One night this past summer I happened to be outside trying to photograph hummingbirds when Buddy, who had been sitting quietly at the edge of the field, suddenly pounced on a mouse and brought it back to the house. I guess you'd call Buddy a passive hunter, except Zorro hunts the same way. They both wait in a good mouse habitat (field or woods edge) and listen for mouse sounds. Zorro, though, will lie in a crouching position, so perhaps he is more passive than Buddy. When they hear a mouse and if it is in a good position for catching, they will jump straight in the air, land on the mouse, capture it and bring it where it is safest to eat it. The mouse head is always carried in the cat’s mouth.
During the entire mouse catching and eating time on this summer evening, Buddy made the same painful looking grimace three different times. I never knew this happened to him while eating a mouse. I am wondering if the mouse, whose head was in Buddy's mouth, was able to bite Buddy defensively, causing Buddy to drop the mouse. Cats always carry the head in their mouth to protect themselves from bites on their face, chest and legs. A mouse carried with its head free would bite any part of the cat it could reach.
After each painful grimace and dropping of the mouse to the ground, Buddy would play with the mouse's body. This is the part of cat behavior that humans frequently call "cruel." I myself have described this playing with mice as cruel. But perhaps it is a reaction to the mouse's defensive behavior in the cat's mouth.
Buddy did eat the mouse after the third grimace-dropping-playing sequence with the mouse. My theory that cats play with their prey in reaction to defensive mouse behavior is untested. I need to observe all my cats when they hunt. That, as we know, is difficult. But the summers are blessedly long and I look forward to the observations. You can view the entire mouse kill in my Flickr set "Buddy Catches a Mouse."