Why Do Cats Eat Mice Heads

Why Cats Are Particularly Fond of Mice Heads

You may have witnessed the peculiar behavior of a cat catching a mouse and immediately chowing down on its head. While the headless body sits nearby, Fluffy enjoys the cranium like it’s a delicious lollipop. This striking image sparks the question – why do cats eat mice heads?

As natural hunters, cats regularly catch mice and other rodents. Though they may eat the entire mouse, it’s not uncommon for cats to start with the head. As we’ll explore, the mouse’s head offers unique textures, nutrients, and smells that entice cats.

This article will overview the main reasons cats are drawn to mice heads, including the head’s high protein content, crunchy texture, moisture, and concentrated smell and flavor. We’ll also look at how eating the head first removes identifying features and allows cats to establish dominance. By the end, you’ll understand your cat’s hankering for those mouse noggins.

Instinctual Hunting Behavior

Cats are natural hunters with strong predatory instincts evolved over thousands of years (1). They have a strong innate drive to hunt, kill, and eat mice even when well-fed on commercial cat food (2). This hunting behavior is not dependent on hunger or necessity for food. Instead, it stems from the ingrained predatory nature of cats that originally helped wild cats survive in nature.

Even cats who have lived indoors all their lives with no exposure to mice will still exhibit the instinct to hunt if they encounter a mouse (3). The stalking behavior, pouncing, and killing of prey comes naturally to cats and does not have to be learned. So when presented with a mouse, the inner hunter in cats takes over.


(1) [https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/cats/kitten/behaviour/cat-hunting-behaviour]

(2) [https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/behavior-appearance/cats-catching-mice]

(3) [https://www.quora.com/If-indoor-cats-who-are-several-years-old-encounter-their-first-mouse-will-they-instinctively-know-what-to-do-and-why-or-why-not]

High Nutrient Content in Heads

Mouse heads contain vital nutrients like fats and proteins that are more nutrient dense than the body, making the head an especially appealing part to eat for cats.

According to the National Research Council’s book Nutrient Requirements of the Mouse, mice require certain levels of fat and protein in their diets in order to meet their nutritional needs. As predators, cats’ nutritional needs are met in part by consuming prey animals like mice.

The brain, eyes, and other organs in the mouse’s head contain high levels of protein and fat, which can provide a quick source of energy for the cat (1). As obligate carnivores, cats require a high-protein diet, and mouse heads offer an excellent source of protein.

In addition to protein and fat, mouse heads likely contain other vital nutrients for cats like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins. Cats need these nutrients in their diet, and consuming the heads allows them to ingest more of these nutrients efficiently.


(1) https://www.quora.com/Why-do-cats-only-eat-the-head-of-a-mouse

Texture and Crunch

Cats enjoy the crunchy texture and satisfying crunch that comes from eating the bones and cartilage in the mouse’s head. The mouse’s skull provides a hard, crunchy exterior that cats like to break through to reach the soft brain matter inside. Eating the head first gives cats that appealing crunch and crack sensation when crushing the skull.

The varied textures found in the head, from the smooth brain to the rough bone, also provide cats with mental stimulation and satisfaction. Cats have nearly 500 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000, so a diversity of textures is more important than flavor.

The combination of crunchy cartilage and smooth brain matter engages a cat’s senses and provides an enjoyable eating experience.

Moisture Content

Brains and eyes have very high moisture content, which is attractive to cats. Cats get most of their moisture needs from their food, since their origins as desert-dwellers means they did not develop a strong thirst drive like other mammals. Cats only drink when they eat dry food or are extremely hot. One study found the optimal relative humidity for mice is 45-65%, which keeps their delicate respiratory systems functioning properly. Eating the moist brains and eyes of prey helps cats supplement their moisture intake.

Smell and Taste

Cats have an extremely strong sense of smell, much more powerful than humans. Their sense of smell helps guide many of their natural behaviors, including hunting (source). The concentration of smells in a mouse’s head, from their brains, blood, and other fluids and tissues, produces an enticing aroma for cats.

In addition to a strong sense of smell, cats also have a strong sense of taste. Their taste buds are specially adapted to detect amino acids and proteins – both of which are concentrated in the mouse’s head. The rich tastes found in the head, compared to the rest of the body, make it an appealing snack for cats (source). The potent smells and tastes found in the head drive the cat’s instinct to consume this nutrient-dense part first.

Starting with the Head

Cats tend to start eating their prey from the head first. This instinctual behavior likely stems from their natural hunting instincts. When catching mice or other small prey, cats usually deliver a killing bite to the neck or head area. So starting to eat from the already damaged head area follows this natural order and progression.

Eating the head first may also be more efficient for cats from a nutritional standpoint, as the head contains the energy-rich brain tissue. Consuming this nutrient-dense organ first ensures they obtain those calories and nutrients before moving on to other body parts. The moisture in the brain could also provide hydration after the hunt.

Removing the head right away may also serve the functional purpose of ensuring the prey is dead and eliminating any chance of it escaping. So starting with the head helps confirm the kill and prevents the risk of a live mouse running off. It allows the cat to fully dominate and gain control of its prey.

According to veterinarians, the logical sequence of eating from head to tail follows the typical feline feeding pattern 1. This methodical approach from top to bottom is simply an innate part of their predatory nature.

Removing Identifying Features

One theory for why cats eat the heads of their prey is to remove identifying features before presenting the kill to their owners. As hunters, cats have a natural instinct to catch and kill small animals like mice or rats. However, owners are often disturbed or upset to find their pet cat has killed another animal in the home. According to an article published in The Washington Post, research shows cats may eat the head of prey so that owners cannot identify what animal it was. By consuming the head and face, the cat destroys identifiable characteristics of the species. This may be an attempt to avoid punishment or hide evidence from owners after making a kill.

Dominance and Territoriality

It’s believed that cats may remove the heads of prey as a display of dominance. By leaving behind just the heads of mice or other small animals, the cat is essentially sending a message about its hunting prowess and territorial control. Removing the head allows the cat to show off its kill without having to drag around the prey’s entire body. According to The Spruce Pets, “Simple dominance will be exhibited by a cat by marking or spraying urine on territory, stealing and hoarding toys, rubbing its face on items it feels belong to it” (Source). Leaving behind the severed heads of prey can be seen as a similar territorial display.

As hunters, cats have an instinct to show their dominance over prey. By decapitating mice or other small critters and leaving the heads for their owners to discover, cats are essentially saying “Look what I’ve done” and demonstrating their skill as a predator. They remove an identifying feature of the animal and present it almost as a trophy. According to one theory on Quora, the cat isn’t necessarily bringing its human a gift, but rather showing off its prowess to another perceived predator in its environment (Source). So bringing the severed heads to their owners is a way cats may try to establish their dominance within the social hierarchy of the home.


In summary, cats have an instinctive drive to hunt mice and other small prey. The heads of mice contain vital nutrients like fats and proteins that cats crave. Cats also seem to enjoy the texture and crunchiness of crunching on mouse heads. Additionally, the heads contain a lot of moisture which provides hydration. Cats likely start eating with the head due to the strong smells and tastes concentrated there. They may also remove the head first to eliminate identifying features and as a sign of dominance over their kill.

As the famous naturalist David Attenborough once said, “However careful your aim, you can never be sure of hitting the target, especially if your target is small, alert, and mobile.” While mouse-hunting can be unpredictable for cats, their powerful instincts drive them to hone this skill throughout their lives.

Though it may seem macabre to us, eating mice heads provides important nutrition and satisfaction for cats. Understanding the nuances of this behavior provides a window into the natural drives of our feline companions.

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