How to Choose a Cat Who Will Kill Mice
Choosing a Gifted Mouser
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 to Look for in a Mousing Cat:
1. Observe the Cat, Not the Breed
2. Watch for Hunting Behavior
3. Know Where the Cat Came From
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.
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...
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 at lovethatcat.com.
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.
More About Mousers
Here are links to more information, speculation, and fiercely held opinion about hunting cats.
- The American Shorthair
Learn more about the American Shorthair, a breed with a standout reputation as a good mouser.
- Predatory Behavior of Cats
An explanation of the predatory drives that motivate your cat, including information about how kittens learn to hunt.
- How to Train a Cat to Be Outdoor Safe and a Good Rodent Catcher
No hunting-savvy barn cats to be found in your area? No worries... most cats can learn to hunt. Here's some great info from wikiHow on teaching your cat to be a safe outdoor hunter.
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.
Do You Really Want a Cat?
If you have a temporary rodent problem, a hunting cat will clear it up in no time. Unless you live in a rural area with a lot of rodents or your neighbors have been stockpiling their garbage since 1963, you will soon have a rodent-free home. Will you still have a place in your home for a cat? If not, choose a different solution for pest control.
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 or she a sophisticated urban cat and above that sort of thing?