One of the most legendary feuds throughout history is the one between cats and mice. We’ve all watched cartoons where the cat is always chasing the mouse, usually to fail. If you’re a cat parent, you may have had your adorable kitty bring you a dead mouse when you were least expecting it, or perhaps you’ve seen a loose rodent sneaking pieces from your cat’s food bowl. It’s like a cosmic rivalry for the ages.
Something most people are curious about is why this conflict goes on. Will mice leave if they smell a cat? Is it an automatic reaction? Can it be used to help rid a home or property of unwanted mice when issues arrive? We’re about to find out. The short answer to this question is yes, but with stipulations. Read on below to learn more about the cat and mouse game. We’ll discover whether this animosity is truly beneficial to home and property owners or whether this legendary rivalry isn’t what it seems.
Will the Smell of a Cat Keep Mice Away?
Not all mice are the same and some will remain in an area even when a cat is present. Mice smell a cat’s urine, dander, fur, saliva, and even sweat thanks to the pheromones they contain. Considering mice are natural prey to felines, when these smells are noticed, mice usually show fear. Due to their size and the need to be aware of their surroundings, mice, like so many prey animals, have enhanced their sense of smell over the years to help them deal with predators they may come into contact with.
Mice have a special organ in their nasal passage known as the vomeronasal organ. When a mouse smells a cat’s pheromones, a fear response is triggered. Once this happens, it is natural for the mouse to freeze in place, get ready to attack, or simply run from the area. Considering sight and sound also helps them when it comes to avoiding cats, if a mouse smells, sees, and hears a cat in the vicinity, most likely they will flee the area.
How Cats Hunt Their Prey
Understanding how a cat hunts their prey is important. Cat owners can easily attest to the fact that cats love chasing everything. If it moves, they will pounce. This goes for laser pointers, toys, bugs, and even mice. When your cat spots a mouse, it should be a natural reaction for it to immediately go into hunt mode.
You’ll also notice that a cat will react when they simply hear or smell a mouse. If a rodent is rustling around in the wall or possibly under the house, your cat hears it. They also smell it. This is when your cat will show strange behavior. You may notice them rushing around the house or scratching in certain areas hoping to get to the mouse.
Cats With Jobs
Most of us think of cuddly, albeit sometimes sassy, house cats when we talk about domestic felines. But just like with dogs, there are working cats out there in the world. Some are introduced into families to be working cats. Many farmers opt to adopt cats to work the land and keep mice out of the barns where feed and other important materials are stored. These cats, along with cats who are allowed to make frequent visits outdoors don’t hunt mice in the same way indoor cats do.
Indoor cats see mice as a toy that plays back. That is until they accidentally kill or injure a mouse and realize it can be a food source. Most working cats already know this information. Being outside more enhances their ability to hunt. It also means they will kill more mice than indoor cats. These cats don’t always do this due to a lack of food. They are simply more used to hunting than indoor cats and enjoy putting their skills to the test.
Will Cats Keep Your Home Free of Mice?
Mice will likely instinctively want to stay far away from any cats on your property, but they are still considered pests (unless they are your pets!). This means the struggle to get rid of them once they set up shop can be difficult. It also means that in the absence of other reliable food sources and shelter, mice may deal with their fear and take their chances with your cat. Mice have a great way of finding areas in a home where they can avoid cats. When they find these areas, such as attics or walls, they’ll make their nests there and do their best to only venture out when they feel free of the dangers your cat presents.
While other options may be more appealing to the mouse, their need to survive trumps everything else. Then there is also your cat’s behavior to keep in mind. Not every cat wants to hunt mice. Some feel it is beneath them and that you as their owner should be responsible for supplying them with food and the engagement they need. If your cat is pampered to that point, most likely, a mouse will take its chances and scurry through your kitchen from time to time.
Keeping Mice Out of the House
While it’s natural to expect your cat to keep your home free of mice, if you find yourself facing an infestation, your cat can’t do it alone. Mice are survivors. If they feel they can get a free meal, they will stick around. When more than one sets up shop, you may find that your cat struggles to take control of the situation. You can help your cat keep your home mouse-free by following a few simple steps.
- Use traps in areas your cat cannot access
- Seal up any holes or entry point mice may enter
- Use cat hair or litter around entry points to deter rodents
- Keep food in storage containers
- Keep crumbs and other debris cleaned up
Why Do Cats Bring Us Presents?
Now that we’ve talked about cats, mice, and how smells keep things in check, let’s discuss what happens when your pet kitty wins the battle. While we may not like it, it’s not uncommon for a cat to bring their owner the spoils of victory. Yes, this means the mouse. And no, it isn’t always dead.
While no one truly knows why cats do this, there are a few theories out there. One of the most popular is that your cat thinks you’re a bad hunter. Your cat sees you with the food they eat and the food you eat. However, they don’t see you hunt it. Perhaps they are bringing you a battered mouse to teach you the tricks of the trade like they would their own kitten.
Then again, your cat could just be showing off. We know cats feel they are superior to every human and animal out there. Why would they hide such an accomplishment? Perhaps they want you to praise them or provide a treat for such hard work. Then again, they could be telling you they are the superior creature and you should obey them. No one truly knows.
While the scent of a cat may deter most mice, it isn’t a sure thing. While your kitty’s mere presence may be enough to keep rodents at bay, don’t be surprised, or blame your feline friend when a mouse decides to take up residence in your home. It happens. Give your cat time to do what comes naturally and your problem may go away. But don’t be surprised when your kitty brings you a present to show you what a good job they’ve done.
Featured Image Credit: Stefan_Sutka, Shutterstock