Is it OK for a house cat to eat a mouse?
Cat Health and Wellness

Can Cats Get Sick from Eating Mice?

Watching your cat eat a mouse is not a particularly pleasant visual. They are born hunters, so stalking and capturing live prey for a meal is a completely natural and enjoyable experience for a cat. But mice often carry disease and pose a variety of health hazards, so pet owners are understandably concerned that eating wild mice will make their cat sick or even cause death.

Can cats become ill from eating mice? Mice carry infections, bacteria, intestinal parasites (like roundworms), and disease. Your cat can also be exposed to various poisons that have been used to kill mice. If possible, you should wear gloves to remove a rodent from your cat’s mouth before it is digested.

Capturing mice is inevitable, but it is something that you’ll want to avoid. Unfortunately, it is not solely because it is hard to deal with finding mice corpses on your doorstep each day. Mice have health problems and diseases that can potentially be transmitted to humans.

Does Eating Mice Make Cats Ill?

Although cats are obligate carnivores, and mice provide an excellent source of taurine, cats (and humans) can become sick. This is because the prey is wild and has not been thoroughly cooked.

There is no knowing what mice have come into contact with (or eaten) before becoming your cat’s evening dinner. If your cat eats the head of a mouse or several mice, for example, your pet could become infected with parasites, bacteria, and disease.

There is a high probability that your pet will come into contact with (and consume) prey. Having your cat de-wormed regularly is critical if they spend a lot of time outdoors.

my cat ate a mouse and has been vomiting

Infected cats produce infected feces. The mishandling of feces is one of the most common ways that cat-to-human diseases are transmitted. If your cat goes outdoors, you should de-worm them at least twice a year. Rodents carry intestinal parasites that can infect cats and humans.

Infectious diseases and health issues include…

  • Toxoplasmosis. Although causing little harm in healthy adult cats, kittens, and senior cats may experience diarrhea, lethargy and a gagging type cough. The existing parasite, which is passed through feces, can infect humans if feces are mishandled when you are cleaning out a litter box.
  • Intestinal worms. A common parasite, roundworm can steal the ingested nutrients that your cat consumes. Roundworms are typically 8-10 centimeters in length and have a spaghetti-like appearance. This infection is the byproduct of consuming a mouse that has already been infected by the roundworm larvae.
  • Rodent poisoning. If your cat consumes the head of a mouse (or several mice), your pet can be exposed to secondary poisoning. If a mouse has been exposed to entrapment and escaped, it may have ingested rat or mouse bait. This could put your cat’s life at risk.
  • Ticks. If your cat eats mice regularly (or plays with them), your pet could get ticks. If your cat contracts Lyme disease, you could also become infected.

While rabies is always a concern with wild animals and rodents, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that rodents (mice) are “almost never” found to be carriers of rabies.

Why Do Cats Kill Mice?

Cats were regularly kept outside the home and used to keep rodents away. Known for their elite hunting skills, cats can stalk and capture unsuspecting prey quickly.

According to VetStreet, a domestic cat’s behavior is derived from the African wildcat. Nocturnal creatures, it is a hunter of the night and enjoys capturing mice, rats, birds, and reptiles.

Even kittens are taught by their mother’s to hunt and capture. Having a mice head appear at your backdoor, for example, can often be the result of learned and instinctual behavior.

Is Eating Prey Beneficial to the Health of Cats?

Cats are obligate carnivores, so almost no meat is off-limits. This is why cats are continually monitoring everything that is going on around them.

Cats bodies don’t produce enough taurine (an essential amino acid) to meet their day-to-day requirements, so any shortfall must be met through diet. Mice provide a rich source of taurine.

Why Do Most Domestic Cats Play With Mice?

Not every cat kills mice. Some domestic cats don’t kill mice at all but instead, play with them like toys. This is likely the byproduct of never being taught hunting skills by their mother.

Because house cats often fail to learn the “killing instinct,” yet still know how to hunt, the result is a cat in your yard patting and pushing a mouse around the grass.

Your cat may bring the mouse inside or drop it at your back door. This could be a gesture of kindness or an attempt to train you to catch prey, in the way that its mother trained them.

What if a cat eats a poisoned mouse?

Which Breeds Are More Likely to Catch Mice?

Domesticated over 10,000 years ago, cats have mastered the art of stalking and capturing their prey. This is why genetic memory can play a huge role in your cat’s desire to catch mice.

A list of the breeds mostly to catch mice was put together by VictorPest. While the list is not an indicator of which breed consumes the most mice during a hunting session, this information can provide a glimpse of which breeds are naturally more inclined to be interested in rodents.

Here are the top 5 mousers…

  • Chartreux
  • Siamese
  • Siberian
  • Maine Coon
  • American Shorthair

Although breed can play a vital role in your cat’s natural hunting tendencies, the best way to tell if your cat is a good mouser is to monitor its behavior.

One of the often ignored problems that arise from chasing mice is the possibility of crossing paths with another animal. If your cat pursues a mouse, it could encounter a raccoon or a fox.

This can result in a confrontation that leaves your cat with injuries. Also, while mice are unlikely carriers of rabies, an encounter with a fox or raccoon will increase the possibility considerably.

How to Stop Your Cat from Killing Mice

Short of keeping your cat indoors 24/7, there is no foolproof way to prevent your cat from capturing mice. However, there are things you can do that are highly beneficial.

These include the following:

  • Limiting your cat’s outdoor time. Hunting is an art and requires practice. If you only allow your cat outside for a short time each day, the likelihood of a successful hunt will diminish. Many cats spend hours outside before they return with a capture. By reducing the time that they are permitted to spend outside, you are naturally reducing the opportunity.
  • Cats are sneaky hunters, and they rely on silence. Adding a bell collar to your cat will negate its hunting ability. As soon as they go for the pounce, the unsuspecting mouse will hear a bell ring. While bells will be annoying for your cat, it will also reduce the odds of a successful hunt. Just the presence of a cat can scare off mice.
  • If you have a screen-in porch, you can create a controlled environment. This will allow your cat to be outside, receive fresh air, yet be off limits to wooded areas and creatures of the wild.
  • Savory cat food. Being fed savory meats at home reduces the likelihood that it will eat mice.

The age or your cat and your outdoor property space will likely play a critical role in your safeguarding decisions. While protecting yourself from the discomforting visual of a dead mouse is understandable, protecting your cat’s health should be of the utmost importance.