Why Do Cats Eat Mice — and Why Don’t Cats Eat Mice?
Cats are intelligent and cute and affectionate companions. So why do they turn into monsters? Well, they’re not monsters any more than you are when you stop at a fast-food restaurant and buy a donut. Think about it.
You’re intelligent and cute and affectionate, too! But you need nutrition and you also need mental stimulation. Somebody giving you a donut is nice, but it often tastes better when you go get it yourself: you gather your money … you get in the car … maybe you grab the spouse and the kid and the dog for the outing … you drive down the road … you arrive … your mouth is watering in anticipation … your problems have vanished as you imagine the fragrance of the golden sugary pastry … and finally it’s yours! Does that make you a monster?
“But hold on!” you protest. “Donuts aren’t alive!” True. But so was the bacon you had at breakfast this morning. Let’s look into the minds of our pets to understand why do cats eat mice.
The Five or Six or Seven Senses of Cats
Cats perceive the world differently from us, using their hearing and sense of smell as their primary information sources. They pick up sounds beyond the range of human hearing. We have only five hundred million odor sensors in our noses compared to cats with 200 million. They not only know what other critters are around but also their gender, age, health, and edibility.
They see almost microscopic twitches of movement in the dimmest light. With their whiskers, they detect minute shifts in air currents including temperature, pressure, and direction. What’s more, cats have an acute sense of balance that emerges as early as four weeks of age. They have an internal clock without ever using a timepiece.
Some people believe that cats show evidence of different psychic abilities, too. So how do cats catch mice? That’s how.
Why Even Fat Cats Want to Hunt
Do cats need to hunt? The answer is yes. Hunting is not the same as eating, though — more about that in a moment. Kittens as young as six weeks old, often still nursing, start stalking and pouncing. Their instinct guides them to use their senses to seek prey, even without knowing why. These behaviors develop their eye/paw coordination and strengthen their muscles. It’s rehearsal.
“Why does my cat kill mice without eating them?” you ask? Well-fed cats often hunt with the same motivation as well-fed humans engaging in physical sports. It’s for exercise and entertainment. Never withhold food from your cat just because he’s stalking “wild game.”
Food Chains in the Natural World
Life needs energy to survive. Different life forms seek the kinds of energy sources that best meet their needs. Cats are carnivores, getting most of their nutrition through meat. They’re naturally on the alert for opportunities to hunt. Domestication has tamed down these urges but cats would cease to be cats without them.
What Is Natural Food for Cats?
For over ten million years, cats have been getting get most of their nutritional needs met from animal sources. The natural feline diet usually includes most of the entire body of mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects they catch.
In the wild, their food also contributes much to their water intake. Why do cats eat mice? They’re easy to catch, rich in nutrients, and can easily be eaten whole.
Benefits of a Raw Food Diet
Unlike humans whose bodies manufacture certain needed nutrients by ingesting the building blocks, cats can’t do that. One needed nutrient is taurine, an amino acid necessary in large amounts for vision, heart functioning, reproduction, and digestion.
It is only available from meat. Tissue damage from taurine deficiency is largely irreversible, so taurine is now added to commercial cat foods but it doesn’t occur naturally in vegan preparations. In addition, cats’ bodies can only store it in small amounts. Why do cats eat mice? Because mice contain more taurine than any other available prey animal!
Many veterinarians recommend a natural raw diet for pets because it resembles the foods they would choose in the wild with nutrients intact in their most digestible form. Unlike commercially prepared diets, there are no fillers, preservatives, dyes, or nutritionless marketing ploys created for shoppers.
Dangers of Domestic Cats Hunting Mice
“Is eating mice good for my cat?” you’re wondering. It depends. Mice can share ticks and fleas as well as several diseases including hantavirus, leptospirosis, plague, and Lyme disease. Via fleas or from being eaten, mice can also share parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and the protozoans that cause toxoplasmosis, a condition potentially lethal to human embryos.
It’s wise to take your veterinarian’s advice about worming your cats at least every six months. Worms may not seriously affect healthy adult cats but they can stunt growing kittens and weaken elderly cats.
Another problem with cats eating mice is the risk of secondary poisoning: in suburban and urban environments, people often use bait or poison to kill mice, not knowing that pets and wildlife who consume mice often die.
If an animal becomes ill without a clear diagnosis, let the veterinarian know about the possibility of rodenticides as soon as possible.
Finally, a note about using essential oils to repel mice: peppermint and other essential oils have become trendy methods to humanely repel mice. Mice avoid certain scents but it won’t stop them from infesting your home.
What’s worse is that fumes of many essential oils are irritating to cats’ lungs; the oils themselves are toxic if accidentally ingested.
FAQ Explaining Why Do Cats Eat Mice
Are mice food or are mice prey?
Either or both. Mice are abundant and easy to catch. Their presence is enough to trigger cats’ hunting instinct, whether for sport or a meal.
Do cats like the taste of mice?
Cats have a much more acute sense of smell than taste. Most likely their awareness of eating meat is what makes the experience appealing.
How long does it take a cat to kill a mouse?
If a cat is hungry, he can kill his prey within a few minutes. If he doesn’t know what to do after catching the mouse, he may spend time trying to figure out what comes next.
What parts of a mouse does a cat not eat?
They may eat the entire prey, although some prefer to leave behind the gall bladder, kidneys, stomach, or intestine. Some leave behind the entire mouse. Some deliver it to you as a gift.
My cat ate a mouse – what should I do?
Observe for changes in your cat’s behavior indicating that the mouse had ingested bait or poison.
How do cats catch mice?
Mice are relatively easy prey, and cats have several tools developed over thousands of years for catching them. Kittens in the wild are taught how to hunt by their mothers at a young age.
What if I want my cat to catch mice but he won’t?
Some cats just aren’t interested. Although cats are smart enough to learn to catch them, that won’t eliminate a pest problem. Mice are smart, too, and learn to hide when the cat is on the prowl. They’ll also move their nesting areas and change their feeding strategies.
Do cats eat rats?
They can but healthy adult rats are usually too strong and active for the average domesticated house cat. Rats can cause severe damage with their exceptionally sharp teeth.
Should outdoor cats wear a bell?
Many people who are concerned about their cats stalking and killing wildlife provide a bell on a breakaway collar. The sound warns away potential prey, but the collar comes undone if it gets accidentally hooked on something so the cat won’t be in danger.
Will feeding my cat a raw diet make him turn wild?
No. In fact, your cat will likely be calmer and more affectionate from the feeling of being healthy and well-nourished.
Why Do Cats “Play” with Mice and Other Prey?
There are three theories why cats appear to torment their prey before finishing them off. Cruelty is never the intent:
- Often domesticated cats don’t know what to do after catching a mouse because they’ve never been taught.
- In the wild, many predators harass their prey to weaken them. Motionless prey is unable to kick, bite, or gore the hunter during the final bite. Domestic cats have small mouths so approaching a thrashing prey animal can be risky.
- To train kittens, mothers and even male cats in the colony will often present a wounded mouse to help the litter learn.
Do Cats Need to Play? Does Everybody Need to Play?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Play is necessary for mammals and birds in order to stimulate their minds, develop their senses, exercise their muscles, engage in social bonding, and sharpen life skills. Solitary as well as competitive play relieves frustration and boredom. The pleasure of success provides reassurance of the ability to secure food and safety.
Can My Cat Be Trained Not to Kill Mice? Ways to Redirect Your Cat’s Drive to Hunt
Some cats can learn the difference between prey and other small pets but it’s not safe to trust their self-control. You can reduce the instinct to kill in three ways:
- Providing a nutrient-dense raw diet that meets your cat’s individual need for meat and variety in a way that satisfies hunger urges
- Providing daily activities to allow your cat mental stimulation and tension release
- Considering the addition of a second cat for companionship and play if your cat is alone
Good Toys and Games for Cats
Why do cats eat mice? If they’re not nutritionally deprived, then they might be bored! Cats seek arousal and excitement. They are programmed to find, chase, and catch using their hearing, vision, and sense of smell, so it’s natural for them to scout, climb, and observe.
Don’t get upset if they destroy a toy: it means that you chose well because you ensured
a successful hunt! Toys and games don’t need to be expensive, but they do need to be safe without bits or strings that could cause choking. Child-safe toys made with non-toxic materials are washable.
To prevent humans from tripping, put moving toys like balls in a large box or the empty bathtub. Remove handles from plastic bags. Not all cats enjoy catnip but many do.
Keep a variety of different kinds of toys on hand — part of living with cats is the joy of getting to know their individual personalities.
Why Do Cats Bring Us Dead Animals?
Your first question wondering why do cats eat mice was incomplete: eating them is not the same as catching them. A mother cat will often feed her growing kittens with mice while she weans them.
Both male and female cats transfer the behavior over to their special humans with the presentation of gifts of food. It demonstrates family bonding and sharing. Humans traditionally “break bread” with each other to consolidate relationships.
A mouse gift could be a peace offering or it may even be that your cat is trying to show you the proper way to catch prey since you obviously haven’t been doing it right!
Accepting the Gifts
What do you do when someone gives you a present? You’re grateful that they regard you as special, so you show appreciation. In the case of your cat, don’t overdue showing gratitude because you don’t want to reinforce the behavior.
Accept such gifts with grace because your cat loves you. Keep a stash of disposable gloves nearby. If too many gifts are appearing, close off areas of the house as needed. Be aware that your cat might be trying to communicate something else to you such as illness, fear, or jealousy.
Why do cats eat mice? Now you understand! You’ve heard the saying that you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. It’s the same for your feline companion: you can take the cat out of the wild but you can’t take the wild out of the cat. However, being the clever creatures that we are, humans can work around this in three ways:
- Sharing daily exchanges of affection by cuddling, petting, or grooming
- Enjoying play dates with toys and stimulating activities
- Proving the right nutrition with raw foods
You’ll soon see how much this strengthens the bond that you already share with your cat!
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