Why do cats “play” with their prey?

If you’ve ever owned an outdoor cat, you’ve probably seen your feline friend’s predatory instincts in action: while walking around the yard, your cat suddenly leaps forward, hitting a small bird or a mouse, perhaps a lizard. The feline plays with this creature for several minutes, making it come and go long after it has stopped moving. Then they collect their prize, trot out the front door, and lay a tiny carcass on the welcome mat.

For cat owners, this behavior is proof that their feline furballs are adorable, even if they’re wayward. But for many conservationists, it’s the act of an invasive killing machine with four feet full of knives. This difference in perception has sparked a fierce debate between conservationists and cat enthusiasts over whether cats should be allowed outdoors.