Cats are natural predators. If they see something moving they are likely to chase it. This applies to birds, cat toys, toes under blankets, and of course – mice. Cats are true carnivores, they need to be good hunters in order to survive. While our house cats might dream about taking down a bigger animal, most are only good at catching mice.
Some Cats Kill, Some Cats Do Not
Many domestic cats have not learned to “kill” effectively. They might play with a mouse but lack the killer instinct that a feral cat might have, or will have learned. In the case where cats are living as strays, it would not be uncommon for a mother cat to bring back a near dead mouse and let her kittens kill it, eventually teaching them how to kill it themselves.
Some house cats who actually do manage to make a kill do so only as a result of playing too rough with the mouse, and in these cases they kill by accident; may play with the body, and then leave it there, much as they would with a toy.
Why Don't All Cats Eat the Mice they Catch?
These cats do not eat the mouse because it does not even occur to them that it is anything other than a toy.
Even the cats who do catch mice will usually not eat the entire mouse, they often leave the stomach and/or spleen.
Cats generally will not eat moles, apparently they taste bad.
What Cats Make the Best Mousers?
Many people think keeping a cat starving will make it a good mouser, but a well fed cat is likely going to be a better mouser than one that has less energy, the main difference is that the well fed cat might not eat the mice it catches. Although it has been said that female cats are the best mousers, this has been debated, nonetheless a younger farm cat is going to turn into a better mouser than a cat that was raised indoors all its life and never exposed to mice at all.
©B Nelson. Cat catching a funny looking mouse.
Is it Safe to Let Cats Catch and Eat Mice?
In general, although it is normal for cats to catch and eat mice there are some diseases they can catch from them. One of these diseases is toxoplasmosis which is a concern for cat owners who happen to be pregnant women.
Another concern is Rickettsialpox, a mite found on mice in the Eastern United States.
Hantavirus is another concern regarding cats catching mice.
Further more there is the concern that cats can get worms from eating mice. Many owners think that worms are no big deal, they simply give the cat a pill that they can buy over the counter from a pet supply store, but these pills usually do not kill tapeworm which is often found in mice.
If you let your cat catch mice, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about health risks and concerns in your area. Be sure to ask about wormer – specifically making sure to include something to kill tapeworms. Cats who do kill mice should be wormed at least every 6 months.
If your cat does bring home a dead mouse, do not punish it, it is doing what comes naturally, however you do need to dispose of the mouse carefully, use gloves, and a mask (to protect against hantavirus) and put it in double plastic bags for disposal.
If your cat brings home a live mouse you might prefer to contain it in a small box and take it out to the woods to let it go.