Cats tend to earn a bad reputation of being aloof and are seen as pets who prefer managers rather than companions. They are known, particularly to non-cat owners, as arrogant, independent, and, well, sometimes, cruel – particularly to mice and other creatures that have the unfortunate experience of being nabbed by the cat.
Why do cats play with mice?
Cats play with mice out of instinct, because they see them as prey. From an evolutionary standpoint, they do it so the cat can see how large its target is and therefore how dangerous it may be for the cat to bite it. Your cat is following the genetic code that evolution gave it.
This article will focus on why cats play with mice and ways to stop, or at least curb this behavior.
Cats Are Instinctual Creatures
Cats earn their reputation because they do not greet their owners at the door as dogs do at the end of a long day. Many cats won’t end their naps to greet their owners until it is time to eat, so not surprisingly, it might appear that most cats view their owners as mere conveniences for food distribution.
However, cats are often misunderstood, so if you find yourself horrified that your sweet cat has turned into a beast intent on torturing mice and other prey, do not worry, as this behavior is natural. Cats play with mice as a part of evolution, and at least in domesticated cats, playing with mice has a lot to do with boredom and hunger.
You might feel helpless to watch your cat chase and play with a mouse, as you might feel it is cruel to the mouse. But if you remember that this is what cats, and other animals, do in the wild, you might be able to relax a little and even enjoy the show. If you aren’t able to handle watching your cat play with a mouse, you might not be suitable for a cat.
Typically cats are “opportunistic hunters,” which means that they simply catch whatever makes itself available. Most often, the cat will catch prey for one of two reasons: boredom or hunger.
If you want to curb this behavior, you must determine and then eliminate the behavior’s initial cause.
Signs Your Cat Is Bored
The vets at Danbury Animal Welfare Society confirm that cats do, indeed, get bored and therefore try to show their owners signs of boredom, as listed below:
- Chasing or fighting with other animals
- A lack of curiosity
- Moping around the house
How To Curb a Cat’s Boredom
The good news is that most of these symptoms are eliminated quickly, so if your feline seems intent on chasing and torturing mice, consider changing their environment so that it includes more toys and scratching posts, such as this Poils bebe Cat Scratching Post and Tree, to eliminate boredom.
The pet toy market has many items that delight many cats and are available at a variety of price points. One cat’s favorite toy, for example, might be the Easeou Cat Wand Toy.
This toy is perfect for cats who appear to be “moping around the house,” as this sign of boredom is often caused because they miss their human. Fortunately, this toy encourages human/cat interaction, so both the cat and the owner win.
There will be other times when your cat will be bored when you’re not home. In that case, another toy that cats might enjoy is the Auoon Cat Scratcher Toy, which helps cats lose interest in the mouse.
It also provides the cat something to scratch on, saving furniture and drapes from being damaged or destroyed.
It is also important to note that although cats sleep around sixteen hours a day, according to PetMD, it is precisely this sleep schedule that can cause boredom. Cats are predators and naturally conserve their energy, preferring to hunt during the early morning and late evening hours when unsuspecting prey is most vulnerable.
For this reason, changing the cat’s environment to include various toys, caves (try this Bedsure Cat Cube), and climbing towers (such as this BEWISHOME Cat Tree Tower) to explore while it is awake can initiate moments of natural hunting and play that may keep the cat from opting for the more brutal came of “torture the mouse.”
Your Cat Might Be Hungry
Alleviating boredom is a pretty easy fix, but if hunger is the issue, that problem will take a little more effort on the owner’s part to resolve.
According to the veterinarians at Kirkwood Medical Hospital, cats need between one-third and one-half of a cup of food each day. While it is pretty easy to simply place that amount of dry food in a feed bowl (try this Y YHY Elevated Cat Food Bowl) for the cat to return to at-will, there are other things to consider with the cat’s diet.
For example, the writers at Austin Veterinary Surgery say that cats often suffer from urinary problems because they don’t naturally drink enough water. Therefore, if you feed only a portion of high-quality dry food each day, there is a good chance that the cat is not getting enough water.
Before changing any feeding regiment, you should contact your veterinarian. However, you might want to add a quality portion of wet food, such as this Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Cat Food, which might be beneficial. It is not merely what you feed your cat, but also how you provide food for them that can help eliminate some less than desirable behaviors, like chasing mice.
Why Cats Think They’re Hungry
Cats find mice intriguing because they evolved to chase prey whenever they got hungry. Even now, wild cats do not have an appropriate number of already processed mice to eat and are not guaranteed to eat at the same time in the same place each day. Instead, they have to move around in search of food when they are hungry.
It is instinctual to tell everyone they know that they are hungry, especially first thing in the morning or in the early evening. Some cats think they need to have a full food bowl at all times, or they will starve. So going after a mouse might be one of the ways they are telling you that they’re hungry.
How To Change Your Cat’s Hunger Behavior
Thankfully, change is not as complicated as it may appear. While it is not feasible for most American households to provide their cats with multiple feeding stations that contain perfectly divided portions of food each day for cats, it is possible to create an environment that encourages hunting.
Rather than having one feeding station, owners could place food into feeding toys and leave those toys around the house for the cat to find when it gets hungry.
These toys range in price from under $10 to over $30 and have a range of play options. For example, the SlimCat Meal Dispensing Toy is one that a cat can play with and periodically receive a food reward that occasionally dispenses throughout the play session.
Your cat might quickly become disinterested once it solves the puzzle of where the food is coming from and may prefer an interactive line of toy puzzles and mazes such as the Ito-Rocky Treat Boredom Slow Feeder. The toy itself is not as important as the fact that owners divide and hide the food so the cat can “hunt” when she gets hungry.
As disturbing as it may be to find your cat playing with and ultimately torturing an unsuspecting mouse, it is nothing to worry about because it is easy to alter the behavior.
Once you learn how a cat needs to eat and why the cat may become bored, you can work to resolve the issue, and you may find that the cat becomes a little less aloof–at least sometimes.
- Deutsche Welle: Cats are neither mean nor cruel
- Danbury Animal Welfare Society: Signs of Boredom in Your Cat
- Kirkwood Animal Hospital: Feeding Adult Cats
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.