How Many Mice Can A Cat Catch A Day?

Rodent control can be a challenge for homeowners. While almost all cats have an instinct for hunting, some cats really excel at catching mice and other small rodents such as moles, hamsters and even baby rats. Homeowners with a rodent problem may wonder just how effective a feline friend can be at pest control. On average, well-fed domestic cats may be able to catch and kill around 1-2 mice per day if actively hunting.

While a cat’s natural predatory instincts can help keep rodent populations in check, some cat owners still need to supplement with commercial traps or pest control services when dealing with severe infestations. However, even an average cat that isn’t an elite mouser can still make a significant dent in the rodent population around a home over time, providing a more natural form of control.

Natural Hunting Instinct

Cats are natural hunters with innate predatory instincts to catch small prey like mice, rats, birds, and other small animals. This instinct stems from their evolutionary history, as cats (both domestic and wild) evolved as skilled hunters to survive and thrive. Hunting behaviors like stalking, pouncing, chasing, and killing prey are hardwired into cats through generations of feline ancestors who relied on these skills to find food. Even well-fed domestic cats retain the urge to hunt, often killing prey just for sport rather than for sustenance.

According to Purina, cats have keen senses designed for hunting – excellent vision and hearing to detect prey, stealthy footfalls to quietly stalk, and coordination to leap and pounce with precision. Their play mimics hunting movements to hone these killer skills from kittenhood. So for cats, hunting behaviors are natural and satisfying, even if the “gifts” left for owners can be less appreciated.

Calculating Cat Catch Rates

Studies show that well-fed domestic cats tend to catch 1-2 mice per day on average when actively hunting. According to a paper published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, cats observed in a rural New York area had average hunting success rates of 28-33% for mammals. With an average of 9-10 prey stalks per day, this resulted in approximately 1 small mammal killed per outdoor rural cat per day on average (George, 1974).

Another study in the UK found the average predation rate by cats brought home to owners was 27.8 prey items per year, or approximately 1 prey item every 2 weeks (McDonald et al., 2015). However the study estimated the true predation rate was over 3 times higher when factoring in prey not brought home, putting the actual estimated average between 1-3 prey items per cat per day.

A key factor influencing daily catch rates is the cat’s degree of dependence on hunting to survive. Feral and stray cats that rely on hunting to eat tend to have much higher daily catch rates than well-fed house cats.

Overall, reported averages tend to range between 1-3 mice or small mammals on average per day for active outdoor hunting cats. However, factors like location, prey availability, the cat’s skill and motivation can cause significant variation.

Factors Influencing Rates

The number of mice a cat can catch per day depends on several factors that influence their hunting success rate. Some key elements that cause this daily average to fluctuate include:

Breed – Some cat breeds like Siamese and Burmese are more active hunters compared to calmer breeds like Persians or Ragdolls. Lean and athletic cats tend to have higher catch rates.

Age – Kittens and younger cats under a year old will play with mice more often rather than always going for the kill. Older cats become less agile and have lower energy, reducing hunting prowess.

Location – Outdoor rural cats have more access to rodents and room to roam and hunt. Indoor urban cats are more restricted.

Time of Year – When mice populations boom in spring/summer and food is plentiful, cats can catch more. Colder months with scarcer prey reduce success rates.

Indoor vs Outdoor Cats

There are significant differences between the mouse catching abilities of indoor versus outdoor cats. Feral and outdoor cats generally have more experience and skill hunting mice and other small prey compared to indoor cats.

One source compares feral and indoor cats: “Feral cats may have more experience hunting for their survival, which could make them more efficient at catching mice than some house cats.” (source)

Outdoor and feral cats hunt to survive, so they are highly motivated and practiced at catching mice and other small animals. Indoor cats may retain their natural hunting instincts, but with a consistent food source, they lack the necessity to hone those skills. An indoor cat allowed outside may still hunt small prey, but likely with less proficiency than a dedicated outdoor or feral cat.

Overall, outdoor and feral cats generally catch significantly more mice than indoor cats. Their skill and experience make them efficient hunters, necessary for their survival. Indoor cats can still show an interest in hunting mice, but lack the practiced technique of an outdoor cat hunting to eat.

Impact on Local Rodent Populations

Cats can have a significant impact on local rodent populations through their hunting activities. One study found that the presence of feral and free-roaming cats in an area can substantially reduce rodent numbers. This is because cats are skilled and efficient hunters, often killing prey even when not hungry.

However, the overall ecological effect is complex. While cats may reduce mice and rats around homes and farms, they do not typically drive the populations to complete extinction in a region. Rodents have high reproductive rates and ability to rapidly recolonize areas. The predation by cats creates more vacant hunting territories and resources that survivors can exploit and breed into.

In balanced natural habitats, the hunting activity of native wildcats shapes rodent numbers as part of an ecosystem equilibrium. But introduction of domestic cats to new areas can be considered an unnatural disturbance. Excess hunting by owned and feral cats in settled areas tips the balance in favor of predator over prey.

Catch and Release

Many cat owners prefer to catch mice alive and release them unharmed outdoors rather than having their cat kill them. This can be done humanely using catch and release traps designed not to harm mice.

There are several types of catch and release traps that cat owners can use to safely trap mice after their cat catches them and let them go outside uninjured. Popular options include humane cage traps or box-style traps that lure mice in with bait but don’t snap shut to hurt them. Once the mouse enters, the door closes behind so it can’t escape.

The trapped mouse, while likely frightened, is physically unharmed in these traps. As soon as the cat owner discovers their cat has caught a live mouse, they can place the catch and release trap nearby and herd the mouse into it gently using a broom. Once secured in the trap, the mouse can be taken outside right away and released into an outdoor area safely away from the home and cat.

Releasing mice caught by cats using these humane traps allows them to survive unscathed from their encounter. It also protects the cat from potential injury or illness from eating wild mice. With some planning ahead and the right catch and release traps on hand, cat owners can humanely deal with mice their eager hunters catch. The mice get to live and the cats still get the satisfaction of the chase without the kill.

Risks to Cats

While cats are natural hunters and catching mice comes instinctively, there are some potential dangers for cats who hunt rodents.

One major risk is disease. Mice and other rodents can carry diseases that are transmissible to cats, such as toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) [1]. These diseases can cause a variety of symptoms in cats, ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to neurological issues. Allowing cats to hunt puts them at higher risk of contracting these diseases.

In addition to disease risks, there is also the chance a cat could be injured while hunting, especially if the rodent fights back. Mice and rats have sharp teeth and claws and could bite or scratch a cat during capture. Cats can also pick up parasites like fleas, ticks, mites and worms from their prey [2].

While the hunting instincts of cats are strong, it’s important for owners to be aware of the potential dangers. Keeping cats indoors, using preventative flea/tick medication, and staying up to date on vaccines are some ways to reduce the risks to feline hunters.

Preventing the Hunt

If you want to stop your cat from catching mice, there are a few tips you can try:

  • Provide high protein cat food – Well-fed cats are less motivated to hunt. Make sure your cat’s food has plenty of meat protein.
  • Simulate hunting with toys – Provide interactive toys that satisfy your cat’s natural instincts to stalk, chase and pounce. Feather wands, laser pointers, treat balls and puzzle toys are great options.
  • Use pheromone diffusers – Cat pheromones like Feliway can help reduce stress and anxiety related to hunting instincts.
  • Put bells on your cat’s collar – The sound of bells can alert mice and make it harder for your cat to sneak up on prey.
  • Keep cats indoors – Keeping your cat inside prevents them from catching mice, birds and other wildlife outside.
  • Trim claws regularly – Blunt claws make it harder for cats to catch and kill prey.
  • Provide scratching posts – Scratching posts help redirect natural scratching behaviors away from hunting.
  • Use deterrents – Things like citrus scents, aluminum foil and double-sided tape can deter cats from hunting in certain areas.

However, it can be difficult to completely stop a determined hunting cat. Providing enrichment, managing their environment and meeting their needs is the best approach.



Cats are natural hunters with an instinct to catch prey like mice and other small animals. While the exact number of mice a cat can catch in a day varies, studies have found ranges from 1-30 based on factors like the cat’s age, environment, and motivation. Indoor cats generally catch fewer mice than outdoor and barn cats. Though mice can pose risks like spreading disease and contaminating food when populations grow, cats’ hunting can help control populations. At the same time, catching and killing mice poses risks to cats as well. With proper precautions like keeping food sealed and secured, using deterrents, and supervision, cat owners can balance limiting mice in the home while keeping cats safe and preventing excessive hunting.

The key takeaways are:

  • Cats can catch between 1-30 mice per day on average based on variables.
  • Outdoor and barn cats tend to catch more mice than indoor cats.
  • Hunting helps control rodent populations but also carries risks for cats.
  • Preventive measures can limit mice in the home while protecting cats.
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