If you’re thinking of things that just go together with cats, you probably think cats and dogs and cats and mice. Cats are best known for being mousers and often cats are owned by humans for expressly that purpose (often known as ‘barn cats’ or ‘mousers’).
In the wild, mice and other small rodents are a primary source of nutrition for cats since they contain a lot of taurines which cats require to stay healthy. But even domesticated cats will go after mice (or anything that looks mouse-like such as a hand moving quickly under a blanket!)
If you’ve caught your cat gobbling down mice, you’re probably wondering whether it’s safe and whether cats eat mice whole or if you have to worry about finding carcasses strewn about.
Short answer to both: cats can eat mice, but you’ll want to do something to keep your cat healthy and safe and cats will generally eat mice whole, though they’ll leave small bits like the gizzard behind since the gizzard is part of the digestive system and doesn’t have anything good for cats. And sometimes cats will try to ‘share’ their catch with you!
Do Cats Like Whole Mice?
Cats are hardwired (generally) to catch mice. Mice are easy for cats to get, they are full of protein and taurine, and they are plentiful, making them all around goo prey. If a cat catches a mouse, they will usually kill it and eat the whole thing (less the gizzard and intestines), but sometimes they will leave dead mice for you as a gift. Cats that do eat mice will generally like to eat whole mice, otherwise, they wouldn’t bother.
Of course, this behavior really depends on environmental factors as well. If your cat is completely domesticated and its mother never taught it how to catch mice, your cat may be less interested in rodents to eat and at best, treat them like a toy. This can lead to you finding dead whole mice lying around and a very content cat munching on its normal cat food.
Do Cats Hate Whole Mice?
It’s unlikely that cats hate whole mice – it’s more that they probably never learned how to hunt them or that they don’t see the need to eat them. Some cats are also just too lazy to be bothered. (I can’t imagine my 15-year-old cat would bother with mice. She doesn’t even hunt bugs. My 3-year-old cat on the other hand might go after them since she used to spend time outdoors regularly before she came to me).
Many indoor cats in particular might go after a mouse, but they won’t know what to do with it once they catch it, so they just leave it lying around.
Can Whole Mice Kill My Cat?
Cats may be wired to eat whole mice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that mice are good for them (especially urban mice that might have poison in their system or worms). There are a couple of things to watch out for to keep your mouser safe:
- Choking. Cats that are eating a mouse too fast can get a bone lodged in their mouth or throat causing a lot of damage and choking. If you see your cat drooling excessively, bleeding from the mouth, having difficulty breathing, or just not acting right, contact your vet and get your cat in right away.
- Secondary poisoning. Cats that eat mice that have been poisoned can get secondary poisoning. It’s not common and the risk drops the longer ago the mouse was poisoned, but it’s still an important thing to keep track of. If you notice issues like vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea, muscle spasms or other strange behaviors, contact your vet.
It’s fairly unlikely that eating whole mice will kill most cats, but if you notice your cat’s behavior or health seems unusual, talk to your vet and get your pet looked at. If your cat has been hunting wild mice, in particular, you don’t know what else has been inadvertently picked up by your cat’s snacking.
How Many Mice Will a Cat Eat?
It’s not precisely known how many mice a feral cat will eat, but some studies show that the average feral will eat about nine mice per day with some failed hunts in between. Left to their own devices, cats will eat several scattered meals throughout the day rather than one to three meals like their domesticated versions. This number of mice contains the amount of protein, taurine, and energy that cats require in order to keep up their lifestyle.
Now, it’s unlikely that your cat will eat that many mice (hopefully you don’t have that many mice in your vicinity!) If your cat is a completely indoor cat, it probably won’t eat any mice at all and instead may just bring you the mouse to kill or present a dead one to you but not bother eating it.
Do All Cats Hunt Mice?
No, not all cats will hunt and eat whole mice. A few factors go into the behavior of eating whole mice:
- Does your cat know what to do with a mouse once they catch it? Many indoor cats will happily catch the mouse but then not know what to do with it because they were never taught. They will then bring it to you (alive or dead) to deal with and to show off that they caught it.
- Is your cat hungry enough to eat a whole mouse? Even outdoor cats may not eat a mouse if they are not hungry and if they’re eating at home regularly, they probably won’t eat a mouse.
- Age and general health. Older cats might not hunt and eat mice as readily as younger ones, depending on their overall health. Mice may be easier to catch than, say birds, but it still takes some speed and dexterity.
If your cat is a completely indoor cat then it’s pretty unlikely it will be interested in eating whole mice (or any part of the mouse for that matter).
What are the Dangers of Eating Mice Whole for Cats?
Aside from the dangers of things like secondary poisoning and choking, the main danger of eating mice whole is worms and parasites. Mice carry a number of parasites that can be easily transmitted to cats that eat them. These parasites can then cause a host of health concerns for cats. Some of these parasites can even jump to humans and make them ill as well.
The most common parasite is Roundworm. The larvae of roundworm are found in muscle tissue so it’s easily transferred to your cat’s intestine when the cat bites on the mouse. Roundworms can be quite hard to get rid of and they often cause growth issues in young cats and problems for already debilitated older cats.
Fortunately, deworming is easy to do and roundworms aren’t usually dangerous for healthy adult cats (Though you still want to get rid of them!) Roundworms can also pass to humans and cause health problems, particularly for young children, so it’s best to prevent them.
Any outdoor or outdoor/indoor cats should be dewormed at least twice a year and routinely checked for other parasites. Regular check-ups also help to prolong the life of an outdoor cat in general, let alone preventing more specific worms and parasites.
Cats are often wired to hunt mice though they don’t always eat mice whole. It’s normal behavior, but it may not be the behavior you want to encourage. Preventing mice from getting into your home in the first place, keeping your cat indoors and properly fed, and regular checkups can all help to keep your cat healthy.
If your cat did eat a mouse, monitor it for any health or behavioral changes and clean up the leftovers as fast as possible!
Does your cat eat whole mice?