Why Does My Cat Meow While Carrying Her Toy?

Does your cat like to play fetch? If so, she may be predisposed to a particular kind of hunting behavior. Jean B. writes:

My cat Foxy carries her toy which is yarn on a stick. She carries it in the middle of the night and cries the whole time she is carrying it. Why?

Jean, the behavior you describe is quite common among cats. While we can't know exactly what they're thinking when they do this, we do have a few clues.

Mother cats often bring prey to the nest for their kittens to practice their hunting skills on. When they do so, the mothers often announce their arrival to the kittens by meowing with the prey in their mouths. In this case, the behavior is a call for the attention of the kittens. It's sort of like a school bell announcing that class is in session.

Once the training is over, some kittens will continue to announce their prizes in this way. They learn from the mother that this is how you show what you've caught. For a kitten, it may be a toy instead of real prey but the pride is the same. After all, play is very important to developing kittens and positive reinforcement helps them to learn from their mother. 

Fast forward to Foxy at your home today. Foxy has all the hunting drives that wild cats possess, and she has a need to hunt every day. That's why you should schedule play times with her daily and use toys as prey that she can hunt and capture. The process of hunting and capturing a thing, be it a feather toy or your toes, is very satisfying to her and an absolute necessity for her sense of well being. You really should play with toys she can catch and not with toys, like laser dots, that she cannot. Likewise, fingers and toes should never be used as playthings, even with small kittens. It's cute when they're tiny but not so cute when their claws and teeth bigger and sharper.

So, Jean, our best guess is that Foxy is craving your attention and wants to show off the toy that she's just "caught". If you'd like to redirect this behavior to a more appropriate time of day, schedule a playtime thirty minutes before bedtime and stick to it. That way, Foxy will get her hunting in and will be less likely to hunt her toy in the middle of the night.

We wish you and Foxy all the best!