Cats and mice go together. We all learned that watching cartoons as children. Tom and Jerry have shown generations of modern kids how inseparable the two are. Yet we seldom ask why. Is there something special about mice that cats like? I knew there had to be a reason behind the trope, so I checked into the cat mouse connection. It turns out there’s strange and serious history between cats, mice, and humans that led to the seemingly silly stereotype.
Why do cats like mice? Cats like mice because humans reward them. Humans needed better pest control thousands of years ago, and domesticating local kitties was the perfect solution. Hence, the felines’ unique position as ace mousers is entirely due to human intervention which allowed cats to be around mice that are easier for them to catch versus birds.
Cats Like Mice for Us
It’s natural for a cat to love mice. If you’re a small predator built for speed, a mouse is a perfect snack. Cats even have a unique protein in their saliva, the scent of which causes mice to panic. A terrified mouse is more likely to scramble around, making lots of noise, so they’re easier to find and kill.
Mice live everywhere and breed like mosquitoes, so they occupy an important ecological niche. Moreover, if you eat mice, there’s plenty of food. However, it wasn’t always so common for cats to hunt them. That’s where people come in.
Controlling the pest rodent problem is a vital chore and one for which kitties are well equipped. Though a cat doesn’t need to eat mice, specifically, they are a ready source of protein. Hunting mice is a choice for cats that goes back thousands of years.
I suggest housing your outdoor mouser somewhere comfortable to ‘pay’ for their services. My favorite kitty shelter is the K&H Heated Insulated Cat Shelter from Amazon. You can pick one up for your mouse hunter by clicking here.
Mice Prey on Humans so Cats Prey on Mice
Cats like easy prey, and Mus Musculus, the house mouse, is the most common pest rodent in the world. They need abundant food supplies to continue breeding, and female mice reach sexual maturity at a mere six weeks old. Plus, they have a rapid gestation period (pregnancy) of around twenty days.
With average litters are three to fourteen babies, that’s a lot of mice. Once the young are born, the mother mouse can breed immediately. Moreover, a mother mouse can live for several years and have as many as ten pregnancies a year. Each female Mus Musculus can produce up to 140 young each year.
What is, for a feline, a delightfully abundant food source, is something very different for humans. Because they eat grains and other human food sources, we make an easy target for the mice. Growing, harvesting, and storing food is like offering up an unending smorgasbord for the mouse.
Mouse Problems, Cat Solutions
For cats, it was an easy mouse-meal. However, to humans, the pest mouse problem comes with lice, which can carry the plague and other issues. The food mice steal is merely one part of the overall problem. They contaminate our stores with droppings and bring all sorts of disgusting and dangerous troubles.
When humans stopped being hunter-gatherers and traded that life for more stable living conditions, it came with new opportunities and new limitations. Growing food and having a permanent, unmoving home allowed us to develop modern society.
Humans could build communities and teach our children more skills. It also meant we had to learn to farm, and how to store and preserve food because we could no longer seek it out as needed. Yet without cats to kill the mice, we would have had to move on from our settlements.
Cats, Mice & Domestication
Cats are not alone in seeking out human settlements for the tasty mice. Once the rodents discovered that humans would provide more than they could ever eat, it was inevitable that predators to eat those mice would follow. Yet because of the mice, an extraordinary and unusual thing happened. Kitties met humans.
Cat owners have long joked that while people train dogs, it’s cats who train us. As bizarre as it sounds, that’s closer to the truth than you might have suspected. Most animals became part of our lives because humans lured or trapped, and then bred them to suit our needs. Unlike all other domestic animals, cats appear to have volunteered. Moreover, they did this in exchange for payment.
Mice were not the payment. Although they are the reason that cats noticed and took pity on the plight of people, cats would have eaten what they wanted and wandered off. In fact, they did for hundreds or even thousands of years before we reached a mutually beneficial agreement.
In exchange for their regular services, we bribed the cats to stay. The payment is protection from the elements, affection, medical care, sheltered places to raise young kittens and extra treats. Cats got safety and longevity from taking an interest in the mice that vex us.
Feed Your Mouse Loving Cat
Pet owners love to baby their mouse loving cats, and with good reason. For those who want the best for their kitties, I suggest Blue Buffalo Wet Cat Food. It’s full of healthy natural ingredients to help keep your mouser in the mood to hunt all the vermin for you. To check prices and availability by click here.
Cats Toying With Mice
Everyone who sees kittens at play equates those kitten games with adult cats who appear to play with mice before eating them. This behavior may seem sadistic or cruel. It’s not. It serves an essential purpose.
Cats who are tired or hungry are much more likely to ‘play’ with their food. If a feline is ravenous, why wouldn’t they strike quickly? The answer is safety. An older cat, one who is worn out or even starving, is at a higher risk for injury, and they know it.
Cats have short snouts, so their teeth are closer to their eyes than, for example, dogs. The prey cats hunt in the wild, small animals like rodents and birds, have defense mechanisms. They claw, peck, scratch, and bite when harassed. Cats don’t want to lose an eye, so they wear out their prey first by making it expend energy in trying to escape.
When they are too tired to do serious damage, the cat will break their neck. Kitty jaws are powerful, but if they miss, their eyes are perilously near the prey. Letting go is a problem. Hence, cats try to exhaust their prey to avoid injury in case they have to strike twice.
Cats Hunt Toy Mice Too
Cats are hunters by instinct. However, hunting for food isn’t necessarily the main focus of this drive. Killing and eating small animals is a learned behavior that kittens get from their mothers. The desire to hunt as play and sport is part of who they are. However, once felines made a deal with humans, they no longer had to hunt for food. That was over ten thousand years ago.
It may surprise you to learn that well-fed cats make better mousers. Doubtless, a raw mouse isn’t as tasty as the panoply of fatty dishes we offer our pets. They can kill to eat, but successful cats don’t have to to survive. They can thrive by finding a person to care for their needs.
Regardless of the need for self-provided meals, that desire to hunt is buried in your kitties’ genes. A toy mouse satisfies their need to be a pre-historic beast of the wild. Feed their inner hunter with a PetDroid Boltz Robotic Cat Toy from Amazon. You can get yours by when you click here.
Why Cats Bring You Mice
Cats bring two kinds of mice home: The living and the dead. They serve two very different purposes, but both are a form of communication with you. You should never punish your cats for doing this because it’s done with the very best intention at heart.
Like it or not, you are a surrogate mother to your cat. Your gender doesn’t matter in this. Mommy is the one who cares and provides for kittens. She is the reason they meow for help or attention as well. Cats see you as a mom. This is important because the mama cat also teaches her young to hunt.
Cats aren’t stupid. They know you eat, but they never see you hunt. This skill is vital to our feline friends’ survival. Moreover, we lack it so entirely that they have to protect us from small vermin. They are trying to help teach you a skill that you require.
Cats agreement with humans since as far back as the beginnings of recorded history has been a sacred compact. We make fire. They nap beside it. Similarly, we herd and milk cows, and they get to drink rich fatty milk.
There are additional boons for the cats. Felines made out like bandits because they had a bargaining chip we couldn’t refuse. Cats kill mice, so the mice don’t infest and kill human settlements. Plague carrying fleas, hantavirus, and more are the result of too many rodents and not enough cats.
While modern humans may not see it that way, it’s the deal we made. Your cat knows this, though they may not understand why. Those ‘trophies’ aren’t enough to feed you and your family, but they are like an offering. This is your cat’s proof that they can do the job they are being paid for.
Most cats like mice because of humans. We don’t wish to starve or go through a second round of the bubonic plague. Cats want chin scratches, warm windowsills, health care, and better food. A mouse isn’t as tasty as a can of tuna, and a can of tuna is less expensive than dying horribly, so it’s a fair trade.
In the wild, they might hunt for mouse anyhow, but nowhere near as much as they have since humans settled down and started an accidental pest rodent breeding program. We associate the two because we still need cats to help control the mousey population. With or without mice, cats in nature are incredibly successful hunters.
This bizarre, mouse-based relationship has helped humans build the societies we have today.