Do Cat Kill Mice In The House

Cats are highly effective hunters that can catch a wide variety of prey, including mice and other rodents. Many cat owners appreciate this skill and believe their cat helps control pests in the home. However, some owners find their cat bringing dead mice into the house unpleasant. Understanding your cat’s natural instincts can help you manage their hunting behaviors.

This article will explore why cats hunt, the benefits and downsides of allowing them to catch mice, and tips for managing their prey drive humanely. With some effort, it may be possible to redirect your cat’s energies while still providing an outlet for their natural behaviors.

Natural Hunting Instinct

Cats have a long evolutionary history as skilled hunters and predators. In fact, the common house cat shares ancestry with wild cats like bobcats, servals, and caracals, who all possess strong prey drives and hunting abilities. The domestic cat originated from wildcats called Felis silvestris lybica that lived in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East approximately 10,000 years ago (The Natural History of Domestic Cats). As humans transitioned to an agricultural lifestyle, storing grains attracted mice and rats, which in turn attracted wild cats due to their natural hunting instincts. Over time, wildcats with more tolerance for living near humans were domesticated into the common house cat.

According to The Natural History of Domestic Cats, the cat’s skill as a hunter arises from excellent eyesight, hearing, stealth, and agility. Their night vision and ability to stalk prey silently evolved to help them succeed as nocturnal hunters. Additionally, their teeth and claws are adapted for catching, killing, and eating prey. While domestic cats may not need to hunt to survive, the predatory instincts of their wild ancestors remain strong.

Benefits of Hunting

Hunting provides important mental stimulation and enrichment for cats. According to Purina, redirecting a cat’s natural hunting instincts through play and providing proper outlets for their energy are some of the most effective ways to curb inappropriate hunting behaviors. Cats were bred for hunting over thousands of years, so the instinct is deeply ingrained in their natures. Allowing cats to express natural hunting behaviors in appropriate ways, like playing with toys that mimic prey, can satisfy their needs for mental engagement and prevent boredom.

Research from International Cat Care indicates that an active hunting life provides cats with mental stimulation, helping them lead happier and healthier lives. Hunting allows cats to exercise both their bodies and their minds. It provides cognitive enrichment by letting them engage in natural behaviors. For cats confined indoors, having acceptable and accessible hunting outlets is especially important.

Potential Downsides

One of the main downsides of allowing cats to hunt mice indoors is that they often end up bringing dead or half-dead mice into the home, which can be unpleasant and unhygienic. According to research from North Carolina State University, domestic cats are natural hunters with strong predatory instincts, even when well-fed (NCSU: Keeping Cats Indoors). It’s in their nature to hunt small prey like mice, so they may end up killing them without necessarily eating them afterwards.

Having dead mice strewn around the home can understandably be disturbing and off-putting for many cat owners. Aside from the gruesome sight, decaying mouse carcasses can also pose a health hazard by potentially spreading bacteria and parasites indoors. This can put family members, especially young children who may come into contact with contaminated surfaces or dead rodents, at risk of contracting diseases.

While an outdoor cat may be able to dispose of their prey remains outdoors, an indoor cat lacks that ability. As a result, owners find themselves responsible for the unsavory task of cleaning up and safely disposing of any mice their feline hunters kill inside but do not eat (Banfield: Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats). For people who dislike handling deceased animals, this can be an unpleasant consequence of allowing natural indoor hunting.

Cat Personality

Some cats are much more avid hunters than others. According to, cat personality plays a big role in determining how likely a cat is to hunt. Confident and outgoing cats tend to hunt more than shy and timid ones. This is because hunting requires cats to take risks and put themselves in vulnerable situations when pursuing prey. Shy cats may be too anxious to hunt much. The sex of a cat also influences hunting behavior. Male cats generally hunt more than females, likely due to evolutionary pressures related to providing food.

Some cat breeds are also more “working cats” than others, meaning they have stronger prey drives innately bred into them. For example, Abyssinians, Bengals, Savannahs, and Siamese are all known to be active hunters. Domestic shorthair cats have an average prey drive. Persian cats tend to have lower prey drives and hunt less. Understanding a cat’s personality and breed tendencies can help predict how much they will want to hunt. With shy or low prey drive cats, hunting may be minimal, while bold outgoing cats are more likely to frequently kill prey.

Prey Drive

Prey drive refers to a cat’s natural instinct and desire to hunt, chase after, and kill prey. It is an innate behavior that originates from cats being obligate carnivores and predators (Source). When cats have high prey drive, they are strongly motivated and compelled to hunt, even when well-fed. Prey drive impacts a cat’s hunting behaviors by triggering their chasing, pouncing, and killing instincts when triggered by movement or sounds from potential prey like mice, birds, insects, etc. Cats with high prey drive will be more persistent and intense when hunting, stalking, and chasing prey. They get mental and physical stimulation from expressing their natural hunting behaviors. Understanding a cat’s innate prey drive helps explain their obsession with toys and laser pointers as well as their instinct to hunt even when not hungry.

Deterring Hunting

There are some tactics you can try to deter your cat from hunting mice and other small animals inside your home:

Play with your cat more frequently using interactive toys like feather wands and laser pointers. Increase playtime to 15-30 minutes 2-3 times per day. This helps satisfy your cat’s natural prey drive through positive means. See this Purina article for playtime tips.

Consider getting a second cat companion. Two cats can keep each other occupied and refrain from hunting. Make sure to properly introduce them.

Use deterrents like citrus or perfume scents that mice dislike. Place these along common hunting areas. However, the effectiveness is debated. See this article from Discover Wildlife.

Place bells on your cat’s collar to give mice advanced warning. Check that the bells do not pose a choking hazard.

Make sure your cat is spayed/neutered. Intact cats tend to hunt more frequently.

Providing an Alternative

An effective way to curb a cat’s hunting instincts is to provide appropriate outlets like toys when needed. Many cats benefit from having stimulation that allows them to mimic hunting behaviors in a safe, controlled way. This gives them an activity to focus their energy on rather than live prey. Some excellent options are toys that move unpredictably to trigger their prey drive, like feather wands, motorized mice, balls, and treat puzzles. Engaging frequently in playtime with toys that appeal to their natural stalking, pouncing, and chasing instincts can satisfy a cat’s need to “hunt.” It’s ideal to have a variety of interactive toys to rotate to prevent boredom. Offering daily play sessions is recommended as a constructive alternative to decrease unwanted hunting. Studies show providing meaty food and environmental stimulation with toys leads to significantly less predation. Overall, it’s important to give cats appropriate things to hunt that don’t jeopardize the safety of people and other pets in the home.

Safety Considerations

While cats are excellent hunters, there are some safety risks to be aware of when they hunt mice in the home. Mice can bite or scratch cats when cornered, potentially causing injuries or infections. According to the Animal Humane Society, cat owners should watch for signs of bites or scratches after their cat has interacted with a mouse. Any wounds should be cleaned and monitored closely. The Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine also warns that mice may carry serious diseases that can be transmitted to cats through bites or scratches. These include hantavirus, leptospirosis, and plague. Keeping your cat’s vaccinations up to date, especially for feline distemper, can help protect against some of these illnesses.

The ASPCA recommends maintaining a clean home environment and sealing any entry points to deter mice from getting inside in the first place. This can help prevent potentially dangerous encounters. Providing toys and activities for your cat can also curb its instinct to hunt live prey. While cats are natural hunters, owners should be aware of the potential risks and take steps to protect both their pets and home from rodents.


In summary, hunting is a natural instinct for cats that provides mental stimulation and allows them to act on their prey drive. Having an outlet for this instinct results in a happier, healthier cat. However, unchecked hunting can negatively impact local wildlife populations. Responsible cat owners should provide appropriate outlets like interactive toys, while also taking precautions like bells on collars and keeping cats indoors or in outdoor enclosures. Though hunting is natural behavior, it’s important to balance a cat’s needs with environmental stewardship.

Hunting allows domestic cats to express natural behaviors passed down from their wild ancestors. Though convenient for controlling pests, unrestricted hunting can harm ecosystems. With proper care and management, cats can satisfy their predatory instinct without devastating wildlife populations. Ultimately, understanding the role of hunting provides cat owners the knowledge to enhance their pet’s welfare while being responsible stewards of nature.

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