Is it Safe to Let Your Cat Get Rid of Mice? The Benefits and Risks of Allowing Your Cat to Hunt

BY | November 22 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
A Cat And A Mouse Sitting Together
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Cats are born with natural hunting instincts, and many believe that it is a disservice to not allow them to put those instinct to use. However, there are many risks associated with allowing your cat to catch vermin. Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Throughout the ages, cats have been taken into homes (and barns and factories) for their hunting prowess, and specifically for their mousing skills. Even Marie Antoinetteโ€™s cats โ€” those fabled to have been the antecedents of all Maine Coons in some folk tales โ€” were originally kept as mousers. If those cats could do it, why not yours?

Well, mousing cats of yore often had short, difficult lives, and unpleasant deaths. So, letโ€™s get to the bottom of whether you should allow your modern-day house cat to channel their ancestral hunter.

POSSIBLE DANGERS OF ALLOWING YOUR CAT TO HUNT RODENTS

In cities and suburbs, rodents arenโ€™t cute little cartoon-like creatures with big eyes and pink ears. Some go by another name: rats. And what did rats once spread? The plague! Rats and mice have many differences, but share one key characteristic โ€” they tend to carry pests and disease.

Disease
Thereโ€™s a long list of unpleasant diseases humans and cats can get from rat infestations, including hantavirus, leptospirosis, and a condition called rat-bite fever. Your house cat is especially susceptible to these diseases if theyโ€™re eating the hosts.

Your cat could also be exposed to toxoplasmosis (the reason why pregnant women are instructed to avoid litter boxes).

Pests
Mice are classic hosts for ticks. Unlike fleas who go from birth to blood meal to death, ticks require a dual-host scenario. They are born, find an intermediary host, drop to the ground, then find their final host. The final hosts are typically deer, humans, or house pets. Their first host is often a mouse. If your cat fraternizes with the host of your local tick population, they could bring those pests straight into your home. Your cat may contract Lyme disease themselves, or they could bring the disease to their people.

Other Dangers
Mouse and rat poison do not work immediately. The poisons are often ingested a few days before the rodent finally perishes. If your cat finds a mouse during this period, they could be eating the poison along with the animal. This could mean their end as well.

WHEN IS IT OKAY TO ALLOW A CAT TO CATCH MICE?

โ€œAllowโ€ is a funny term when applied to cat behavior. Cats are somewhat trainable, but for the most part they are their own people, and they make their own decisions. We can make sure certain behaviors elicit a negative association. But in the case of hunting, our response is not likely to be immediate enough to do anything other than make them frightened of us. So the question of whether or not to allow hunting could be moot.

Mental Well Being: Nature vs. Nurture
Many cat people struggle with the conflict of whether to confine their cats to the indoors. Indoor cats live undeniably longer lives. But what sort of life is a life lived inside, passing each day by the window to gaze longingly at the outside world? Everyone has their own response to this question, and each family makes their own decision accordingly.

The same question can be posed about whether to allow your cat to hunt. Hunting mice and other creatures can indeed harm your cat, in the ways mentioned above. Hereโ€™s the hard question: Is the risk, perhaps, worth it?

BENEFITS OF ALLOWING YOUR CAT TO CATCH MICE

Wellness
Allowing a cat to be a cat, to keep their deepest instincts alive, in almost all cases, will equate to a happier cat. Cats who are content, and who have an appropriate outlet for their pent up energy, will often abstain from engaging in some of the naughty household behaviors we scorn, like inappropriate toileting or the destruction of furniture.

Better Than an Exterminator
Using your cat to catch some unwanted household visitors is fairly common. Itโ€™s rodent control without poison, and more humane to the pest than a sticky trap or a snap trap. Sometimes the cat wonโ€™t even need to catch the mouse to have the desired effect of driving the pest away. A catโ€™s lurking presence is often enough to evict squatting rodents.

TIPS FOR HUNTING CATS

  • Put a bell on your catโ€™s collar. Theyโ€™ll get to tap into the hunting instinct, but the sound of the bell may scare away all but the slowest prey from capture.
  • If possible, lock your cat door at night. Cats are nocturnal, and prefer to hunt at night. Keeping them indoors during these hours could reduce their success rate.
  • If you decide to let your cat hunt, or suspect they may be hunting despite your efforts, be sure to look out for these warning signs of a sick cat.

Why Do Cats Chase Mice?

Cats catch and kill mice. That has been a well-known fact for many years now. But what causes that reaction in cats to just chase mice? Why the animosity? During ancient Egyptian times, cats were most known for their valuable ability to catch and kill the mice that infested the grain bins in the village. As time passed, they became a valuable addition to every household because of their helpful hunting abilities and overall adorability. Cat instincts are sharp and vigilant. So even when she seems content batting a catnip infused mouse toy with her paw, she still craves the real thing.

Cats and mice

Cats, especially wild ones have no problem eating other types of rodents as well. Mice are just easier prey. They are relatively small which means that there is no chance that the mouse will win a standoff while being cornered. Catching a mouse just gives your cat a satisfaction that she wonโ€™t really get from anywhere else. Another factor that makes the mouse a desirable prey is the fact that unlike birds, they canโ€™t escape by flying away. Since ancient times, hunting has been somewhat of survival instinct for cats. They have to hunt in order to get food. They have to be vigilant and fight off bigger creatures for survival.

Why do cats just need to hunt?

There is more of a substance known as 'Taurine' in a catโ€™s body than in a dogโ€™s. Taurine is an amino acid that is one of the main building blocks of protein. In order to keep up their taurine content, they need to keep hunting. Only meat can provide a cat with enough taurine to keep going. A cat is an obligatory carnivore which means that they have to be a carnivore in order to survive.Cats are also born hunters. They start getting that hunting instinct when they are merely six to seven weeks old. Kittens usually learn how to hunt from their mothers who bring back live prey for them to practice on. Kittens who werenโ€™t trained by their mothers often fail to make a clean kill. Thatโ€™s why household cats sometimes bring back a live pet to their owners. To demonstrate that their hunting abilities are above average. We all know that cats can be a little needy at times, they seek appreciation from their humans.

Why do cats play with their prey?

All this is, is an overrated misconception. People think that cats cruelly torture their preys before going in for the kill. Although there is a lot of poking, scratching, and pouncing involve, from the catโ€™s point of view, it is just self-defense. Most animals have survival instincts that kick in when theyโ€™re cornered.Cats love chasing and hunting mice. It brings both them and you satisfaction. While sheโ€™s a valuable pet, she might also be the reason behind why you donโ€™t have a mouse problem.

More on Cat Behaviors

5 Tips to Calm an Aggressive Cat
The Benefits of a Playful Cat
Cat Behaviors

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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