Knowing what to do when your cat catches a mouse is a skill most cat owners have to learn. Hunting is a natural instinct for our domestic cats, and mice are a common victim! However, most pet cats don’t eat the mice they catch. But, if they do, you must watch for signs of parasites or any other potential diseases passed along. It’s important to keep yourself safe when cleaning away mice. Wear gloves and disinfect the area well whilst your cat is shut in another room.
Why Do Cats Like Catching Mice?
Hunting is a natural instinct, even in domestic cat breeds. In fact, some owners may even view it as a positive behavior in their cat. One theory suggests that cats may bring mice into the house as a way to ‘show’ you how to hunt, or to gather some food for you.vAnother suggests that cats present prey like mice as gifts for their owners.vBut, of course, it could also be that your cat’s natural hunting instincts just kicked in when they saw a little mouse running around.
In many parts of the world, cats’ hunting instincts were a great pest control method. For instance, whisky distilleries in Scotland, like the Glenturret Distillery employed cats to manage mice for them! One cat named Towser even holds a Guinness World Record for catching the most mice – 28,889 mice over 24 years!
So, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that your cat is catching mice. It can be very unpleasant and stressful for you, but it doesn’t mean your cat is unnaturally vicious or murderous. It’s a very natural behavior.
Clearing Up Mouse Debris
It’s easy to panic when you see a deceased mouse on your floor, in the doorstep, or worse… in your bed! Even though your cat might think they’ve given you a lovely gift, it’s likely you don’t feel the same. Usually, the mouse in question won’t be alive. So, you need to remove it, and clean anything that it’s touched. Here are a few tips for cleaning up a mouse that your cat has caught:
- Wear gloves to keep yourself safe
- Shut your cat away out of the room
- Use bleach or disinfectant to clean any hard surfaces the mouse touches
- Wash any bedding or soft materials the mouse touches
- Steam clean any carpets the mouse touches
- Dispose of the mouse somewhere your cat (or a fox!) can’t get at it
What to Do When Your Cat Catches a Live Mouse
Dealing with a live mouse in your house is harder, since your cat might still be chasing it around, the mouse will be stressed, and may be hard to catch. Ideally, isolate the mouse to a single room and remove your cat. This way the mouse may run around a little less.
Most mice will try to hide underneath something like your fridge, or sofa, since it is dark, and the smaller space will feel safer to them. So, you may need to move some furniture to catch it.
Usually, it’s easiest to catch the mouse using a large plastic tub or bowl. If possible, you may find it easier to enlist the help of someone else at home. Together, you can herd the mouse somewhere open to catch it.
Once you’ve caught the mouse, you should try to release it as far away from your home as possible. Releasing it in the garden will usually result in your cat catching it again pretty soon.
It’s important to wear gloves when dealing with a live mouse, too. This will protect you from any potential parasites, and even buffer against any scared biting.
What To Do If My Cat Ate A Mouse
Most cats will catch mice and then just leave them around your house. But some may eat parts of the mice they catch, or all of the mouse. This can make cleaning harder for you, since the mouse may not be all in one piece. But, it can also pose worries about your cat’s health.
A main issue that mice can pose to cats is passing on parasites. But, mice can carry and transmit a number of infectious diseases. If you’ve noticed that your cat has eaten a mouse, it’s important to watch for any signs of disease or infection. This can include:
- Disinterest in food
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Excessive scratching or biting at fur
- Blood in stools
- Weight loss
If you notice any symptoms like this after your cat has eaten a mouse, take them straight to their vet.
How To Stop Cats Catching Mice
Since cleaning up a mousey “gift” from your cat can be stressful and a little gross, it’s natural to want to find ways to minimise the occurrence. Some owners hope that keeping their cat indoors will reduce the behavior. And, in many cases it will. But, if a mouse gets indoors, your cat may still catch and kill it.
One study suggests that there are two key ways to reduce hunting tendencies without interfering with the process itself:
- Provide high meat protein foods
- Simulate hunting with object play
So, make sure you’re giving your cat a high quality, high-protein food. And, stimulate their hunting instincts at home to try and satisfy their need to chase something. You could choose toys like laser pointers, or string and feather style toys.
What to Do When Your Cat Catches a Mouse
For some owners, finding a mouse in their home is a regular occurrence. But for others, it’s a rare and quite stressful occasion! If the mouse is dead, pop on some rubber gloves, dispose of the body and clean around the area with a strong cleaning spray and damp cloth. If the mouse is alive however you’ll need to catch it and release it outdoors, well away from your property.
References and Resources
- Crowley et al. 2019. ‘Hunting Behavior in Domestic Cats: An Exploratory Study of Risk and Responsibility Among Cat Owners’, People and Nature.
- Cecchetti et al. 2021. ‘Provision of High Meat Content Food and Object Play Reduce Predation of Wild Animals by Domestic Cats Felis Catus’, Current Biology.
- Capari et al. 2013. ‘Parasitic Infection of Domestic Cats, Felis Catus, in Western Hungary’, Veterinary Parasitology.
- Herron et al. 2010. ‘Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats’, Compendium: Continuing Education for Veterinarians.
- ‘Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rodents‘, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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