Do cats eat mice?

A bibbed Tom holding a knife and a fork is smirking and staring intently at the plate with the trembling Jerry. The poor mouse is immobilized with fear while the cat is gleefully anticipating its luscious dinner. Cats and mouse are often depicted in this manner. Cats are predators and mice are preys. Does this mean that cats eat mice? Yes! Mice form a part of the cats’ diet and cats really do love eating mice.

The mice-eating habit is what earned cats the pat on the head from people pestered by these rodents. Cat domestication is believed to have been started by the Egyptians. In the wild, cats’ diet consists of rodents, vermin, birds and bugs. When ancient Egyptians started storing grain, cats became valuable natural mice eradicators. This has started human-cat relationship. Cats were domesticated. Many cats are now kept in temperature controlled homes and provided with enough food to eat, with basic needs that will make their life comfortable and with toys that will keep these animals amused and occupied while the human family is away from home all day. While pampered cats seldom get the opportunity to chase mice, many cats are still earning their keep. Cats in many countries remain to be barn denizens that keep hungry mice away from grain bins. Cats in urban areas may occasionally bring home a dead mouse to the owner. Indoor pets may still chase mice but not many cats would eat the mice. These urbanized cats still has the innate hunting abilities and would hunt prey not out of necessity but for the pleasure of the chase and the kill.

Apart from being predators, cats are obligate carnivores. This means that protein which is one of the basic nutritional requirements must be derived only from animal sources. Cats do not produce the salivary enzyme amylase thus they cannot process plant-based proteins. Feral and stray cats really need to consume mice and meat from other preys as these animals are not big on drinking water. Having ancestors that originated from arid lands, cats have evolved into animals with very efficient kidneys. Cat prey generally contains 70% water thus the water requirement of cats is provided even if these animals drink very little water.

Mice indeed are ideal diet for the cat. However, mice these days can come with dangerous baggage. Parasite is one. An owner of an indoor cat would be surprised if the cat is noticed to harbor parasites. The mouse that the pet has hunted and eaten can be infested with octoparasites like fleas and mites. The external parasites of the rat will be transmitted to the cat. The mouse will be eaten…again the internal parasites of the mouse will be transmitted to the cat. Toxoplasmosis is a dreaded disease especially by pregnant women that have pet cats. Cats can get the Toxoplasma gondii virus from eating infected mice. The virus is shed by an infected cat through the excrement. The virus that can cause birth defects and can even result to the death of the fetus can be passed on to the unborn baby by the pregnant woman that handled feces of infected cats. Another serious concern with mice eating is poisoning. There is no doubt that mice are good food for the cat but to get rid of mice many farmers use rodenticides. A cat that has eaten a mouse that has eaten this rodent killer would keel over and die a few days after eating the poisoned mouse. This is because rodenticides have blood clotting inhibiting properties. Autopsy would show that the cat had bled internally.

Hunting and eating mice is an innate behavior of cats. Undoubtedly, cats get nutritional benefits from this prey but it would be much better to provide the pet with premium cat foods to avoid the dangers associated with eating mice.