How to Find a Cat that is a Good Mouser

Many people have cats as pets, companions, or confidants. Still many others have cats for a purpose. They want a cat to control the mice.

Cats are very effective at controlling mice, and are safer than most poisons.

You many require an indoor only cat, one who is both indoors and outdoors, or if you are on a farm you may want an outdoor only cat. Of course, if you are a farm home, and the cat will not be allowed in the house, it should have some sort of shelter, access to a warm barn will be fine, but expecting it to survive without shelter is cruel.

Some of the best mousers are mixed breed cats, and if they are going to be an outdoor only cat, a short-haired cat is preferred as longer haired cats require attention to prevent painful hair mats. Certain cat breeds known to be more laid back, such as Persians or Himalayans, may not be a good choice.

Age of cat should be considered. If you are getting one who will strictly be kept outdoors do not get a kitten. The survival of younger animals when kept outside only is poor. They are easy prey for owls, coyotes, and so on. If you are looking for a strictly outdoor barn mouser I would suggest getting an adult cat and keeping it indoors for a while so it gets used to your place as its home. Or consider rescuing a feral cat. Some animal shelters get feral (semi-wild) cats that they spay or neuter, and then adopt out (sometimes free) as mousers to farm homes where the cat will be outdoors.

When looking for a good mouser you want a cat, or kitten, who is playful. Look for a cat that likes to carry toys in its mouth.  So when selecting a feline for mouse control you need to have a few soft toys you can roll around and see which cat is the most interested. If a cat looks like it thinks it “owns” the toy, then it will probably have a good sense for hunting. If you can find a cat or kitten from a farm home, they tend to be natural mousers, having learned it from their mothers. However if they are straight off the farm they will require a vet check, vaccinations, and worming.  Many farm cats have worms and ear mites.

The best and usually most affordable cats are ones you adopt from shelters, such as the SPCA, or RSPCA. Being non-profit, these places act on the best interest of the pet. When you get a “Free” kitten it still requires its shots, worming and should be vet checked. These all cost money, as well it’s extremely important to spay or neuter. Not only will this make a cat into a better mouser, it will add an average of 2 years to their life.

© author's spayed female cat

© author’s spayed female cat

Female cats, being the natural hunters are said to be better mousers, but I have a male barn cat who managed to kill a gopher once, so do not discount males. Solid white cats are sometimes deaf, a sense that is needed for mousers. As mentioned, spayed or neutered pets will make better mousers, as they are not preoccupied with hormonal desires.

One common mistake people make is that they think if they starve their cat it will be a better hunter. This is completely incorrect. A well fed cat will hunt for fun, and will catch more mice than one who is only hunting for need. Putting the cat’s food in the room where you have the most mice is probably going to help you also, and the smell of the cat may help keep mice away. Used a raised bowl that the mice cannot get into – there are several stainless steel bowl sets for this.

I recommend keeping your new mouser in a small room in your house at first, then allow it to explore the rest of the home after it has relaxed. This is especially important if you get a kitten, as finding the litter box can be tricky for the first while. Play with your kitten to encourage its prey drive. If you intend to let it out, wait until it is spayed or neutered first. With millions of kittens euthanized every year there is no reason to allow yours to breed. House mice are most active at night so if you want to control mice indoors, make sure your cat is inside at night. Garden mice are active in both the day and the night.

Please note that mice do carry worms and diseases such as toxoplasmosis.  A mouser should be wormed regularly, and pregnant women should not clean the litter box of a cat that is used as a mouser unless she wears gloves.

This article was originally published on The Real Owner, January 14, 2008.