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How to Choose a Cat Who Will Kill Mice

The author is a huge fan of dogs and cats and knows a bit about selecting a mouser cat.

How to train a cat to hunt mice

How to train a cat to hunt mice

Choosing a Gifted Mouser Cat

Aloof demigod or cuddly cutie-pie, your cat is descended from countless generations of fierce predators. Under the right circumstances, almost any cat will kill a mouse. However, some cats seem to live for the hunt while others prefer to wait for the occasional mouse to stumble directly into their food bowls.

If you live in an area where mice and other rodents are a problem, here are a few guidelines you can use to find a cat who will eagerly seek out such prey.

What Makes a Good Hunting Cat?

When choosing a good mouser, breed matters least. While certain types of cats, including Maine Coons and American Shorthair cats, are known as good mousers, there is tremendous individual variation within each breed.

Look at the individual cat. If possible, look for a cat who already hunts or displays hunting behavior. All cats are born with an instinct to chase, but that instinct must also be enabled and encouraged by the environment if it is to develop into skillful hunting. If a cat is going to actually kill (or even eat) its prey, that behavior must be taught. Kittens' mothers are the ones who teach them to hunt, so if possible, find out more about where the cat came from.

You can sometimes test a cat's interest in hunting by playing with the cat. If it shows intense and sustained interest in the toy (chasing, pouncing, biting, etc.), that cat might be a good hunter, but unless that interest was encouraged by the cat's mother, it may not have developed into a skill.

Observing a cat's hunting behavior

Observing a cat's hunting behavior

How Kittens Learn to Hunt: A Skill Honed With Practice and Play

Watch as these kittens learn hunting skills through games and practice. As they begin to hunt, you may notice that their play looks a lot like the games you've seen more urban kittens and cats enjoy with their toys. The playful stalking, pouncing, and wrestling of kittens is practice for the hunt.

Cats That Will Kill Mice

It's All Fun and Games Unless You're a Large and Juicy Rat

Whether you're choosing a kitten or an adult cat, look for one who plays fiercely. When kittens play, they are honing their skills as little hunters. Watch for cats of any age who "stalk" their toys or bite them and shake them vigorously. This type of play mimics more serious hunting behavior and is a good indication that a cat will seek out and kill mice.

Where to Find a Good Mouser

If you live in or near a rural area, look for a farm with a litter of barn cats. Plus, many states have barn cat relocation programs, so check the Internet for an organization near you. These kittens will have learned to hunt by watching their mothers and are more likely to have a few kills under their own belts. An adult barn cat is an ideal choice if you can provide it with an appropriate environment but may not adjust well to city life.

Your local animal shelter is probably overflowing with cats. Most animal shelters will cheerfully allow you to interact with the cats to make a good adoption decision. When you go, take a toy mouse with you and see how the cats react to it.

In a cat of any age, look for lots of energy and a playful disposition. While shelter fees can be fairly steep, they generally include vaccinations and spaying or neutering. Speaking of which...

Cats that play fierce hunting games

Cats that play fierce hunting games

Will Spaying or Neutering My Cat Kill Its Killer Instinct?

The idea that spaying or neutering your cat will reduce its desire to hunt is a myth. Unaltered cats can produce two to three litters of kittens a year, and those kittens will soon be bearing litters of their own. With that many cats around, you'll have to bring in the bears to control the cats. To avoid replacing your rodent problem with a cat problem, spay or neuter your cat!

If you can't afford to pay to have your kitty spayed or neutered right away, look for a free or low-cost program rather than putting it off. You can find an excellent list of local and national spay and neuter programs online.

How to Take Care of a Mousing Cat

Be sure to keep your cat's vaccinations current, especially if it's an outdoor cat, and extra-especially if that cat is a hunter. While rodents are a natural part of a cat's diet, they can carry parasites and diseases.

For your cat's health, never use poison for rodent control. In addition to the risk of your cat directly consuming some of the poison, your cat can be poisoned by eating a rodent that has consumed poisoned bait.

How to choose a hunting cat

How to choose a hunting cat

More About Mousers

Getting a Mouse-Hunting Cat

Before you bring home your cute little killing machine, consider your options carefully. A good mouser will certainly take care of your rodent problem, but a cat is more than pest control! Make sure you're ready for a pet.

Death by cat is ugly and painful, and many cats love to flaunt their kills. While the only evidence of my own cat's hunting is the occasional glimpse of her darting under the house with a mouse in her mouth, my coworker's cat is less discrete, and she frequently finds little corpses in her bathtub.

If you have too tender a heart to be comfortable with this, do yourself, some mice, and the cat a favor and consider a non-lethal trap instead. Non-lethal traps or deterrents can be very effective with all but the most severe rodent infestations.

What If My Cat Shows No Interest in Catching Mice?

Not all cats show interest in killing rodents. Some are too well fed to be interested in working for food; others just don't seem to have the "killer instinct." Does your cat stalk and kill rodents, toys, and the occasional bug, or is he/she a sophisticated urban cat and above that sort of thing?

Is your cat a mouser?

Is your cat a mouser?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Do You Have a Killer Cat or a Feline Pacifist?

Katniss Evermew on September 01, 2019:

I can testify to the fact that spaying and neutering doesn't change a cat's killer instinct whatsoever. Best mouser I ever had was a neutered male. However, I think the reason he was the best was because most of my cats were separated from their mothers between six and twelve weeks old, whereas this cat lived with his mother for the first nine months of his life. She must've taught him everything she knew because by the time I got him at just under a year old, he was a consummate hunter.

Athena on January 04, 2019:

Please keep your cats indoors. They kill way too many birds and other wildlife.

Brenda on December 13, 2018:

Our pampered kitty is a Maine coon kitty. He had his first experience with a mouse last night and he caught it! He didn't kill it but he carried it in his mouth into the kitchen to play with it. Will he learn how to kill mice? He hunts all the time.

Kenshin on November 28, 2018:

My cat play with the mouse and rats and then loses intrest

And i tell her it's under the couch she check every where else sept under the couch then i look for under the couch it moves then she play with it a little more and never kills it so i have bleach to kill the rat under the couch but ...

When i do kill it she plays with it more and more

Jc on August 08, 2017:

What if the cat you want lives outside and has fleas

Tree320 on May 19, 2017:

When we tried to adopt cat from our friend, there are three candidates, the way we choose is to try a feather cat toy, to see if the cat has hunting instinct, finally, we chose the cat who destroy the fishing rod in 5 minutes, it turns out that he is really a good mice killer. By the way, the feather is his first and favorite toy after that, if you want to select cat as well, it's worth a try, from OnePlus Amazon,

Elaine Sheldon on November 19, 2016:

Delightfully written! Informative, well organized, and just plain enjoyable read!

Clarke on July 01, 2016:

I have a cat that did not hunt when I got him but learned from watching his buddy, Tidbit, a cat that goes into the woods because there are not many mice left close to the house

kirt on November 12, 2015:

my kitten has already have my house mice free so i can't imagine what will happen when he is a cat.

Rick King from Charleston, SC on April 12, 2014:

Our kitten is convinced that her job is to kill anything that moves in our house. Fortunately, there are no mice here that we know of, so she is just practicing on bugs, plastic bags, and our feet!

Rose Jones on July 31, 2013:

OOh, yucky. But important. Pinned to two of my boards: "cats" and "this I want you to know."

hntrssthmpsn (author) on July 28, 2013:

@amosvee: Five! Good kitty! I have a coworker with a really fierce hunter cat... but he likes to leave his victims in the bath. Sounds like you got a little luckier!

amosvee on July 25, 2013:

I have a hunter and am gifted with at least one dead mouse a day. The biggest one-night total was five. Not pretty, but better that than having them get into my house!

anonymous on July 15, 2013:

haha bear to hunt cats.. that's funny

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on June 29, 2013:

Rodents can cause a lot of trouble, so cats, with full developed killer instincts or not, are still considered our friends... Respect!

wiseriverman on June 19, 2013:

Cats are worth their weight in gold. I have three and haven't seen a mouse in a long, long time.

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on June 18, 2013:

One year we had a mouse problem and our cats did behave differently. Dandy liked to "catch and release" - he'd take the mouse under the table where we couldn't get to him as easily and let it go so he could play with it - or catch it again. I think he thought of the mouse as a pet. I'm not sure Oreo was particularly interested in the game at all. Good tips here, especially the reminder that cats are pets and, thus, a responsibility to be taken seriously.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 14, 2013:

Love to have a cat like this in the cottage.

Bartukas on May 08, 2013:

I love animals great lens

WriterJanis2 on April 08, 2013:

Our neighbor's cat is very much the rodent killer.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on March 19, 2013:

@SteveKaye: Good kitty with a puritan work ethic!

hntrssthmpsn (author) on March 19, 2013:

@Loretta L: Hahahah that's adorable! Hopefully, he'll learn to enjoy people as much as he likes hamsters ;)

SteveKaye on March 18, 2013:

Our cat goes after everything that moves. Meow.

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on March 18, 2013:

I know one cat who brought home a live hamster to join the hamster his owners alreadt had. Don't know if he thought he would please his owners, or the two lonely hamsters. Seemed like a nice thing to do. And the hamster was totally unharmed. He isn't quite so nice with people, but he's improving a lot.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on March 09, 2013:

@Lee Hansen: That's adorable... she's soft on the wee invaders ;)

Lee Hansen from Vermont on March 09, 2013:

Love this. I have one elderly male cat that can't be bothered to chase mice. My female indoor cat used to be an outdoor cat and she was a great hunter, but never a killer. She thinks mice, frogs, snakes, birds and chipmunks are her friends. She hunts and captures, then releases them. So now she's indoors and if she catches a mouse - and we have them, for sure - she just thinks it's a play date.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on March 09, 2013:

@lionmom100: Oh, I hear you! Some delicacies are best enjoyed outdoors, that's for sure.

lionmom100 on March 08, 2013:

I have three cats and they are all avid hunters. One brings presents, but they other two will eat their prey. I just wish they wouldn't bring them in the house.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on March 06, 2013:

@FlynntheCat1: We've had a few like that, too, which is fine as we don't live in a house prone to rodent infestation anymore. Once upon a time, in our rat-attracting country home, we cared a lot more!

FlynntheCat1 on March 06, 2013:

Ha, my cat couldn't care less. We have rats in the walls and she just sleeps on my bed all day :D

hntrssthmpsn (author) on February 27, 2013:

@knitstricken: True, indeed! Nature's most adorable serial killers ;)

knitstricken on February 27, 2013:

Last year at Goodwill I scored an AWESOME T-Shirt; It's got The Onion's logo on the back center, and on the front: An image of a cat with the caption, "Kitty Thinks of Nothing But Murder All Day". HiLARious! :o) But True. :-)

hntrssthmpsn (author) on February 24, 2013:

@ItayaLightbourne: That's sweet, and probably for the best. Unless you have a serious pest problem, there's no need to kill the wee thing ;)

Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on February 22, 2013:

Our kitty is an outdoor kitty that adopted us. I think he was initially owned by someone then either ran off or was dropped off in our area. He loves patrolling the perimeter and finding moles and such to pounce on. Then he doesn't know what to do with them. LOL He brought one up to us that promptly jumped up and ran away when he plopped him down for us to inspect. Silly kitty. :)

EMangl on November 30, 2012:

no cats but also no mice in my home - petfree zone

Tara Wojtaszek on October 16, 2012:

My cat was definitely a feline pacifist....That wasn't such a bad thing though. I once lived with a cat that would bring live mice and birds into the house.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on October 10, 2012:

@Lady Lorelei: I've met a few such cats, but my current feline companion is a terrific mouser!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on October 07, 2012:

I had one cat that was so lazy that a mouse ran by her and she just laid there and watched it go. It is funny how it works that way.

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on September 28, 2012:

I adopted a feral kitten and this kitty is shaping up to be a fierce killer. He tries to kill my dogs. I stop him when he does this to Tito, who doesn't fight back. Libby is on her own, and she will put up with it for a while, then pen him on his back before he knows what's hit him. He loves to grab them around the neck, bite their faces, while pretending to eviscerate them with his back paws. It is a bit frightening. My theory is if you find a cat from a feral litter, he will tend to be a strong hunter by natural selection. A kitty who has come from a long line of pampered housecats would be more likely to have gotten a gene or two that makes them satisfied with Little Friskies.

anonymous on September 25, 2012:

Its fun to stop by again to read what others had to say.

Yup, a good mouser around the house is a very good thing. :)

justmelucy on September 21, 2012:

I did have a killer cat. Funny story. I had a beautiful white Persian, named SeeaT. or C/A/T/ if you sound it out. Seeat was living happily in Jacksonville, FL when I decided to move to NC. Our first home had no bath, no insulation, no stove and only had 2 rooms plus the attic for 5 people + the cat. Culture Shock. We had never seen Giant Mice before, but Seeat did his job as if by -------. He learned to catch mice as big as him and brought them to me for acknowledgement of a job well done. Of course, he got a very special treat.

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on September 01, 2012:

very interesting read.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on August 27, 2012:

@Escapes2: It's true... and it's good to feel loved ;)

Escapes2 on August 26, 2012:

I don't have a cat, but I do have a Beagle who is a mouse, bird and any other small animal killing machine. He usually brings me something dead at least once a week. Nothing says love like a dead mouse on the back door step.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on August 03, 2012:

@iankc: Yes, the gifts can be an unfortunate by-product of a hunting cat.

Ian Casey from Florida on August 02, 2012:

While I don't have any cats at the moment, I have had at least 3 in my life. They were mostly outside cats, who only came home to eat and drink. But I do recall on a couple of occasions finding a nice little mouse or rat all gift wrapped on my doorstep. Birds too... yuck!

hntrssthmpsn (author) on July 16, 2012:

@Mariajomith: Mine's got serial killer leanings, as well... she's cuddly with my son, ignores me completely, and dominates the backyard like a lioness.

ria on July 16, 2012:

I only have one cat, whom I adore, he is quite the serial killer.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on July 15, 2012:

@JenwithMisty: Yeah, not a pleasant thing to deal with when it's not a behavior you want in your cat. If you've only got a few mice, perhaps a non-toxic repellent product or a havahart trap could get rid of them gently before your cats get a chance.

Jen withFlash on July 14, 2012:

Unfortunately, I have mousers. They sit and wait and then play with the poor things until they are dead.

hntrssthmpsn (author) on July 06, 2012:

@bilafond lm: Congratulations on your first pet!

bilafond lm on July 06, 2012:

I love my cat BOOTS more. Our first ever pet. Good lens.

Drake McSherry from Milwaukee, WI on June 12, 2012:

Great lens-cats rock!! I love mine.

Judy Filarecki from SW Arizona and Northern New York on June 11, 2012:

My cat is definitely a mouser, but he likes to bring me his treasures. Unfortunately, he usually plays with his catch, puts it down when it plays dead and then gets distracted long enough for the mouse to scurry away, only to be chased and caught again.

Joan Haines on June 10, 2012:

At one point in my old 126 year old house, I was tempted to get a mouser cat, but realized I didn't want a pet. I just wanted the mice gone. Therefore, I didn't get one. Does borrowing someone else's cat work?

Nightcat on June 08, 2012:

Wonderful lens! You a right about the brred. Shadow is a Persian, and he is a lordly hunter. Mice, moles, birds. My Persiian before killed a groundhog. :)

anonymous on March 20, 2012:

This is sute with the graphic you used. Good advice in picking a good mouser. :)

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on February 08, 2012:

Good tips for choosing a good mouser. My cat is fat and happy and has forgotten anything she ever knew. Oh well. Good thing I don't have mice!

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on February 02, 2012:

Cats are my favorite pet. When we lived in a rural area we had 3 cats who adopted us and one was the ideal mouse trap.

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on January 12, 2012:

I love that you also warned everyone about how a poisoned rodent may poisoin a cat. Also, the spay neuter advice is great. There are too many unwanted cats destroyed every year or living a miserable existence and starving. I love your lenses.

Showpup LM on January 10, 2012:

I raise/show Maine coon cats and can attest to their fabulous hunting ability as a breed. However, it is so true that barn cats rock! Sometimes all it takes is to be at the AC building and offer to take in cats being dropped off that are good mousers before they end up in the shelter's care.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 08, 2012:

We lived in the country when I was a kid and our cat would regularly present us with her latest kill. Then she would expect praise. Once she caught and killed a rat that was not much smaller than she was.

Ann Hinds from So Cal on January 08, 2012:

The hunter is currently sitting in front of my washing machine waiting for some unsuspecting mouse to walk into her paws. They just plowed the field across the street and along with the mice, we have had an errant bunny or two. Back to the cat who will sit there all day until it is time to take a nap. Does she not know that the mouse will wait for naptime to make an appearance?