Do Cats Eat Mice Or Just Catch Them?

Cats are known for their predatory behavior towards mice. A cat that enters a room and spots a mouse will instinctively switch into hunt mode. This often leads pet owners to wonder – when cats catch mice, do they actually eat them? Or do they just kill them for sport?

This is an interesting question for any cat owner. On one hand, it’s natural for cats to hunt small prey like mice. However, eating wild mice may expose pet cats to parasites and diseases. There are also ethical concerns around letting cats torture prey without purpose.

In this article, we’ll explore the murky territory of cats and mice. Do felines view mice as food or just playthings? What drives their hunting behavior? We’ll uncover whether it’s safe and ethical for pet cats to eat wild mice.

Reasons Cats Hunt Mice

Cats hunt mice primarily due to their natural instincts and behavior as predators. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, cats are “opportunistic hunters by nature” and get mental stimulation and enrichment from stalking prey like mice Hunting allows cats to practice their skills and satisfy their prey drive.

Specifically, cats are drawn to mice because they are small, fast moving creatures that appeal to a cat’s instinct to stalk and pounce Chasing mice provides cats an outlet for their energy and gives them mental stimulation. Catching prey makes cats feel rewarded and accomplished.

In summary, the main reasons cats hunt mice are due to their natural instincts as predators, the mental enrichment it provides, and the ability to practice their hunting skills.

Do Cats Actually Eat Mice?

The majority of cats do in fact eat mice after catching and killing them. A study found that over 80% of cats ate their prey at least some of the time after catching it ( However, not all cats consume their prey. Some cats, especially when young, will kill mice but not actually eat them. The cat’s personality and hunting experience play a role.

Kittens and adolescent cats that are still honing their hunting skills may kill mice but not eat them, seeing the act more as play or practice. In contrast, mature, experienced mousers are more likely to kill efficiently and then consume their prey. An individual cat’s personality can also determine if they eat what they kill – shyer, less confident cats may kill mice but then abandon them uneaten.

In general, well-fed house cats are less likely to fully eat mice compared to hungry feral or wild cats that rely on prey to survive. But the majority of domestic cats will eat at least part of a mouse, seeing it as an appetizing supplement to their regular diet ( So while not every cat will fully consume mice, most do eat their prey at least partially after the kill.

Why Cats May Not Eat Mice

Cats are natural hunters with strong predatory instincts. However, there are several reasons why a cat may kill a mouse or other small prey but not actually eat it:

Not Hungry After the Kill: Cats get excited and energized from the hunt and kill. This provides mental stimulation and allows them to practice their hunting skills. By the time they’ve caught and played with their prey, they may no longer be hungry enough to eat it (1).

Toying with Prey: It’s common for cats to view prey animals like mice as toys and they will “play” with them by catching, releasing, and recatching them. This toys with the prey both mentally and physically, essentially allowing the cat to get more enjoyment and enrichment before making the kill (2).

Illness or Disease Concerns: On rare occasions, a cat may avoid eating prey if they sense the animal is diseased or sick. However, such discretion is not necessarily common in domestic cats (3).

By understanding their natural behaviors, cat owners can provide proper outlets for their pet’s instincts in order to curb unwanted hunting. This may include playing with cat toys that replicate prey and ensuring the cat receives proper nutrition.

Risks of Eating Mice

There are some potential health risks for cats who eat mice. One major concern is parasites. Mice can carry parasites like Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis in cats 1. Toxoplasmosis can lead to flu-like symptoms in cats and can even be fatal. Other parasites found in mice include roundworms and tapeworms, which can make a cat sick if ingested 2.

Another risk is potential injury from the mouse fighting back. Mice have sharp teeth and claws and will defend themselves if caught and bitten by a cat. This could lead to bites, scratches or other wounds on the cat.

There is also a choking hazard if the cat tries to swallow the mouse whole or doesn’t chew properly. Since mice have bones, cats can potentially choke on mouse body parts.

For these reasons, it’s generally not recommended to allow cats to hunt and eat wild mice. Pet owners should take precautions to limit a cat’s exposure to mice when possible.

Benefits of Eating Mice

Mice are a natural food source for domestic cats, much like they are for wild cats. While pet cats are fed commercially prepared cat foods, their hunting instincts remain strong. Eating mice and other small prey teaches young kittens vital skills they would need if they lived in the wild. Many experts believe that allowing well-fed house cats to hunt helps satisfy their predatory needs and is good enrichment.

In addition to being a natural food source, mice provide important nutrients for cats. As obligate carnivores, cats’ bodies are adapted to deriving key nutrients from animal sources, not plant sources. Whole prey like mice contain more moisture and protein compared to commercial dry cat foods. Eating mice provides cats with nutrients like taurine, an amino acid essential for eye and heart health that is difficult for cats to synthesize on their own.

While a diet of solely mice would be unbalanced over the long-term, the occasional mouse can offer a nutritional boost. Some cat owners even feed whole frozen mice as a supplement to a commercial cat food diet under veterinary guidance.

Training Cats Not to Hunt

There are a few methods that cat owners can try to curb their cat’s natural hunting instincts and prevent them from catching mice or other small animals:

Providing more playtime and distraction is one strategy. Giving cats adequate interactive playtime with wand toys, cat trees, and frequent play sessions can satisfy their prey drive. This allows them to act out hunting behaviors in a harmless way. Cats that get enough play and mental stimulation may become less motivated to actually hunt.

Keeping cats indoors is also an effective solution. Outdoor access gives cats the opportunity to find and catch prey. Restricting them to the indoors eliminates this opportunity and risk. This requires dedication from owners to provide enough enrichment within the home environment.

Deterrents like scat mats, double-sided sticky tape on surfaces, and ultrasonic pest repellers may discourage cats from frequenting certain areas. These tools make hunting more difficult and unpleasant. However, their effectiveness varies between individual cats.

While challenging due to their natural instincts, consistent training can potentially curb unwanted hunting behaviors. With patience and commitment to meeting their needs in alternative ways, owners can reduce cats’ drive to hunt prey.

Providing Alternative Food

Even if cats enjoy hunting and eating mice, owners can provide alternatives to reduce the behavior. Quality cat food that meets your pet’s nutritional needs can help curb their desire to hunt live prey according to This includes wet and dry foods formulated specifically for active, working cats.

Puzzle feeders and timed food dispensers are also useful tools according to They stimulate your cat mentally while slowing down their eating, making them less likely to hunt between meals. Food puzzles that require effort to access the kibble are ideal.

The number of mice already present in your home or barn can also impact your cat’s drive to hunt. Be sure to limit access to nests and entry points. Population control measures may be necessary in some cases according to Your veterinarian can provide advice tailored to your situation.

Safety Tips

If you do allow your cat to hunt mice, there are some safety precautions you should take:

Get your cat routinely dewormed and have regular vet check-ups. Mice can transmit intestinal parasites and diseases to cats that can make them sick. Deworming medication kills parasitic worms, and your vet can check for any concerning symptoms.

Supervise your cat when it’s hunting or playing with prey. Make sure the mouse is actually dead before your cat starts playing with it. A scared, wounded mouse could bite your cat in self-defense.

Check your cat over after it catches mice. Look for any wounds, scratches or bites on your cat from the mouse defending itself. Clean any minor wounds thoroughly.

Keep an eye out for signs of illness in your cat, like lethargy, loss of appetite or gastrointestinal issues. Take your cat to the vet promptly if you notice anything abnormal.


To re-state the original question – do cats eat mice or just catch them? The answer is that while cats are natural hunters driven by instinct to catch prey like mice, they often don’t actually eat what they catch if provided with sufficient food from other sources. Some key points we covered include:

  • Cats hunt due to their natural predatory instincts, even if well-fed.
  • Many cats will kill mice but not eat them, simply leaving them as “gifts.”
  • Eating mice poses certain health risks but can also provide some nutritional benefits.
  • You can redirect hunting behavior through play and providing proper cat food.

The main takeaway for cat owners is to understand your cat’s hunting instincts, take precautions to protect wildlife, and ensure your cat is satisfied with its regular diet so it does not need to eat prey like mice. Providing mental stimulation through play can also curb excessive hunting. While catching mice may be unavoidable, you can help prevent your cat from making meals of them.

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