Cats have natural instincts to hunt and catch prey. Feral cats will hunt, catch, and eat small animals like mice to survive. Even house cats that have spent their entire lives indoors may feel the need to hunt real animals. If you have an indoor cat, you may be surprised to find that they have been hunting and eating mice in your home without your knowledge.
Indoor cats are less likely to eat mice as they get regular meals but may still hunt and chase mice for fun. Letting your cat to hunt mice in the house is a form of free entertainment and pest control. However, it comes with some risks and potential problems. You should know about these before you allow it to continue.
Do house cats know how to catch and eat mice?
Even if your indoor cat has spent its whole life indoors, they will still have been born with the natural instincts to hunt for prey. Usually, indoor cats get to satisfy these instincts during play. But even if you give your cats lots of play, they may find the allure of a running mouse irresistible.
Mice make the perfect targets for a house cat to hunt. Their size, body shape, and movements are hard-wired into your cat’s brain to captivate their attention. Mice are most active in the evening when humans have gone to sleep. This overlaps with the natural hours where your cat will naturally be most active, during sunset and sunrise.
Indoor cats usually won’t feel the need to eat mice that they catch. Giving your cat regular meals means that they shouldn’t feel hungry enough to eat a whole mouse. Particularly food motivated cats or cats that haven’t eaten in a while are more likely to eat mice after they catch them. Otherwise, an indoor cat may see a mouse as more of a toy, catching and releasing them multiple times in a row before getting bored and walking off.
All cats have different personalities and experiences, just like humans. A particularly nonchalant cat may ignore mice completely. A more timid indoor cat may even be scared of them. It really depends on your cat’s temperament and life experiences. Particularly food motivated or rescue cats may feel the need to hunt and eat mice in particular.
Is it safe for indoor cats to hunt and eat mice?
Cats are able to eat and digest mice without any problem. Raw bones are soft enough for a cat to crush up and digest without any injuries. In the wild, mice and other small rodents will make up most of a feral cat’s diet.
Mice can carry various parasites like worms and fleas. These have a strong chance to be passed on to your cat when an infected mouse is caught. Fortunately, these parasites are usually easily treatable through over-the-counter medication. Indoor cats are also generally recommended to be regularly dewormed and given flea treatment to prevent parasites lingering for too long if they are transmitted to your cat.
However, mice can be carrying more dangerous substances that can be passed on to your cat. Mice that have eaten poisoned bait can live for several days while dying from the effects of poison. If your cat catches and eats a mouse that has been poisoned, that same poison is now in your cat’s body. Sometimes this is called secondary poisoning and it can be deadly for your cat.
If you think that your cat has eaten a mouse poison either directly or through a mouse, you need to bring your cat in to the vet as soon as possible. Your cat may be suffering from toxicosis, symptoms of this might include a loss of appetite, lack of coordination, shaking, and seizures. This could cause long term brain damage or be deadly depending on how much poison your cat ate. You will only be able to get an accurate diagnosis and advice on treatment for your cat by speaking to a vet.
Should I let my indoor cat hunt for mice?
Letting indoor cats hunt for mice can also cause other problems around your house. Although these aren’t serious medical concerns for your cat, they can still be irritating to deal with.
Mice tend to die after being caught, even if they manage to escape. The stress is too much for their hearts. This can be a problem with mice that find their way into your home as they will retreat into a small space before dying. Dead mice are unhygienic and can smell pretty bad.
A worse outcome is when your cat injures a mouse during a hunt and leaves them bloodied. Injured running mice can leave trails of blood about your house which is unhygienic for you. Cats sometimes bring caught prey to their owners as an instinct to provide food for us. Although the sentiment is very much appreciated, getting a dead mouse dropped into your bed is a bad way to start the day.
Indoor cats can and do catch and eat mice. However, its less likely for indoor cats to eat mice if they get regular food which they may find more appealing. Although its normally safe for cats to eat mice, they can potentially cause second hand poisoning which can seriously harm your cat. You should consider getting an exterminator to deal with mice before setting your cat out to solve your rodent problems.