PetLvr Mailbag: Mouse Woes

Dear Petlvr Mailbag …

Polybore’s cat is terrible at catching mice. It catches them in the garden then brings them into the house and lets them go, alive.

I want the cat to catch and kill mice in the house and garden. Not bring in mice from outside and release them in the house.

polybore from the Polybore blog!

Dear Polybore,

Some cats kill their mice. Others prefer to present them as a gift to the boss cat– that’s you. It’s an offering of sorts, to illustrate that the cat likes you so very much that it is willing to share its mice with you, or perhaps that it thinks you’re an inept kitten who hasn’t yet learned to catch mice and needs some encouragement in order to learn to hunt properly.

There’s only one sure cure for a cat that adds to the indoor mouse population, rather than subtracting from it, and that’s to keep the cat indoors. Indoor cats live longer because they are protected from predators, cars, and contagious diseases. The local songbird population will also thank you– even one nick from a cat’s claw or tooth can kill a bird. Marina offers some tips on turning an outdoor cat into an indoor cat here.

If keeping the cat inside isn’t a possibility, there is little you can do to encourage the cat to kill mice rather than bringing them indoors. It might be possible to use clicker training over a period of time to teach the cat to kill a mouse on cue, but even if you were successful with that, you’d still need to wait until the cat presented a live mouse to give that cue. Chances are, your cat already kills mice if it is hungry, but also catches a few to bring indoors for you.

Don’t try reducing the cat’s food ration to get it to eat mice. That won’t do anything but increase the volume of meowing near the food dish. Cats kill mice more for fun than food, and an underweight cat will not have enough energy to hunt as often as a well-fed cat that enjoys killing mice.

It looks like you’ve discovered the same thing as many cat owners: A single cat is a very ineffective form of rodent control, unless you know the cat already and know that it loves to mouse. Barns and factories that use cats for mouse control have numerous kitties, and you can bet your catnip patch that more than a few of those aren’t pulling their weight by killing mice. The ones who do kill lots of mice make up for the slackers in the group.

Instead of relying on the cat for mouse control, you could try humane traps and relocation (Hav-A-Hart traps are sold at Home Depot) or perhaps encourage some Bull Snakes and King Snakes to make your yard their home. Both munch mice and are non-venomous, and are unlikely to do more than hiss at a curious cat. However, they might make baby snakes for your cat to drag into the house. If you’d like to encourage some snakes to nest in your yard, try building a woodpile or a large mound of rocks. You could also call a wildlife rescue and volunteer the yard as a release site for snakes that have been rehabilitated and are ready to return to the wild. As a bonus, King Snakes will also eat rattlesnakes!


If you have a pet related question that you would like Jelena Woehr to answer here in our “PetLvr Mailbag” series … send your question to jelena (at) PetLvr (dot) com

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  1. anotherview
    | Reply

    We live in the country.

    We had a cat that kept the mice from the barn and house (we don’t know how it did the house since it never went in). The cat found us one day, then months later died from something. We fed it very little.

    We tried all the mouse traps. We deplore poison, but ended up doing that. Even that did not work as well as Pepper the cat.

    A friend just gave us two young sibling kittens. He is sure they will catch mice.

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