Should You Bathe Your Cat After a Rodent Ruckus?

Dangers of Not Cleaning Your Cat

When cats hunt and kill mice, it exposes them to a number of potential health risks that pet owners should be aware of. Mice can transmit parasites, viruses, and other diseases to cats who come into contact with them.

One of the biggest dangers is from parasitic roundworms that mice can carry. According to the Animal Humane Society, roundworm eggs are shed in rodent feces and cats can ingest them during the hunting process ( Roundworms live in a cat’s digestive tract and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. In some cases, roundworms can lead to a life-threatening condition called larval migrans.

Mice may also expose cats to viruses like hantavirus and bacteria like Salmonella. Hantavirus does not typically cause illness in cats, but can pose a risk for humans. Bacterial infections like Salmonella can make cats very sick with vomiting, diarrhea, fever and lethargy. In addition, mice can transmit fleas, mites and ticks to cats which can lead to skin irritation and infections.

That’s why it’s so important to properly clean and inspect your cat after they’ve caught a mouse, both for their health and yours. Looking for signs of injury or illness and using parasite prevention can help minimize the risks.

How to Clean Your Cat

After your cat catches and kills a mouse, it’s important to clean your cat to prevent the spread of any diseases. Here are some tips for cleaning your cat:

Wash your cat’s paws – Use a damp washcloth with a small amount of cat-safe soap or shampoo to gently wash your cat’s paws. Be sure to scrub between the toes and pads to remove any dirt, feces or saliva from the mouse.[1]

Brush your cat’s fur – Carefully brush your cat’s fur, especially around the neck, chest and abdominal area where the mouse may have been carried. This will remove any dirt or debris.[2]

Clean your cat’s mouth – Use a soft damp cloth to gently wipe your cat’s face and lips. Avoid using soap inside the mouth.

Be patient and reward your cat during the cleaning process with treats and praise. This will make it a more positive experience.

Thoroughly washing the areas of contact with the mouse will help remove viruses, bacteria and parasites that could make your cat sick.

Signs Your Cat May Be Sick

If your cat recently caught and ate a mouse, keep an eye out for any concerning signs in the 24-48 hours following the incident. Some common symptoms that may indicate your cat is sick from the mouse include:

  • Lethargy or depression – Your cat may seem more tired and low energy than usual.
  • Diarrhea – Loose, watery stool can be a sign of gastrointestinal upset.
  • Vomiting – Throwing up undigested mouse parts or bile could signal illness.
  • Parasites – Tapeworms, roundworms and other parasites may be transmitted from mice.

According to Veterinary Emergency Group, look for any signs of distress including pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy in the 24-48 hours after your cat ate the mouse. It’s important to monitor your cat closely during this window of time and call your vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Diseases Cats Can Get From Mice

Mice and rats can carry a number of dangerous diseases that they can transmit to cats through bites or contact with urine and feces. Some of the most concerning rodent-borne diseases that cats can contract include:

Salmonella – Salmonella infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in cats. Cats can become infected by ingesting contaminated mice or droppings. See the CDC’s page on Salmonella Infection and Cats/Dogs for more details.

Leptospirosis – Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria that can damage the kidneys and liver. Infected mice or urine/droppings are the most common sources. Learn more at the CDC’s Leptospirosis in Pets page.

Plague – Yes, the same plague that caused the Black Death is still around today and can be transmitted by fleas from infected rodents. While treatable with antibiotics if caught early, plague can be deadly for cats. See the CDC’s Plague in Pets.

Tularemia – Also called rabbit fever, tularemia is a bacterial disease that infected mice and other rodents can spread to cats. It can cause fever, ulcers, and swelling of the face or throat. Get details at the CDC’s Tularemia in Pets.

In addition to these bacterial/parasitic risks, mice may also expose cats to toxins or poison if the rodents have ingested pesticides or other hazardous materials.

Parasites Cats Can Get From Mice

Mice and other rodents can carry a variety of parasites that can be transmitted to cats during predation or just from exposure in a shared environment. Some of the most common parasites cats can pick up from mice include:

Fleas: Fleas are a very common external parasite that can infest both mice and cats. Flea bites can cause significant itching and skin irritation in cats. Fleas can also transmit other parasites and diseases. Controlling fleas requires treating both the cat and the home environment.

Ticks: Ticks are another external parasite that can spread between mice and cats. Ticks can transmit dangerous diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Carefully inspect cats that go outdoors and promptly remove any attached ticks.

Tapeworms: If a cat eats an infected mouse, it can pick up tapeworms in its digestive tract. Tapeworm segments may be visible around a cat’s hindquarters or in its feces. A dewormer medication from the vet will clear tapeworm infection.

Mites: Mites like mouse mites can spread from mice to cats and cause mange. This leads to intense itching, hair loss, and skin damage. Mite infestations require medicated dips, sprays, or spot-on treatments.

To prevent parasitic infections, control mice on the property, regularly treat cats for fleas/ticks, and promptly deworm cats that hunt and eat rodents. Reduce opportunities for exposure until the rodent problem is eliminated.

When to Call the Vet

If your cat persists symptoms after eating a mouse, you may need to call your veterinarian. Symptoms that warrant a vet visit include vomiting lasting more than 24 hours, diarrhea lasting more than 48 hours, loss of appetite beyond a day, lethargy, and belly pain. Your vet may ask you questions about when and what your cat ate to help determine next steps.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, diseases cats can contract from eating mice include toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, and campylobacteriosis. While it’s relatively common for cats to occasionally catch and eat mice without issues, persistent symptoms signal a potential problem. Watch for signs of illness in the days following your cat eating a mouse.

Additionally, if your cat exhibits any behavioral changes like aggression or obsessive growling, contact your vet. These could indicate a gastrointestinal obstruction if your cat did not fully chew the mouse. Your vet may want to examine your cat or order diagnostics like bloodwork and x-rays if concerning symptoms arise after your cat eats a mouse.

Safe Mouse Removal

One of the most humane and effective ways to remove mice from your home is by using humane traps. These traps catch mice alive without harming them, allowing you to release them outside unharmed. Look for traps that have deep bases so mice can’t jump out and escape. Bait traps with peanut butter, chocolate, or seeds. Check traps daily and release any trapped mice within a mile of your home (The 7 Best Ways to Help Get Rid of Mice).

It’s also important to seal any potential entry points so mice can’t get back in. Use steel wool or caulk to seal holes and gaps larger than 1/4 inch. Pay special attention to areas where utilities enter the home as well as cracks around the foundation. Painting exterior walls with a smooth finish can also deter mice from climbing. Eliminating clutter and food sources inside will also make your home less inviting to mice (How to Get Rid of Mice, According to Experts).

Preventing Future Mouse Problems

The best way to prevent future mouse problems is to seal up any potential entry points into your home. Mice can squeeze through holes as small as a dime, so inspect your home carefully for any gaps around pipes, vents, windows, doors, etc. Use steel wool, caulk, or foam insulation to plug these holes.

It’s also important to keep your home tidy and free of clutter, especially in garages, attics, basements, and cabinets. Eliminate any food sources by storing dry goods like flour, cereal, and pet food in sealed containers. Clean up crumbs and spills right away, take out the garbage frequently, and don’t leave dirty dishes sitting out.

You can also use natural repellents around possible entry points to deter mice. Peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, and vinegar are known to keep mice away. Planting mint around the perimeter of your home may also help repel mice. Just be sure not to rely solely on repellents – sealing up holes is still the most effective prevention method according to this source.

Providing Proper Cat Enrichment

Keeping your cat enriched with plenty of stimulating toys, activities, and scratching surfaces can help prevent boredom and reduce undesirable behaviors like excessive hunting. Make sure your cat has access to a wide variety of cat-safe toys that allow interactive playtime with you. Rotating toys keeps things interesting. Good toy options include wands, feather toys, catnip mice, balls, and small stuffed animals. Provide scratching posts, cardboard scratchers, and scratching pads around your home. Offer different textures like sisal, cardboard, and carpet so your cat has variety. Cat towers, tunnels, and cardboard boxes allow opportunities for climbing, hiding, and exploration. Puzzles and food toys provide mental stimulation at mealtimes. Allow at least 30-60 minutes per day of active playtime with your cat.

According to the ASPCA, “Environmental enrichment is all about creating a fun and safe place full of a variety of toys and spaces that will help banish boredom.” They recommend DIY cat enrichment ideas like paper bags, cardboard boxes, and tunnels made from toilet paper rolls [1]. Preventive Vet also suggests homemade cat toys like muffin tin puzzles, cardboard condos, and soda box games to keep cats engaged [2].

Mice Can Pose Risks to Humans Too

Mice can carry and spread many dangerous diseases to humans. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), rodents like mice and rats spread over 35 diseases [1]. Some of the most concerning diseases transferred from mice to humans include:

  • Hantavirus – This virus causes Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which can be fatal in humans. It is spread through contact with mouse saliva, urine, and droppings.
  • Salmonella – Mice can carry Salmonella bacteria in their gut and spread it to food sources. This causes gastrointestinal illness if ingested.
  • Leptospirosis – Caused by bacteria found in mice urine that can enter the human body through mucous membranes and breaks in the skin.
  • Rat-bite Fever – An infectious bacterial disease spread through mice bites or scratches.

Exposure to mice can also trigger dangerous allergic reactions and asthma attacks in sensitive individuals. Their urine, droppings, hair, and proteins can act as asthma triggers. Mice infestations should be handled with caution, especially in homes with high-risk individuals like young children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

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