If your home has a rodent infestation problem, you’ll likely consider getting a cat. This seems to be the most obvious solution. It’s not quite this simple, though. The presence of a cat is not enough to drive mice away.
The smell of a cat will deter mice from wandering free in your home. Mice will still live in the walls, attic or crawlspace of your home, though. They’ll feel safe here, as a cat cannot reach them. Also, anxiety caused by cat odor also inspires mice to reproduce in greater numbers. Rodents constantly mate to ensure the survival of their species.
Thankfully, cats can play a significant role in deterring mice in the longer-term. You’ll just need to work together as a team. Your cat will notify you of where mice are hiding. Armed with this information, you can clear an infestation and ensure that the problem does not reoccur.
Can Cats Sense Mice in the House?
As born hunters, cats will know if you have a rodent infestation. Cats are keen listeners and have an excellent sense of smell. The presence of prey animals will never fail to pique their interest.
If you think you may have mice on your property, a cat will confirm your suspicions. Watch out for the following behaviors.
- Staring at solid walls
- Listening intently at walls and floors
- Verbalizing and leading you to locations, seemingly for no reason
- Showing enhanced interest in particular locations
- Maintaining the hunting pose (eyes dilated, body crouched, ears forward, tail low)
This suggests that the cat knows that you have mice. Do the mice know about your cat, and will this amend their behavior?
Do Mice Know if You Have a Cat?
Cats carry a strong scent. We may not notice it, but mice do. As a prey species, mice are constantly on their guard. As per Brain Research, mice possess a vomeronasal organ to enhance their sense of smell.
Mice will smell a cat’s urine and any dander that it sheds. In theory, this means that a cat in the home keeps mice away. In reality, this is only half the equation.
If the mice have found a cozy place to nest, they’ll stay there. This could include an attic, crawlspace, or even the walls of your home. The mice will simply remain in places they cannot be reached by a cat. They will also step up their breeding activity.
Will a Cat Keep Mice Out of My House?
The short answer to this is yes, but with caveats. If you have mice in your home, a cat may not single-handedly resolve the issue. Rodents are smarter than we give them credit for. As discussed, mice may still nest on your property. You just won’t see them.
To understand this, we need to understand how rodents think. Mice always look to nest in a safe space with access to food and water. The purpose for this is to create territory where they can mate and reproduce. A female mouse can birth as many as 30 babies per month.
As you can imagine, that is a lot of mouths to feed. As a result, mice will hunt food. This can become a major problem for a home. Mice will invade your cupboards, pantries, and anywhere else that they can smell food.
If you have a hunting cat, this behavior will cease. Mice will quickly learn that a cat is nearby, and steer clear. Unfortunately, a solitary cat cannot be everywhere at all times. As the cat will also be significantly outnumbered, its deterrent abilities will be limited.
If the mice grow bold, they may even start venturing out again. They will learn the patterns of a cat, learning when it is safe to show themselves. You’ll need a cat with a high predatory drive to keep on top of this.
What Cats Have the Highest Prey Drives?
Some cats are more natural mousers than others. If you are looking to keep mice from your home, the following breeds are most effective:
- American Shorthair
- Japanese Bobtail
- Maine Coon
- Turkish Angora
Just adopting one of these breeds is an insufficient deterrent, though. Every cat has a unique persona. You’ll need to ensure that the individual cat has the attack-minded temperament to deal with your mouse problem.
Could I Borrow a Cat to Deter Mice?
If you consider your rodent infestation a temporary issue, it is tempting to borrow a cat. This is not a long-term solution. Even if your houseguest chases off mice, they will return when the cat leaves. In between, the mice will have multiplied significantly in population. In addition, there are extra considerations to take under advisement:
- Cats take time to settle into a new environment
- Your home may not be equipped for a cat’s needs
- Some cats ignore mice, preferring to hunt wild birds
- You will be responsible for the cat’s safety
PLOS One recommends pairing a cat with another pet for rodent prevention. Cats and dogs living together, for example, make a more efficient deterrent than a solitary cat. This creates another set of challenges, though. You’ll need to ensure the animals can peacefully co-exist.
Dealing with a Mouse Infestation
Most cats do not eat mice. This is actually for the best. Eating mice can make cats sick, so it is best avoided. Instead of eating their prey, most cats present it to their owners as a gift.
On the one hand, this is a good thing. Your cat has caught a mouse. That’s one less rodent to worry about. Unfortunately, in the case of indoor cats, this points to a bigger problem. If you have one mouse in your home, you likely have a whole infestation.
What’s more, your cat’s hunting has potentially alerted the other mice to its presence. This means that your unwelcome visitors will be more determined than ever to remain safe. They will ensure they do not cross paths with your cat, while also maintaining a nest.
You could call an exterminator to deal with this. This is expensive. Instead, you can work with your cat to drive out the mouse population. By teaming up, you will also deter the mice from returning.
Locating the Mice
You’ll need to find out exactly where the mice are hiding out. Your cat will be invaluable in this step.
Let your cat explore your home. Watch your cat carefully while it is going about its business. Does it show particular interest in seemingly innocuous parts of the home? Pay particular attention to walls, floorboards, and ceilings. The cat can likely hear mice within these areas.
Follow your cat, taking a good look at these parts of the home. Look for mouse holes. These do not need to be big. Mice are dexterous and can squeeze through tiny spaces. If you can’t find a hole, look for loose floorboards.
Once you have found these entry points, don’t board them up completely. That will not resolve the problem. You’ll just be trapping the mice within their territory. They’ll continue to breed and drive your cat crazy. It will know there is prey nearby but is unable to hunt.
Make it harder for the mice to access your home through holes. Not impossible yet – just harder. You’re looking to minimize access.
In the meantime, continue to watch your cat. If will still show interest in these hotbeds of rodent activity. Just be aware that, once mice realize this, they may relocate to elsewhere on your property. If this is the case, the cat will hunt them down again.
Creating an Inhospitable Environment
Eventually, the mice will run out of places to relocate. The presence of the cat will drive them away from multiple preferred spots. Sooner or later, they will need to settle down somewhere.
If you are lucky, this will be away from your property. This is unlikely, though. Mice are driven to keep their species alive, and less concerned with their personal welfare. Rodents breed to boost their numbers, acutely aware than any day could be their last.
In addition, mice are stubborn. An adult male mouse is as territorial as a cat. It will not be willing to relinquish ground easily. To manage this, you need to make the area as inhospitable as possible. Make the environment inhospitable for mice by using these tricks:
- Remove all traces of food. Vacuum regularly to keep your home crumb-free
- Deny the mice a water source. Ensure you have no leaky pipes
- Apply surfaces to pipes that make them difficult to climb. This restricts movement
- Drastically drop or increase heat in the territory. Mice dislike extreme temperatures
- Douse cotton with smells that mice hate – peppermint, cayenne pepper, and cloves
- Invest in spotlights. As nocturnal animals, mice prefer dim and dark conditions
- Sprinkle used cat litter where the mice congregate to frighten them
This will leave the mice seeking new territory. Again, if you are fortunate, the mice will admit defeat and leave your property. They clearly found a way in undetected. They can find a way out again. Learn where this is, and once the last mouse leaves, board it up.
The rodents may need more convincing, though. This means drawing the mice out of hiding, into the waiting paws of your cat.
Drawing Mice Out of Hiding
Now that the mice are not as comfortable, they will come out of hiding. The most obvious place to head is back into your home. Mice will follow their nose, seeking food. You can bait a mouse with fresh fruit. Mice love sweet smells, but cats are indifferent.
This is your cat’s time to shine. The cat will already have acknowledged the presence of mice. This means that it will likely be ready and waiting to stalk and pounce upon them. Your cat is essentially the doorman of your home. Every time a mouse emerges from its hiding place, the cat will be there to stop it getting any further.
Nature will take its course. Your cat will ensure that the mouse does not roam freely around your home. Even if the cat does not kill the mouse, it will chase it back into hiding.
If a mouse narrowly escapes being eaten by a cat, it will remember the experience. Physiology and Behavior describe this as, “acute social defeat.” This can be summarized as an intruder being chased off by a resident.
A mouse that experiences social defeat will lose confidence and dominant status. With luck, the mouse will retreat completely. It no longer feels safe. This means that it will leave your property, encouraging others to come with it. House mice are social, and travel in groups.
This may not be an immediate result. Your cat may need to kill or chase several mice before they get the message. Eventually, though, the results will become clear. Your home is no longer a safe haven for mice. It is protected by a larger, dominant predator.
Blocking Access To The Home
The previous step should have frightened the remaining mice into fleeing. Even if this is not the case, you have made the environment inhospitable. They will not have the option of staying put too long.
By this point, you have done everything in the power of yourself and your cat. It is time to block off mouse holes and prevent any remaining rodents from gaining access. Cats cannot do this for you.
Apply boards that restrict movement, ensuring that no nook, cranny or crack is exposed. The mice will not try to force open these covered access points. They now know that a cat guards these areas.
Eventually, the mice will need to leave to find food and water. Your home will no longer provide this, so they’ll need to look elsewhere. Keep a watchful eye on your cat in the coming days, weeks and months. Your cat will quickly let you know if any brave or foolish mice are still around.
Cats will deter mice from your property, but not only to an extent. Simply bringing home a cat is not enough to resolve an infestation. You’ll need to work together. The good news is that, once this is done, mice will be deterred from returning to your home.