Cats & Mice: Why Your Cat Enjoys Catching Them

By Valdette Muller| June 4, 2019 | Blog

Cats love to catch mice. As natural hunters, they’re very good at it.

Cats kill mice. It has always been so, even in the distant past when cats and humans got together through the discovery that they could both improve their diets by keeping grain stores mouse-free. The classic cartoon ‘Tom and Jerry’ shows cats and mice continue the eternal struggle between hunter and prey.

Your cat might bat a catnip mouse toy about the room to keep you happy, but make no mistake, your cat’s instincts crave the real thing.

For a feral cat, mice are not the only food source on the menu. A cat living in the wild cannot afford to be fussy, so other rodents, birds and even rabbits are all fair game for a hungry cat. However mice are easy prey. They are small which limits the possibility of counterattack and unlike birds, mice can’t escape by flying away.

Why do cats bring home unwanted gifts?

Many cats do not eat their prey, and sometimes they do not even kill it. If have ever had to chase an injured mouse out of your kitchen, then you have experienced this behaviour firsthand.

In the wild, cat mothers teach their young how to eat their food by bringing home dead or injured prey. Domestic cats are no different. But in this modern age of spayed domestic cats, many female felines have no young to whom they need to pass on their hunting wisdom.

By leaving a dead animal on the veranda, your cat is acting out their natural role as mother and teacher. You, her loving owner, represents her surrogate family. And frankly, she knows you would never have been able to catch that delicious mouse on your own.

So before you chastise your cat for their deadly habits, consider that these habits are based on a highly evolved survival instinct. 

Born to hunt

Even at four to six weeks kittens start stalking and pouncing on the contents of their food bowl. Later, a mother cat’s twitching tail becomes the perfect toy to learn and pounce upon. Hunting skills are refined under careful supervision of the mother cat.

Play refines hunting skills, reinforcing them throughout a cat’s life. Whether by practicing how to stalk and attack a passing human’s feet, or by catching a toy mouse in the house or a real one in the garden.

It is not true that only hungry cats actively hunt. As many farmers have discovered, well-fed cats are just as adept as ‘pest controllers’ as hungry ones. For better or worse, hunting is just what cats do.

Prevention

The only effective way to keep your cat from hunting is to make sure they remain an indoor cat. This may not always be a practical solution, especially if your cat has become accustomed to being an outdoor cat. Try to stimulate your cat’s hunting instinct with more play at home. Activities that simulate hunting like chasing toys or playing with other cats may give your cat the ‘fix’ they crave to keep them from hunting  the smaller wildlife outdoors.

A collar with a bell will also help discourage unwanted hunting behaviour in your garden and surrounding areas. The bell will act as a warning for any unsuspecting birds, giving them the chance to fly off before the cat gets too close.

Clean up quickly

Remember to dispose of anything that has been caught as soon as possible. If you do not dispose of your cat’s trophies, your cat will think that it is OK to keep catching them. A pair of rubber gloves will come in handy for this particular job.

Sources: https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/behavior-appearance/cats-catching-mice

https://www.knowyourcat.info/info/catandmouse.htm

https://www.livescience.com/34471-cats-dead-animals.html

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