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How Do Cats Hunt and Kill Mice? Facts & FAQ

Cats are natural predators, and their most famous prey is mice. But how do cats hunt mice, should you let them do it, and can they help prevent mice from living in your home? Cats hunt mice by using the ambush method or the stalk and pounce method.

While cats are notorious mouse hunters, the truth behind how they do it and their effectiveness is more than a little surprising!


How Do Cats Hunt and Kill Mice?

Cats hunt and kill mice using one of two methods. The first method is the ambush method. With this method, your cat waits in a single location, typically by a high-traffic area and with a little elevation if it’s around. The cat simply waits for the prey to come and once it does, they pounce on it.

The second way cats can hunt is with the stalk and pounce method. With this method, the cat actively stalks their prey until they can get close enough to strike. The cat slowly works its way toward the prey until it can strike.

Typically, cats will use both methods at different times depending on the prey and location. No matter what method your cat is using, they’ll usually “play” with their prey for a bit before going in for the kill. However, while it might look like they’re playing with their prey, that’s not what they’re actually doing.

Instead, they’re wearing down and tiring out the prey before they go in for the kill. By wearing them out, it’s less likely for them to be able to strike back and hurt the cat.

cat hiding in green leaves
Image Credit: Rock.N.Roll.Queen, Shutterstock

Do Cats Hunt When They’re Hungry?

Cats are opportunistic hunters, so just because they’re hunting doesn’t mean they’re hungry. If there’s something for them to go after, they’re likely to do it. While a cat is more likely to hunt if they are hungry, they simply enjoy the activity and might do it even if they’re not worried about food.

Why Do Cats Bring You Their Prey?

There are two competing theories on why cats bring you their prey. The first theory is that they’re bringing you a gift, and since they’re bringing it to you specifically, they see you as a part of their family. It’s a heartwarming notion, even if it’s a bit gross.

The second theory is that they’re bringing their food back to their core territory, and for your cat, that’s your house. You happen to live there too, though, so it just seems like they’re bringing it to you.

cat carrying a dead mouse
Image Credit: Markos-Loizou, Shutterstock

Is It Safe to Let Cats Hunt and Kill Mice?

While cats are phenomenal hunters, it’s probably not a good idea to give them free rein to hunt and kill them. There are a few potential health concerns you have to worry about if your cat is hunting mice.

First, you must worry about diseases. Mice carry tons of diseases and all it takes is a single bite or scratch for the mouse to spread it to your cat.

Next, mice carry tons of pests like fleas and ticks. It’s a short jump and a skip away from the mouse to your cat. Not only will you have to deal with fleas and ticks on your cat if this happens, but they’re also bringing it into your home, so they’ll try to make their way to you as well.

Finally, you never know what kind of condition the mouse your cat just killed is in. The biggest concern is if the mouse ate poison or something else recently. These things won’t kill the mice right away, and if your cat eats a portion of the mouse, it can make them extremely ill.

Our advice is to play it safe and try to keep your cat from hunting mice if possible.

Can You Rely on Cats to Keep Mice Out of Your Home?

While a cat might be able to keep a single mouse or two away from your home, they’re not going to stop an entire infestation. However, if the mice can find a better place to make their home without any cats around, a cat can help prevent an infestation from occurring in the first place.

But if there’s enough food or other factors that make your home a great place for mice to live, a few cats won’t keep them away.

Finally, if you already have an infestation in your home, cats alone won’t be able to take care of it. Cats are great hunters, but they can’t keep up with the rapid reproduction of mice and all the hiding places that they simply can’t reach.

grey cat hunting mouse
Image Credit: Stefan_Sutka, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

While you can’t rely on your cat to take care of every mouse that might come into your home, it’s perfectly normal for you to find them hunting them when they get the chance. Cats are natural predators and mice are ideal prey.

Just don’t rely on them to control a potential mouse infestation, and do your best to keep them from hunting mice. While your cat should win the battle, they might end up with an injury along the way!

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Featured Image Credit: 165106, Pixabay