If you live in a place with especially cold winters, you may notice that the drop in temperatures bring more than just snow and ice. Mice and other rodents (like voles and shrews), will often enter homes through cracks and crevices in doorways and foundations, searching for warmth and food. Rodents don’t hibernate in winter, so the security of your walls and attic, plus food that finds its way under kitchen appliances, make your home the ideal winter den.
One of the biggest deterrents to rodents entering a home is a house cat. Even if your cat doesn't hunt, their mere presence is enough to intimidate some mice from getting too cozy indoors. If your cat is hunting and eating mice ― whether you’re proud of your ferocious feline or horrified ― there are a few things you may want to keep in mind.
Though rare, cats can get sick from eating rodents
If your cat ingests a mouse that’s already consumed a pest poison, it's possible your cat may get sick, though it’d be unlikely. The amount of poison a mouse needs to ingest to be deadly is very small in terms of what a cat would need to ingest to have the same effect. Still, because of the risk poisons introduce, mechanical traps are a better alternative.
In addition to the risk of poison, mice can also carry parasites, such as roundworms, mites, or fleas. So if kitty is an expert hunter, we recommend that you stay on top of monthly parasite prevention.
Many cats may kill mice and then present them to you as gifts (yes, we’re honored, but whyyy?!). If you suspect your cat ate a mouse, watch them over the next 24-48 hours for any signs of vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. Cats are masters at hunting and in the wild they eat their prey to survive. A cat’s body is capable of processing meat and bones and often show no ill effects from eating a mouse. On a rare occasion, a piece of a bone that the cat ingests can break off into a sharp shard and puncture the stomach or small intestine as it passes. If your cat is experiencing any concerning symptoms after eating a rodent, call your veterinarian to discuss next steps.
Choosing the right mouse traps and rodent preventatives
Skip the peppermint oil. Though there’s evidence that peppermint oil can keep mice away, there’s also evidence that certain essential oils, including peppermint, are toxic to cats. Your kitty can become ill if exposed to the oils via ingestion, contact, or inhalation.
Consider sonic pest repellents. There’s little data that sonic devices are effective in rodent control, but you can rest easy knowing they won’t cause harm to any other pets in your house.
Mechanical traps and live traps are the most humane. Live catch traps are the most humane and the safest kind of traps to set when you have pets in the homes. The mice can then be transported and released away from the home. Mechanical traps almost always kill mice instantly, but should be placed where your resident pets won’t be tempted to sniff or even eat the bait.
Avoid all poisons if possible, especially rat poison. Any type of rodenticide (often called rat poison) should be avoided in homes with pets. It’s also advised to avoid using these types of poisons outside the home in places your dog or cat (or neighborhood pets) may come in contact with them. Rodenticide poison, if ingested by a dog or a cat, can cause problems ranging from an inability to clot blood, respiratory distress, neurologic problems such as seizures, and ultimately death.
Say no to glue traps. Also known as sticky traps, glue traps should also be avoided in homes with or without pets. They are incredibly inhumane, as stuck rodents slowly die from starvation and dehydration. They may even cause harm to themselves in order to escape. Unfortunately, cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and other “pocket pets” can find themselves stuck to these traps as well. When a pet becomes stuck to a glue trap, it often requires a trip to the veterinary clinic for safe removal.
Hunting is an innate behavior in felines
Because they don’t have easy access to mice, domestic cats that live mostly indoors hunt less than outdoor cats. Outdoor kittens are taught how to kill prey by observing their mothers, while domestic cats don’t learn this skill. This may be why you see indoor kitties playing with what they catch.
It’s normal for all cats to hunt mice. You might think it's gross, but your cat thinks it’s fun! Hunting, whether your kitty is skilled at it or not, is an innate behavior in felines, and because it can add to their overall happiness, it’s important they're able to exercise this ability. Hunting live animals or toys adds enrichment and can reduce stress and anxiety ― so making time to play with your indoor cat is an important part of managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, and more.
Adopt a barn and business cat for rodent control
All animals who come to AHS receive medical exams and behavior assessments. Sometimes, our behavior team discovers that certain cats won’t make great pets inside of a home. They may react negatively to handling or use the litter box inconsistently. The Barn and Business Cats program provides an alternative to traditional adoption by putting these kitties to work in an environment where they can flourish, like barns, flower shops, police stations, construction companies, and other businesses looking for inexpensive and effective rodent control.
Do you have a need for pest control or want to learn more? Check out our Barn and Business Cats webpage for more information.