are cats the only animal that hunts for "fun"

due to this thread

I remember someone telling me that cats big and small are the only animals (besides humans) that hunt for pleasure or non food reasons …

Is it true ?

No, it’s not true.

Orcas (killer whales) will sometimes hunt a seal just to “play” with it, although play in this case means punting the seal through the air like a volleyball, which generally isn’t very healthy for the seal.

Dolphins sometimes hunt and kill porpoises for no real reason.

Wolves will often hunt much more food than they need. While some of this can be attributed to trying to store food for later, in some cases it’s so excessive that the wolves are clearly just hunting for the sport of it.

Or a possibly involuntary predation switch is just switched to “on.” That’s one of the theories behind hen-house massacres where a predator will just kill everything in sight then wander off with a single prey item. All that excited prey running around in a confined space triggers the hunting impulse and it doesn’t shut off until everything around them stops moving.

To add to ECG’s list: dogs.

I owned a dog that chased and killed mice on a regular basis, but had no interest in eating them. She killed them by chasing and stomping on them. She’d circle back to make sure they were dead, but left them where they fell. That behavior was totally different from how she treated things she considered food.

Also, wolves can and will kill rival packs over territory. It is quite literally a war between two packs. The losers are driven off and their pups are killed. Its not really “fun” but it is definitely not killing for food.

I also recall hearing about an incident in Canada where 34 caribou calves were killed by wolves and many of them left uneaten. Foxes, hyenas, and bears have also been documented killing far more than they could eat. Whether they did this for pleasure, practice, or in the expectation they would return to eat later is still up in the air. (It’s not like they can tell us what they intended)

And as mentioned above, dolphins are pretty notorious for killing porpoises and other dolphins just for giggles.

Dogs. I had a dog who liked to sniff out, stomp on, and squash frogs. Most dogs enjoy hunting and killing things even if well-fed.
Owners of chickens know that quite a few species (foxes, weasels, coyotes) will happily kill the entire flock and then only eat one or two.
Animals are programmed to enjoy things that increase their chances of survival, prompting them to do those things. If you’re a predator, you enjoy hunting or you’re probably not going to survive. Humans clearly fall into this category. Most people enjoy hunting.

Cats hunt by pure instinct … it’s what they do … so they do it whether they’re hungry or not.

So, let’s follow our dear tender pussycat out the cat flap. He changes, no longer our dear sweet furball of purry affection … he becomes a leopard, a cold-blooded killing machine … he quietly moves along until he sees a bit of motion … he freezes, he watches, there that mouse is. Silently he creeps forward … step by careful step … until he’s in range … then he POUNCES … claws, teeth and instant death for the mouse.

Now he has a problem, he not safe outside, especially with food. In he trots to his place of safety … you pillow. Once inside, he’s thinking there’s a bowl of delicious kibble just in the kitchen. That stinky old poor tasting mouse just doesn’t keep his interest.

You come to bed and, well … ewwww …you have a “gift” … or a warning … take your pick.

I read that in my David Attenborough voice; recommend other dopers do the same.

A lot of animals are territorial and will fight over their territories. It’s not killing for food, but it’s not killing for fun either, so I don’t know that it’s really within the spirit of what the OP is asking.

Chimps are probably the worst for territorial wars. They can wage war for years. See this for example:

The Gombe Chimpanzee War (1974 to 1978):

Prior to Jane Goodall’s work, people thought that only humans engaged in that kind of long term warfare.

Don’t all mammalian predators / carnivores exhibit hunting like play when they are juveniles? I would not be surprised at all to find that Hyenas, Bears, Honey Badgers etc all hunt for “fun” on occasions, its just much harder to observe that and confirm it really is for fun and not for food with wild animals rather than dogs and cats.

I’ve always thought that what we call “fun” might just as well be called “training,” or practice, from the point of view of an animal. Even for humans, in a way.

my cats most of the time don’t kill what they catch unless they accidently squash it … and I just remembered my moms scotty dog hunted mice better than most of my cats …(apparently that’s what terriers were for back in the middle ages)

but thanks I didn’t know a lot of this …

Not sure that you can apply the concept of fun to it.
These are apex predators. Evolution pits them in a constant race with their prey. It is a tenuous position in the food chain. It would not surprise me at all, that instinct to hunt and kill is on a hair trigger at all times. No opportunity is passed up to hone the skills. Even if the predator is not in need of food at the moment.
If live prey is not available, predators will often exhibit hunting and killing actions with inanimate objects.
I think it would be advantageous for a predator to take any opportunity to practice. So instinct makes it a reflex action. Seems sensible to practice when you are not hungry. You have the energy to practice it, without failure being so bad an energy deficit.

So that powerful instinct will likely trigger, even in many domesticated predators.

Humans take great fun in our sports that would also hone our hunting, killing skills.

“Fun” is precisely how an instinct to do something works.

As for “playing with your food”, that’s practice for the real thing, and is done by the young of many species (or by the parents training the young). It stands out more in domesticated animals like cats because one of the ways domestication works is by making the animals retain juvenile traits into adulthood.

It is certainly juvenile for my cats to think I need yet another gopher anatomy lesson this morning …

It should be noted that when killer whales kill for non-feeding purposes it’s for the benefit of teaching the younger animals how to hunt. This is how behaviors are handed down from generation to generation.

You can definitely add mustelids like weasels to this list. I’ve seen (as have my friends with chickens especially) the end result of weasels taking the heads off chickens in the coop and not eating a thing.