Do Cats Really Eat Mice?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: October 7, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Dragi52
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We’ve all seen the old cartoon shows where cats try to catch mice. A lot of times, the cat is duped, and the mouse gets away in style. Do such mouse hunts happen in real life, though? Today, we’re going to answer a simple question: do cats really eat mice? We’ll show you if you need to worry about your pet cat chasing down a mouse and why they might decide to give you a grisly present.

Can Cats Kill Mice?

Cat with dead mouse
Yes, cats can certainly kill mice.

Astrid Gast/Shutterstock.com

Before we look at if cats really eat mice, we have to consider if they can kill them at all. The truth, of course, is that house cats are very adept predators that have no problem killing mice. Like big cats, domestic cats often act as stalkers and ambushers.

They lie in wait for the right moment and then pounce. They can bite an animal to death with a surgical bite from their teeth or even beat it to death with their paws. Other times, they are opportunists that see and chase prey before killing it.

So, cats have no problem killing mice, and they do so frequently. In fact, cats can kill a host of rodents like mice and rats. They also kill creatures like small snakes, birds, frogs, and more.  

Some scientists believe that domestic cats that aren’t kept inside kill over 1 billion birds and over 6 billion mammals every single year combined. They aren’t just hunting for a meal, either. They do it to keep their hunting skills sharp and perhaps even out of boredom.

Domestic cats have very powerful prey drives. That means they have an innate desire to hunt down and kill prey. That’s very useful in the wild. Yet, it causes them to wreak havoc in local neighborhoods because their needs aren’t satisfied by sitting on a human’s lap all day.

Do Cats Really Eat Mice?

cat staring intently at toy
Cats eat mice, although not frequently.

Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock.com

Yes, cats really eat mice, and it’s part of their natural diet. Wild cats rely on killing and eating small rodents because these small animals are plentiful and relatively helpless. A mouse has practically no defenses against the attack of the larger domestic cat.

Now, some people wonder why their cats hunt mice even though they’re getting plenty of food at home. First off, it’s rare for cats to eat what they kill. Most of the time, they’re killing to hone instincts and pass the time.

Domestic cats kill a lot of mice in the wild each year, but not many of them end up in a cat’s belly. One study that attached a camera to 55 feral cats discovered that cats only eat 28% of the animals that they kill.  

Around half of all animals that cats kill are left where they’re slain. They were just good practice for the cat’s hunting instincts. The other 23% of cat kills are taken with them back to their homes. That’s what happens when a cat brings you a dead mouse as a “gift.” They’re trying to teach their humans how to hunt properly. At least, that’s one theory.

Cats certainly kill and eat a fair number of mice each year, though. Yet, another important question to ask is whether eating a mouse can harm your cat.

Can Eating Mice Harm My Cat?

Yes, eating mice can harm your cat, but it’s not all that likely. Cats are carnivores that have been eating rodents since before they were domesticated. Their bodies can physically handle the digestion process without trouble.

However, there are times when eating mice can harm a cat. For example, if your cat catches a mouse that has recently eaten poison, your cat may get sick. Fortunately, the size of the mouse reduces the likelihood that eating a poisoned mouse would be fatal. Your cat would still be sick and would probably need a visit to the vet.

Another problem that stems from cats eating mice is parasites. Mice are not the cleanest creatures. They can pass on a lot of different parasites, including roundworms. That’s why it’s important to maintain a deworming schedule with your cat. Even if you have an inside cat, they can find an odd mouse in your home and eat it.

You can stop your cat from finding and eating mice in several ways. Putting a noisy collar on them will help prey stay clear of them. Also, you can focus on keeping mice away from your house entirely. Lastly, make sure your cat stays inside and has enough toys to keep it occupied and feeling fulfilled.

Remember that cats hunt for fun and sport. If you take away their desire to hunt like that, then you can cut down on them eating mice.

If your cat does eat a mouse, make sure to watch over it for the next two days to see any adverse effects. If your cat is in pain or has unusual symptoms, it’s time for a trip to the vet.

Are Cats Good for Pest Control?

cat that is anxious or stressed
A cat can act as a great pest control.

atiger/Shutterstock.com

Cats are not always trying to eat what they kill. They like to practice and hone their hunting instincts. That means they will hunt down mice for you and may not even eat them. That makes cats very good for pest control. In fact, it may be one of the reasons that humans domesticated cats in the first place.

When humans started getting involved in agriculture, they needed a way to keep mice from eating their stored food. In return for feeding cats, they had free pest control and a fuzzy companion.

This relationship continues in the present. Humans will often adopt barn cats and allow them to live in their outbuildings so they can keep down the pest count. The presence of a cat can scare off mice, but cats also enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

However, you can’t and shouldn’t rely on a cat to cut down on an infestation all on its own. You can add some humane traps to an area to reduce mouse populations. You don’t want to use glue traps or poisons with a cat around, though.

Do cats really eat mice? Yes, and they’re very good at catching them. That means you can put your cat to work catching pests in your home or at least scaring them off. Eating mice isn’t always good for your cat, though. Remember to keep an eye on them if you find out that they have consumed a mouse.  

kitten playing with mouse toy
kitten playing with mouse toy
iStock.com/Dragi52
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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as video games, animals, and managed service providers. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 with degrees in English and Education. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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