequent), we can describe it as part of the animals’ culture, as the dolphin biologists did in their scientific paper.

Read more: Whales and dolphins have rich cultures and could provide clues to what makes humans so advanced

dolphins being fed by people in shallow water at the beachDolphins used to being fed by people in Tangalooma, Queensland have been known to present fish in return. S. Newrick/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

What should you do?

If you ever find yourself in the position where your animal companions bring you a dead animal, there are a couple of things to remember.

  1. Regular parasite control it will make sure that not everyone shares more than intended. The mites responsible for scabies, lice, and maggots can easily spread among dead wildlife, companion animals, and people. Talk to your vet if you’re not sure what parasite control your four-legged friend should have on a routine basis.

  2. Prevent cats and dogs from preying on wildlife It is a very important part of ensuring the well-being of all. If you know that your animal companion is killing wild animals, you should take steps to prevent it.

Effective measures can include safely limiting when and where they go outdoors, a bell around their neck, keeping them on a leash when outside, and redirecting their energy through regular walks, games, and fun training activities. Keeping cats indoors can also limit the spread of disease to humans and other animals.

Read more: Cats allowed to roam can transmit diseases to humans and wildlife

So when your cat or dog presents you with a dead animal, it is normal behavior and may indicate their attachment to you. However, it is also a reminder of how much damage they can cause to wildlife and of our responsibility to limit that damage.

Mia Cobb does not work for, consult with, own shares in, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic position.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.