I Have A Cat, But Still Have Mice

Introduce the Problem: Even With a Cat, Mice Can Still Persist

Even pet owners with cats often still struggle with mice in their homes. I have a cat, yet I continue to see signs of mice activity and catch the occasional mouse in traps. According to a Reddit thread, many Salem, MA residents have reported mouse problems despite having cats (source). Cats are often believed to hunt and deter mice, however this is not always the case.

Reasons Mice Can Persist Despite a Cat

Cats do not provide guaranteed protection against mice. Despite having a feline mouser at home, mice may still gain access and persist in the house for several reasons:

Cats can be ineffective mousers, especially if not motivated by hunger. Well-fed house cats may lack the drive to hunt that feral cats have. According to veterinarian Dr. Jess Trimble, “Cats are only going to hunt when their basic needs are met first. If your cat has a full food bowl and access to water, they aren’t likely compelled to hunt” (source).

Certain cat personalities are not adept hunters. Timid, lazy, or elderly cats may not have the skill or energy required to catch mice. Kittens and adolescent cats often lack developed hunting instincts and experience.

Mice can find ways to avoid cats by hiding in walls, under appliances, or in other tight spaces a cat cannot access. Mice tend to be most active at night when cats are less alert. Clever mice may learn a resident cat’s habits and schedule to avoid encounters.

Cat Personality and Hunting Ability

All cats have a natural hunting instinct, but some cats are more skilled mousers than others. An individual cat’s personality and life experience plays a big role in determining their mouse-catching prowess.

Young cats who were raised with their mother until 8-12 weeks old had a chance to learn and practice hunting skills during play. These cats often relish the opportunity to hunt “prey” like mice when given the chance. On the other hand, cats separated early from their mother may not have fully honed their hunting abilities.

Breed matters too. Active, energetic breeds like Abyssinians, Bengals, and Siamese are naturally more inclined to hunt. Breeds like Persians and Ragdolls tend to be less energetic and more docile. Of course, individual personality within a breed matters more than the breed stereotype.

Previous experience catching mice makes a big difference as well. An indoor cat encountering its first mouse may be perplexed, while a seasoned outdoor mouser will instantly switch into predator mode. Female cats tend to be more diligent mouse hunters, especially if kittens are present.

So while all cats are born with basic hunting instincts, only some cats have the personality, energy level, experience and motivation to actively rid a home of mice. Understanding your cat’s unique personality and skills will help determine if they are up for mouse patrol.

Preventing Access to Food Sources

One of the most important ways to prevent mice is to ensure they do not have access to any food sources in your home. Mice can squeeze through extremely small gaps and cracks to get to food, so keeping everything properly sealed and stored is critical.

All human and pet food should be kept in airtight, hard plastic or glass containers rather than bags or boxes which mice can easily chew through. Metal containers also deter mice as they cannot gnaw through them. Be diligent about immediately cleaning up any crumbs or spills as even small amounts of food can attract mice.

Avoid keeping any dry goods like flour, sugar, oats, pasta, etc. in open containers or bags. Transfer everything to sealable bins or jars, which will eliminate access. Refrigerate what you can as well, since mice cannot get into the fridge.

Make sure all trash and compost bins have tight fitting lids. Take the trash and compost out regularly to avoid letting it pile up. Keep pet food bowls raised off the floor and do not leave excess pet food sitting out.

With proper diligence to store all human and pet food in sealed, inaccessible containers and cleaning up any mess or spills right away, you can prevent mice from accessing the food sources they rely on [1].

Mice Habits that Elude Cats

Mice are naturally wary creatures that have evolved behaviors to avoid predation by cats. One of the main habits that helps mice evade cats is sticking to walls and corners, away from open areas where cats like to wait and pounce from. According to research, mice prefer routes close to vertical surfaces where cats have difficulty capturing them (https://blog.catbandit.com/how-do-cats-play-with-mice-exploring-the-fascinating-interactions-between-cats-and-mice/). Mice are also careful to avoid the open center of a room or hallway, instead keeping their bodies in constant contact with walls as they travel. This helps conceal mice from a cat’s line of sight and forces the cat to attack from a disadvantageous sideways angle.

In addition, mice habitually run along the same paths, wearing down scent trails that are undetectable to cats. These paths often go right under a sleeping cat’s nose unnoticed. Mice are also fastidiously clean and groom themselves frequently to reduce their scent profile. All of these stealthy habits make it difficult for cats to surprise mice in the open, forcing cats to lay in patient ambush if they hope to catch one.

Non-Chemical Pest Control

While cats can help control mice, there are also more humane, non-lethal methods that can be effective. Humane traps that catch and release mice outdoors without harming them are a good option. There are a variety of humane trap designs, including multiple-catch traps, that can capture several mice in one setting to be released unharmed (Animal Humane Society).

Other non-lethal deterrents include sealing up any entry points so mice can’t get in, keeping food in secure containers, using natural repellents like peppermint oil, placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil in areas mice frequent, and using ultrasonic devices that emit high-frequency sounds only rodents can hear (Skedaddle Wildlife). While humane traps may take more effort than relying solely on cats, they can provide effective control without harming mice.

When to Call a Professional

Mice infestations can quickly get out of control, so it’s important to know when to call in a professional exterminator. Here are signs that indicate a severe enough mouse problem to require professional help:

  • Seeing more than 10-20 droppings per day. This indicates a substantial infestation.
  • Hearing mice in walls and ceilings. This shows they may have access to voids and hidden spaces.
  • Signs of chewing and damage expanding to new areas. The mice are actively invading more territory.
  • Persistent bad smell from mice urine. Large numbers produce heavy ammonia odors.
  • Multiple unsuccessful DIY control attempts. If traps, deterrents and blocking access haven’t worked, call a pro.
  • A recurring mouse problem year after year. The home likely has vulnerabilities that enable re-infestation.
  • Seeing mice frequently, even during daylight. A bold, established colony is present.

According to EMCO Pest Control, catching the occasional mouse is normal, but larger infestations require professional treatment. An exterminator has the proper tools and training to fully identify entry points, set bait stations, use targeted traps, and prevent future access.

Cat Training and Encouragement

There are some techniques you can try to motivate your cat to hunt mice more effectively:

Reward your cat when it catches mice. Give your cat treats or praise when it brings you a dead mouse. This positive reinforcement will encourage hunting behavior. However, be careful not to reward the cat for bringing live mice into the home.

Consider clicker training. Clickers can be used to mark and reward desired behaviors. When your cat spots or stalks a mouse, use the clicker and give a treat. This connects hunting with rewards.

Increase play hunting. Use cat toys that mimic prey, like feather wands or motorized mice, to engage your cat’s natural hunting instinct. More practice honing in on fast moving objects during play could translate to better mouse hunting.

Try catnip. Rubbing catnip on toys or placing it around areas mice frequent can encourage hunting. The herb’s scent arouses cats’ prey drive.

Make sure your cat is getting adequate exercise and mental stimulation. An energetic, engaged cat is more likely to hunt. Try activities like clicker training, puzzle feeders, and daily play sessions.

Consider supervised outdoor access. Hunting live prey outside can satisfy cats’ predatory needs. Ensure your cat’s safety and any local ordinances before trying this.

Talk to your vet if your cat is elderly, sick, overweight, or disinterested in toys. Medical issues could affect its ability or motivation to hunt.

Be patient and persistent. Changing behaviors takes time. Use a combination of training, encouragement, and addressing root causes of disinterest to bolster your cat’s mousing skills.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7Qcm9KAXi0

Sanitation and Deterrents

Keeping your home clean and tidy is one of the most effective ways to deter mice, even if you already have cats. Mice are attracted to food sources and clutter that provides nesting areas, so proper sanitation limits their access.

Be sure to regularly vacuum and mop floors, especially in kitchen and dining areas. Sweep up crumbs and wipe down counters daily. Store human and pet food in sealed metal, glass or plastic containers, rather than cardboard or paper. Take out the garbage frequently and avoid letting it overflow [1]. Pay special attention to cleaning up any pet food bowls after your cat eats.

Natural deterrents like peppermint oil can also help repel mice. Place cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil along baseboards, under appliances and in other mouse entry points. The strong smell overwhelms their senses but is harmless to pets [2]. Keeping your home clean and using deterrents limits mice’s desire to enter and ability to survive once inside.


While it may seem counterintuitive to have mice when you own a cat, there are valid reasons these pesky rodents may persist in your home. Cats vary widely in their hunting abilities and instincts, and certain mice behaviors allow them to avoid detection. With vigilance and preventative measures, you can thwart mice without relying solely on your feline hunter. Key takeaways include:

  • Cats range from excellent hunters to more docile, leaving gaps for mice to slip through.
  • Mice access food when cats are elsewhere or sleeping.
  • Mice avoid open areas cats patrol and stick to walls and tight spaces.
  • Non-toxic deterrents and pest control methods exist beyond cats.
  • You may need a professional exterminator for severe infestations a cat can’t handle.
  • Consider training your cat to hone its predatory skills.

While cats help control mice, relying on one alone doesn’t guarantee success. But armed with knowledge of mice habits and integrated pest management, you can reclaim your home.

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