Could Your Cat Get Sick From Killing Mice? The Surprising Answer

Do Cats Get Sick from Killing Mice?

For thousands of years, cats have lived alongside humans and served the purpose of keeping rodent populations in check. Even today, well-fed house cats still retain their instincts to hunt mice and other small prey. While cats are excellent hunters, many cat owners worry their feline companions could get sick from infected mice or parasites they’re exposed to outdoors.

Despite their fears, it’s uncommon for an illness transmitted from a mouse to make a cat seriously ill. However, cats can contract certain diseases from mice, and hunting does pose some risks. Understanding how cats hunt, the potential diseases involved, and prevention methods can help you keep your curious cat healthy and safe.

Why Cats Hunt Mice

Cats are natural hunters with strong predatory instincts that drive them to hunt small prey like mice. Hunting behaviors are innate in cats and do not always serve the purpose of feeding. Even well-fed house cats will still hunt mice and other small animals due to their natural hunting drive [1].

Killing mice satisfies a cat’s primal urge to hunt. The act of catching prey triggers the release of dopamine in the cat’s brain, which creates feelings of reward and pleasure. So hunting mice serves as both a way for cats to act on instinct, as well as a form of enrichment and stress relief [2].

In addition, cats use hunting skills learned in kittenhood when playing with prey toys like feather wands and laser pointers. Hunting live mice keeps these predatory skills sharp. Their keen senses of sight, sound and smell get a workout while stalking real prey [3].

For outdoor cats especially, hunting helps avoid boredom and inactivity. It provides much-needed exercise and mental stimulation. Indoor cats can experience some of the same benefits through interactive play sessions with owners.

In summary, the primal instinct to hunt is strong in cats. Stalking mice allows cats to exercise natural behaviors that bring them satisfaction on an innate level.




Diseases Cats Can Get from Mice

Mice and rats can transmit a number of concerning diseases to cats who hunt and eat them. Some of the most common illnesses passed from rodents to felines include:

Toxoplasmosis: One of the most prevalent feline diseases, toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that mice and rats can carry. Cats typically contract it by ingesting infected rodents. Symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. While rare, toxoplasmosis can also be transmitted to humans if they inadvertently ingest infected cat feces. (Source)

Leptospirosis: A bacterial disease that rodents can transmit through their urine. It can cause kidney or liver failure in infected cats. Telltale signs include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, and increased drinking or urination. Leptospirosis requires antibiotics to treat. (Source)

Plague: Yes, the same plague that caused the Black Death in humans. Cats can catch this deadly bacterial disease by eating infected rodents or fleas that have fed on them. The feline pneumonic form leads to fever, lethargy, and respiratory issues. Plague requires swift veterinary treatment, but can still potentially be fatal. (Source)

How These Diseases are Transmitted

Cats can contract diseases from mice in a couple of different ways. One of the most common is by eating infected mice. When a cat eats a mouse that is carrying a disease like toxoplasmosis or salmonella, the cat can become infected by ingesting the bacteria, viruses or parasites present in the mouse’s body.

In addition to eating mice, diseases can also be transmitted through scratches or bites. Mice have very sharp teeth and claws that can break a cat’s skin during an altercation. Any bacteria or viruses present in the mouse’s saliva or blood can then enter the cat’s body through these open wounds. Diseases like rat bite fever are commonly spread this way. Even a small scratch from a mouse can be enough for disease transmission.

According to the sources provided, additional diseases spread by mice include leptospirosis, plague, and hantavirus [1]. So it’s important for cat owners to be aware of the potential risks and monitor their cats closely if they have had any contact with mice, either through eating or fighting with them.

Symptoms of Illness in Cats

Cats can develop a variety of concerning symptoms after being exposed to diseases from infected mice, including:1

  • Lethargy and lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Nasal discharge, sneezing, or coughing
  • Mouth lesions
  • Neurological issues like seizures or confusion

Gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea are common when a cat consumes a mouse carrying Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria.2 Respiratory symptoms may indicate the cat caught a virus from the rodent. Mouth lesions can signal calicivirus infection.

More severe neurological symptoms like seizures and confusion can occasionally happen with toxoplasmosis. This parasitic infection affects the brain and central nervous system when a cat eats an infected mouse.3

In general, any signs of lethargy, appetite changes, vomiting, diarrhea, or other concerning symptoms in a cat that has hunted mice warrants a veterinary visit to diagnose and treat any potential rodent-transmitted diseases.

Preventing Illness in Cats

There are several steps cat owners can take to reduce the risk of their cats contracting illnesses from mice and other rodents:

Keeping cats indoors. Indoor cats are less likely to come into contact with mice and other rodents that may carry diseases. While some outdoor access may be unavoidable, limiting a cat’s time outdoors can help reduce the risk of contracting a rodent-borne illness.

Using flea and tick prevention. Some rodent diseases like the plague are transmitted by infected fleas and ticks. Applying monthly topical flea and tick preventatives can help block this transmission route for certain diseases. However, other illnesses like toxoplasmosis are spread through direct contact and ingestion of rodents.

Keeping rodent populations down. Eliminating any significant rodent infestations both inside and outside the home limits a cat’s contact with disease-carrying mice and rats. Using humane traps, sealing up entry points, and removing potential rodent food sources can help discourage mice from entering the areas a cat frequents.

Avoiding rodent droppings and corpses. Rodent feces and bodies can contain pathogens, so gloves should be worn whenever cleaning these up. Anything the cat may have had access to should be disinfected. Prompt disposal and cleanup of rodents the cat kills can help prevent spread of disease.

Treating Illnesses in Cats

If a veterinarian diagnoses your cat with an illness contracted from a mouse, antibiotics and supportive care will likely be prescribed as treatment. According to the CDC, antibiotics can treat bacterial infections like leptospirosis and the plague in cats [1]. The specific antibiotic prescribed will depend on the type of bacterial infection. Supportive care, such as IV fluids, anti-nausea medication, and nutritional support, helps manage symptoms and keep the cat stable while antibiotics combat the infection itself.

Depending on the severity of the illness, hospitalization may be required so the cat can receive constant monitoring and medical care. With prompt veterinary treatment, most cats make a full recovery from diseases contracted from mice.

Outdoor Safety Tips

When allowing cats outdoors, there are some important safety tips to follow:

  • Supervise cats when they are outside. Don’t let them roam unsupervised for extended periods.
  • Limit the amount of time cats spend outdoors. Keep outings to less than an hour at a time.
  • Make sure cats have a safe outdoor enclosure or catio if you want to let them be outside for longer.
  • Put bells on cats’ collars so they can’t sneak up on prey as easily.
  • Keep cats indoors at night and during extreme weather conditions.
  • Make sure cats are always wearing a collar with ID tags when outdoors.

Following these tips can help keep cats safe when spending time outdoors. Supervision, limiting time outside, and providing safe enclosures are key things to keep in mind. With some precautions, cats can enjoy the outdoors while avoiding the potential dangers.

For more outdoor safety tips, check out this helpful resource:

When to See a Veterinarian

The most common signs of illness in cats are lethargy and loss of appetite. If your cat seems uninterested in food or play, vomits frequently, has diarrhea, is breathing heavily, or just seems generally unwell after catching a mouse, it’s best to make an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Some diseases like toxoplasmosis can be difficult to diagnose at home, so it’s always safer to have your vet run tests if your cat is acting sick. They can check for parasites like tapeworms or infections like bartonella. It’s especially important to seek medical care if symptoms last more than a day or two.

Veterinarians have the right diagnostic tools and medications to treat any illness a cat may have contracted from a mouse. The sooner you can get an accurate diagnosis, the better chances your cat has of making a quick and full recovery. Don’t wait and see if they improve on their own – it’s better to be proactive.

Some key reasons to take your cat to the vet after catching a mouse include:

  • Loss of appetite for more than 12-24 hours
  • Lethargy or lack of interest in play for more than 24 hours
  • Fever
  • Vomiting or diarrhea lasting more than 24 hours
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid/shallow breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coat condition
  • Visible parasites

Trust your instincts as a cat owner. You know your pet best. If their behavior seems off, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian. They can help diagnose and treat any potential illnesses that could arise from a cat catching a mouse.


Cats are natural hunters and will often hunt and eat mice. While eating mice poses some risks of transmitting diseases like toxoplasmosis and tapeworms, the chances of a cat becoming seriously ill are low. With proper preventative care like deworming, vaccinations, and limiting outdoor access, cat owners can further reduce any risks. If a cat does show concerning symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy after eating a mouse, take the cat to a vet right away. Overall, while eating mice does carry some risk, healthy cats rarely have serious complications. With preventative care and vigilance for symptoms, cat owners can rest assured knowing their feline hunter’s mouse-eating habits are unlikely to cause lasting harm.

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